…it’s one of the–if not THE–most nebulous of our life goals.
Most of us think it consists of hours carved out of our busy work days devoted only to chanting “Om,” or to training for your next ultra marathon (you know, if you’ve taken at least a day to recover from your last one).
Either that, or you think it means taking the stairs once a day at work as your workout (3 flights feels like a lot when it’s all you do), and then going for the low-fat donut instead of the full thing, and having that count for your healthy meal of the day.
Needless to say by my tone that neither is my personal definition of work-life balance. It’s a lot less… and more than you think…
My belief is that there’s a minimal amount of time that you need to devote to YOU in order to achieve the ultimate work-life balance, but it’s different for everyone.
Confused? Yeah, so am I.
Here’s what I’m going to do to make it clearer for both of us: I’m going to list out what I believe the bare minimum is in terms of fitness and nutrition commitments is for optimal functioning.
I’m not usually a “bare minimum” person, but sometimes you just can’t handle it all; you need to take a step back in some areas while you spend more time in others. This guide will keep you healthy, even when your schedule demands otherwise.
When it comes down to exercise, it’s something you absolutely need. There’s not getting around it.
If you want to be productive, happy and less stressed, exercise is your guy. Read all the science-y stuff about why here.
The sad thing is that people hear that they need to work out 60 minutes a day to stay in shape, and they give up all hope. Not everyone has that kind of time anymore! Let me blow your mind here:
MINIMAL AMOUNT OF EXERCISE/WEEK:
This is the absolute minimum amount of time you should be spending on your physical health to maintain physical fitness levels. If you want to improve or lose weight, you’re going to have to spend more time than that or really buckle down on your nutrition programming.
I highly recommend spending that time doing vigorous exercise, and if you can swing it, add in 15 or so more minutes of yoga or cardio of some kind.
Agh! Cardio?! The trainer said cardio!
Lately, a lot of fitness buffs have come out against aerobic exercise, saying it’s a waste of time for those with weight loss goals. I, however, believe that there are a lot of stress-busting benefits to cardio that physical-focused trainers don’t account for in programming. It helps keep me sane by serving as an outlet for anger, frustration and anxiety. Science says it probably will help you, too.
If you have the time to add more in here, do it. Make time for it when you can. If you can’t, get in the bare minimum.
If you don’t eat right, your body and your brain will suffer… meaning your business will likely suffer as well. There goes work and life!
If you’re going to do the bare minimum, here’s what I recommend:
MINIMAL AMOUNT OF CLEAN EATING/WEEK:
80% whole foods + no added sugars
I’ve found in my training experience that around this number is the bare minimum for cognitive function and physical performance. Any worse than this, and functioning levels decline. You get sleepy, you drag, you can’t put thoughts together like you usually do.
So what does “whole foods” mean exactly? Here’s an easy-cheesy breakdown:
- No deep-fried foods
- Trans fats are not our friends. Even the amount of added healthy fat from frying foods with good oils is still a lot of excess fat which means a much bigger energy load than our body can end up using… which leads us to store it.
- Less than 3 steps of processing
- ok example: brown rice flour (1. harvested 2. de-husked 3. ground)
- not ok example: white rice flour (1. harvested 2. de-husked 3. germ & bran removed 4. enriched 5. ground)
- No chemical additives
- ok example: fresh hummus
- not ok example: Ranch dip (here’s the ingredient list from the back of the ranch dips mix package alone: maltodextrin, salt, MSG, dried onion, dried garlic, spices, modified food starch, less than 2% of: buttermilk, calcium stearate, natural flavor (soy))
- Organic when possible
- Pesticide-, GMO- & other nasty stuff-free
- Our bodies process man-manipulated foods differently than they do natural fruits & veggies, often affecting weight and hormone levels
If you follow that guide above, your diet will be essentially very clean. The only other thing I would tell you to look out for would be added sugars. They’re everywhere!
Any ingredient list that includes the word “syrup,” “evaporated ____ juice,” or ends in the suffix, -ose, means it has added sugar in it. Beware of the sneaky food manufacturers!
Now, here’s the part I hear a lot of disagreements on: honey, agave and natural non-calorie sweeteners. Here’s the thing: they’re still sugar. The body processes them as sugar, no matter how natural they are. An excess of these ingredients will still cause weight gain and ill health.
And why no non-calorie sweeteners? They still kick up your cravings without filling them, causing many people to binge in the long run. I’ve written about it.
I’m not saying never eat this stuff! I’d go wacko if I didn’t get a non-organic, super-processed cookie now and then! ;)
I’m saying that if you’re going to do a bare minimum, keep these foods to 20% of your overall diet. This is absolute minimum, guys! Just like the fitness minimums, you won’t lose weight eating like this unless you’re eating more than 20% un-clean right now. If you want to get leaner, it’s likely going to take a bigger commitment than 80/20.
So there you have it, folks. The bare minimum for maintaining just enough work-life balance.
But let’s be real: we don’t want the bare minimum life. We don’t want to do “just enough” to not go insane from stress at work.
We want to THRIVE.
That’s why you need to continuously stretch your limits, reset your priorities and check in with how you are in the present. You will change, and as you do, your fitness and nutrition should change as necessary.
Continue to listen to yourself, and add time in as you can. Time spent on YOU is never wasted.
I’m thrilled to announce the first of a few retreats I’ll be teaching at this year!
Want to come to Cancun with me to learn all about finding your ultimate work-life balance, AND reboot your business so that you can build and run it like a pro? I’m speaking about finding your personal balance and giving some killer workouts this May at the Business Reboot Retreat hosted by Business Republic. If you run a business, this is something you should definitely check out. Have a look-see at all the details here!
I’ll announce the other retreats as soon as I’ve been given the green light by the hosts. See you in May, entrepreneurs!