In the 2012 Olympics, Gabby Douglas, a USA gymnast, slipped on the balance beam, her favorite event, and forfeited any medal in the competition. It was hard to believe, since just days before she had performed beautifully in qualifications.
In the competitive sport of gymnastics, there isn’t real balance. There is pass or fail. For Douglas, it wasn’t enough that she’d performed well previously; past scores did not balance out poor performance and eliminate her loses. She would either make it to the other side or fall, keep her feet on the straight and narrow or crash gracelessly to the ground. There’s not much freedom, no margin for error.
In the beginning stages of recovery, as I clawed my way out of the depths of an eating disorder, finding balance felt much like being on the balance beam. My health was precarious, and counselors, family and friends monitored my behavior. I feared that if I didn’t gain weight, I failed at recovery; if I missed a meal, I disappointed someone and might never get back on track. My meals were specific, almost as controlled as during the eating disorder, but with a different goal—to give me enough calories. Exercise was structured to make sure that I didn’t over do it. Rules and boundaries surrounded me; safety nets to make sure that I relearned balanced and moved away from the extreme behaviors that were killing me.
Now, after a month-long, wonderful Christmas vacation with my family, I’m pondering a new kind of balance—merging balance and freedom. Instead of comparing my life with the delicate balance of a beam, I see balance in my life like the scale in the hands of Lady Liberty.
As I travelled over the holidays, change was constant, chaos a pleasant companion and flexibility a must. All kinds of foods—healthy and not—were always available. Many days, I lived much like I do regularly. I enjoyed healthy foods and consistent exercise. But other days, I tossed caution to the wind and indulged in birthday cake, random sweets and spontaneous snacks. I spent several afternoons nearly motionless in the car traveling from family to family, house to house.
Last night, I pulled into my own driveway and cut the engine, noting the odometer said 694 miles—it was a long day. I stretched my creaky legs, carried mounds of clothes, presents and bags inside and began to plow through the mountain of mail. It wasn’t until I lowered myself into the familiar comfort of my very own bed and whispered my prayers that I was overcome by the joy of this new kind of balance.
In the course of a month, I had swung between the balances. Each day held something different and nothing stayed on a predictable course like a balance beam—carefully wedged between strict boundaries. No, I played on both sides of the field. I enjoyed veering outside of my usual boundaries. And at the end of the day, I found myself safely again balanced in the middle. My days of indulgence mitigated my days of consistency. I found freedom on both ends of the spectrum and in the end discovered that God was in charge of bringing my life, my health and my freedom into balance.
The Center–“Body in Balance” track gives hope for obesity, video resource
Winning the War Within, book by Elieen Myers, MPH, RD, LDN, FADA
New Beginnings, by Aubrey Strobel