Striking a Healthy Balance

When you’re a self-employed, work-from-home individual, establishing and maintaining professional discipline is crucial to being productive. When you can stay up as late as you want, sleep in to your heart’s content, eat at your leisure, take naps whenever you’re even the least bit tired, and choose to watch TV in place of work with nobody looking over your shoulder… well, it doesn’t take long before you’re living in complete squalor/chaos.

At some point, you have to get up and make the bed, put down the remote, and plunk yourself down in your office chair. In short, you have to force yourself to get shit done. There are all kinds of strategies to do this, and you’ll be hearing much about that subject this month. Back in January, we started the conversation about setting goals for the year. Well, guess what? Here we are, nearly at the midway point, and it’s time to check in and see how we’re doing.

But today’s post isn’t about progress bars and project checklists. I’m not here to espouse productivity tips. I’m here to talk about something quite a bit more personal.

Where to start? How about this: I’m a big guy. Well, maybe I’m being a bit too delicate. I’m fat. There, I said it. It’s true. I’m not proud of this. (I’m also not particularly ashamed, but that’s another subject entirely.)

My point is this. It’s one thing to make myself sit down in my office chair for long stretches of the day to both take care of my professional commitments and write enough new words on a regular basis to keep afloat my burgeoning career as an author. It’s another thing to recognize that I also need to make myself get out of that chair for long enough periods of time to keep my productivity high and my health in check. Add to this a couple of medical problems that make substantial physical exercise difficult to maintain for long periods of time, and you see just how tough a balancing act it is to pull off.

Writing and editing are extremely sedentary activities. I was never exactly slim, but back when I was going to college and waiting tables, I didn’t have much trouble regulating my weight and overall physical well-being. My lifestyle was active enough that I simply didn’t have to worry about finding time to exercise. Now? Well, now I basically have no reason to leave my house for half of my workweek, and that’s a problem.

There was a time when I could embark on a 45-minute-walk every day, eat a few more salads, and get by. But then, about five years ago, this came to a sudden end when I began to suffer the effects of a still-undiagnosed medical condition which makes it difficult to impossible for me to bear any weight on my feet for days at a time on a completely random schedule. I’ve certainly found some truth in the old adage that when it comes to exercise, habit leads to ease; in other words, when you do something every day, the momentum of that schedule takes over, making it easier all the time to get off your butt. But when you come to a screeching halt every few weeks and basically don’t have the luxury of moving? Let’s just say it’s hard to stay motivated.

And yet it’s so important for people in our line of work to set realistic (and even ambitious) health goals. I won’t use this space to recommend any particular diet or exercise regimen, since everyone’s recipe for success is highly individual. I do, however, want to start the conversation. We all need to constantly strive for a healthy balance of work, exercise, and diet. Right now, my goal is to get in thirty minutes of moderate walking every day, except on days when walking is impossible—and I have a food plan that kicks up to a level of higher intensity during periods of low exertion to compensate for burning fewer than desired calories.

Let’s talk more about our health goals, and how we get around our sedentary tendencies. See you in the comments!

8 responses on “Striking a Healthy Balance

  1. clancy

    Evan, I’m so sad to hear about your health problems. I truly hope they can figure out the problem and solve it sooner than later for you.

    This is indeed a balance I also struggle with since I don’t eat many things considered healthy and exercise and I haven’t been even acquaintances for several decades. So, I have to depend on portion control … at which I am mostly failing and the once a week 2 mile walk my writing partner forces me to take with her… and which I’m pretty sure is killing me slowly. Short of climbing the stairs to get to my bed, I mostly sit all day.

    It is important balance to find and now that I have recently celebrated my fiftieth birthday (ugh and sigh), I am feeling the effects of my sedentary life more and more daily. I’m still trying to find the magic exercise-y type activity that I enjoy and thus will find easier to force myself to do daily or at least several times a week. Haven’t found it yet, but I am seeking it. And I have cut potato chips out entirely (soooo hard!), but it’s a start.

