Menu Close

What does “eating balanced” even mean? 3 tips to get this post concussion

Read to me!

Maybe you’ve heard the word balance used when talking about nutrition.

What does that make you think of??

Maybe you think of food groups, variety, or eating many different coloured foods. Maybe you think of macros, pairing certain foods with others, or distributing carbs/ proteins/ fats throughout the day. Or maybe you think of something completely different.

Regardless of what comes to mind when you think of “balanced eating,” you may be surprised to hear that there is no right or wrong — there is no ONE absolute way to achieve this!

Which may come as good news post TBI! When planning & putting together “balanced” meals may have it’s challenges…

The photo above shows me in the yoga pose “eagle.” I’m standing, leaning back as if sitting on a high stool, arms wrapped around each other, fingers pointing up, and one leg wrapped around my standing leg. This pose requires a lot of balance. And I feel there’s a lot we can learn from yoga about how we can approach balanced eating with nutrition.

So here are 3 tips inspired by yoga to help you get balanced nutrition post concussion.

1) Just like in yoga, your balance may change from day to day

No matter how much I practice yoga, my balance will still be off a number of days. I can’t always do the balancing poses, even if I did them the day before.

So I have a choice. Either I can be frustrated and try to force myself into the balancing pose on those off-days, OR I can accept the change and shift my focus to what I CAN achieve that day.

The same goes for food.

Being frustrated about not being able to cook doesn’t put the food your brain needs into your body.

So what would you like to choose?

Photo Of Women Doing Yoga

2) In yoga, the poses will look different in each person’s body. This is the same for food.

I really appreciate the online yoga teacher I follow. She often says something like:

“Don’t try to slam your body into the pose.”

OR

“Don’t try to make your pose look like mine. Do what’s right for your body.”

If we can accept this for yoga, then can we also accept this for food?

Many countries have their own version of a “food guide.”

SA food based guidelines
South Africa Food Guide: http://www.fao.org/nutrition/educacion-nutricional/food-dietary-guidelines/regions/south-africa/es/
  • In Canada, we have a plate that’s divided into sections of different food groups.
  • In the US it’s a pyramid plus their own version of the plate, though the proportions are a bit different.
  • Images online show China’s guide is similar but instead of a pyramid they have also used a pagoda, a fan, and an abacus! They also now have a plate.
  • South Africa has a square with food groups placed around it in different sized circles.
  • Brazil’s food guide simply shares different categories of typical foods you may find in the country, and shows examples of meals using the foods available.

Everyone has their own take on how to best guide an entire population to eat.

In my TBI Nutrition Masterclass I provide another example using puzzle pieces! I got this idea from an intense sport nutrition training I took offered by the Sport Dietitians of Australia in collaboration with Dietitians of Canada 🙂 Each puzzle piece represents different types of foods. The idea is to think of completing the puzzle as best you can.

Pink Jigsaw Puzzle Piece

Not one of these guides is ultimately ‘better’ than another.

They are after all just GUIDES.

And just like a yoga teacher may offer up a sequence of poses (a vinyasa or even modifications to poses), it works best when you can decide if what’s offered is truly what you need — if it actually feels good in your body.

So, if like me you’ve ever been in a yoga class and have seen the teacher lead a pose, and then you were like “nope! Not doing that! I’m going to do something else…”

Then can you do the same with food?

Do you have that same kind of relationship with your body and with food to know what’s right for you on any given day?

Side view of smiling young Asian woman stretching body with adorable daughter while standing against each other on floor carpet near cozy couch in modern living room in morning

3) In yoga, you don’t do balance-focused practices every single day — your focus will sometimes shift to other things.

I couldn’t imagine every day doing the same yoga practice with ALL the standing on one leg poses! Tree pose, eagle, standing splits, dancer, half moon…on repeat?!? No thank you…

When I teach my clients about “balanced eating,” one burden I like to relieve them of is the idea that EACH MEAL needs to be perfectly balanced. Because this just isn’t the case.

One downfall of food guides is unintentionally promoting the idea that EVERY meal needs to be that perfect plate with all the food groups.

Multicolored citrus fruit creating funny face on plastic plate

Post-concussion, I have clients tell me how overwhelming this is. It may be hard to prepare just one type of food let alone several! Or trying to hold space in your brain for planning all the food groups at once may be stressful, drain your battery, or cause confusion.

There are strategies we can work on to make this easier. But you really don’t need to have all the food groups, plate sections, food categories, or puzzle pieces all in one meal!

Are you relieved to hear this, or what?!?

Different food groups can be spread out over the day, over the week, and some even over the month if that’s easier for you!

When we look at your food intake over the long term, we get a better sense of your balance.

  • Because seasons change, and so does food availability.
  • Because we can’t get every single beneficial food in ONE day, and if we tried we’d likely be eating non-stop!
  • Because one meal, one day, or even one week doesn’t define your whole nutrition.

There are some nutrients specific to you that we may want to focus on more than others. And this will change over the course of time.

(Why can’t I get the song “landslide” out of my head?? Stevie Nicks apparently wrote that song at a time when she made a choice to stop being unhappy about her struggles to get her music out… that song soared her to the top 🙂 )

So rest assured, balance can be viewed in the long term. It’s not something you have to achieve every single moment of every single day.

Now when you hear “balanced eating,” was does that make you think of??

Krystal Merrells

Dietitian

Concussion warrior

Finding my own balance

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.