What is a time of joy for many women was my darkest hour.
I’m the fitness studio owner living the healthy, balanced life you want. I drink green smoothies every morning (and so do my kids, who ask for extra kale).
I exercise every day and feel amazing all the time. You can tell because I am always smiling. I don’t hit snooze and roll over. I don’t eat donuts just because they’re there and then hate myself. I sip green tea and cheerfully say “No judgment!” as I spy the venti you’re concealing inside your hoodie.
I practice perfect portion control, even on Thanksgiving. Many want to know my secrets. How do I maintain this glow all the time? Well, you’re in luck. I’m here to spill all the secrets and the behind-the-scenes magic.
The truth? I am struggling to take care of my body and mind in the way I know I should and can. I am deep in the pre-open throes of barre3 studio ownership. The “3” in barre3 stands for balance, like the legs of a stool. We emphasize exercise, proper nutrition and personal connection as the critical legs of this sturdy stool.
Did I mention I’ve written a healthy cooking blog for the past several years as well? I hold a masters degree in public health. And yet, my own health habits have reached a dark, deep valley.
If I were being evaluated and graded in the three areas comprising barre3 balance, I’d receive an F right now. I do not exercise as much as you think, or in some weeks, at all — other than lifting an insulated bottle to my lips (which is filled to the brim with iced latte, not filtered water.)
My cooking blog showcases more than 425 fresh, whole food recipes designed for busy people, many of them developed right in my own (recently abandoned) kitchen. Yet on the average weeknight, I’m not cooking from my own blog or anyone else’s.
Dinner has become a haphazard mélange of whatever isn’t growing fur in the crisper drawer and whatever my sons, ages 10 and 7, can make on their own without causing bodily harm or setting the kitchen ablaze.
My own dinner, when it happens, is often eaten with one hand while both feet are moving. A fistful of crackers counts, right? Sit-down family meals have become an occasion. Though my poorly nourished body begs for rest, I’m liking and commenting on Instagram when I #shouldbesleeping.
I have a regular date with 4 a.m. when my eyes should be closed and my body recharging. But thoughts stream by like an endless, slow news crawl moving across the screen on CNN.
None of this is shocking. I’ve just painted the picture of any overscheduled, stressed person struggling to eat real food, sleep and respect her body. I’m just like anyone else. Trying to balance it all and much of the time, teetering dangerously close to collapse.
Stressors get in the way of a balanced, healthy lifestyle even for those of us in the wellness industry, who make a living cheering you on to be your best selves and make smart choices.
When you come to my class, I will tell you to push your body, to breathe and to shut out your life for 60 minutes while focusing exclusively on yourself. But expect detours. Some may be winding and extended.
Opening a new business is not for the faint of heart. I’ve missed school performances and family outings, and written checks big enough to bring on heart palpitations. This isn’t the first time, nor will it be the last, that life’s pressing demands have kicked balance to the curb.
We change jobs. We have babies. We start new businesses and nurse sick parents. We consciously uncouple. We clean up disasters.
Each of these events threatens our balance and in turn, our sense of self. We get down on ourselves for not living up to the standard of healthy living we’ve been led to believe is not only necessarily, but achievable. I’m here to tell you it is not. Not all the time, at least.
Sometimes we need to push through in survival mode, knowing that a light awaits at the end of the tunnel. We need to be able to reach for that light when we are ready and able to receive it — and not berate ourselves as we travel through the dark.
When 4 a.m. and I meet, as we often do, I get out of bed rather than stare at the ceiling. I begin pecking away at my laptop, already wiggling in my chair to pacify the shooting pain in my back and the crick in my neck.
With a new day comes hope for better choices. I will be kind and loving to myself, as I am to the clients who take my classes and look to me for support.
The waistband on my pants leaves an impression on my skin, a perfect round dent where the button presses into my recently expanded waistline — but I will not flog myself and instead remember this period is just a pit stop. I will forgive myself these 10 pounds.
Today I aspire to eat some plants — at actual mealtimes. No cookies at 3 p.m. when my shaky hands remind me that two meals have passed me by unnoticed and uneaten.
I will try to move my body more than just the steps required to order another cappuccino. I might even cook a real meal today. And sit down to eat it with my family.
But I may not do any of those things. I may stress-eat ice cream right from the carton and ignore this nagging pain in my back for one more day. I will remember that it’s normal, even for a “healthy” person like myself, to fall out of balance when life kicks into pressure cooker mode. Healthy doesn’t mean perfect every day.
My business will be open within weeks. As the new year begins, I hope to host a stream of well-intentioned people aiming to achieve the ever-elusive b-word. I will push them to plank a breath or two longer than they think possible. I will ask them to fully commit to the hour, breathing, working, testing the limits of their bodies and minds.
But I will be honest in letting them know that true balance isn’t to be found like some pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. It’s an ongoing journey that ebbs and flows as life allows.
Today, my jeans are tight and I’m bone tired. But I remain calm, knowing I will once again find equilibrium. I’ll sleep again, eat oatmeal in the morning and something appropriate for lunch. I will take class at my own studio and leave feeling grounded and refreshed. The pounds will come off and the local coffee shop won’t see as much of my wan face.
When you see me, my smile will be real. So will the glow. But don’t misconstrue these outward signs or what’s beneath them. They come and go like the tide.