    Thanks for bringing up the topic. The more I think about it, the closer I get to achieving it 🙂

  2. Evan Braun Post author

    I totally relate. Several years ago, I discovered the I *love* walking. I walked an hour a day for two straight years (minus a couple of days allowing for winter blizzards), and I lost more than fifty pounds. Those were some of the best years of my life. And I’ve tried to get back to that ever since — except, as I mentioned in the article, this goal gets constantly interrupted by my foot condition. But at least I’ve learned that I love to walk.

    On the other hand, I *hate* treadmills. I have a recumbent bike in my home, and every once in a while I use it heavily for a week or two, but my foot problems interrupt that as well… and frankly, I hate sitting in that room and riding the bike. Even a constant stream of Star Trek episodes in the screen in front of me can’t take the edge off. 🙂

    Good for you, Clancy, on those two-mile walks. Keep it up! I wish I had someone to go walking with like that. Now I’m thinking about who I could convince to do it with me… after all, a little accountability goes a long way.

  3. Tom

    Exercise is certainly important for your health — no one is going to argue that. But shifting yourself from obese to overweight, or from the latter to normal weight, is also pretty much unarguably a health improvement.

    That shift does not actually require any exercise.

    Ask a fitness buff about achieving the mystical “six-pack,” and you might expect to hear about a torturous ab routine involving all manner of terrors. But what you’ll get instead is a variation of the phrase: six-packs are made in the kitchen. It doesn’t matter how big your abdominal muscles are if they’re covered in a gratuitous layer of flab (I speak from experience here).

    You can visit any popular weight-loss discussion forum and find plenty of examples of dramatic changes achieved without any cardio, weightlifting, or Upsidedown Ab Blasters™.

  4. Jayne

    Hey Evan,

    I so understand a painful condition and how extra weight makes every condition worse. When I had fibro I new if I didn’t move I would get stiff and feel worse. I forced myself to move. I walked in the house, back and forth. I talked on the phone with family members to take my mind off the pain. Interestingly, now when ever the phone rings I get up and walk. There are days when I walk for hours now. It isn’t cardio but its activity. And if I start to hurt I am only a few feet from my chair. Give it a try. It works for me.

  5. Evan Braun Post author

    Good point, Tom. Historically, I’ve been pretty bad when it comes to regulating my food choices. I tend to binge certain kinds of food for a few weeks at a time (for example, I recently went through a phase where all I wanted to eat for three weeks was salad), but then I’ll get so sick of it I have to move on to my next craving. Which is just to say that I really struggle with sticking to long-term food routines.

  6. Rory

    I have been living with chronic joint and muscle pain since childhood, as well as a challenging weight management battle. Too many different stories to share, but of all things outdoor activity has been my saviour. When living in Vancouver I was at my physical peak walking between 2-5km a day and spent many days at the park and beach. I ate plenty of fresh organic vegetables, but also a lot of pizza by the slice.. Diet has been ecspecially important to my weight battle as of late combined with getting outdoors again. I love being at my parents farm so I planted a garden, began building a kids nature play park and help maintain the yard. After I get active I hurt like hell and often regret overdoing it but aside from the day or two of recuperation I feel better mentally and physically than I have in ages (after muscle relaxants for my backlashing fibro). Doing so I’ve lost 40lbs. On the other hand over the years I’ve lost 3 careers due to my chronic pain issues and at the moment I have settled in as a stay at home dad looking for a new future while establishing a healthier lifestyle. All said, much that hasn’t been, everything I have experienced points to finding what makes me enjoy life and doing more of it.

    I could never keep up a healthy diet without allowing myself to cheat a couple times a week and eat what ever I want to. Eating often every few hours, cutting out eating badly during the evening and rather having a healthy snack before bed to keep my metabolism up throughout the night, drinking more water and less high calorie drinks, cutting out junk foods for healthy flavour rich snacks… Those are some of the changes I have made that has helped me make and keep a drastic lifestyle change.

  7. Evan Braun Post author

    Fantastic, Rory. It sounds like we’ll have a lot to talk about next time we see each other. I think some of your dietary suggestions might work well for me. It’s something to think about!

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