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  • Jason Wood

Shades of Gray

I’ve always been one for extremes. I’ve set unrealistically high expectations of myself. My favorite emoji is the red 100. I tend to use a lot of exclamation points when I type. As I’m sure you’ve noticed!! I used to tackle the world from a black or white way of thinking, there was never any space for that gray area.

Maybe that’s why the word moderation used to send chills down my spine. When I drank, I drank too much. When I tried to diet, I’d go too far. When I’d break my diet, I’d binge. Working out went to the extreme. I’d often work out multiple times a day, with no rest days for months at a time.

But here I am now, some 16 months later preaching about balance and moderation. Recovery has shown me how damaging my all-or-nothing mentality was. This process has taken me to the gray area I avoided for so long, and you know what? It’s gosh darn beautiful here!

Orthorexia is an obsession or fixation with healthy, clean eating. I thought recovery meant I would no longer be able to pursue the healthy lifestyle I strove for. I was wrong! Recovery simply means I am giving up the faux-healthy lifestyle of fad diets and fitspiration for one of intuitive eating.

I get to eat what I want and if that means I prefer nutritious foods and want to remain vegetarian for ethical reasons then that is totally fine. Why? Because I no longer have rules preventing me from eating foods that might not be deemed as “healthy”. And I now understand that food has no moral value and will not define who I am. All of these realizations exist in that beautiful, gray area I was talking about.

Working out is no longer a strict regiment that I HAVE to do to feel good about myself, look a certain way, or earn my food. Now, I work out because I WANT to. I want to be stronger and excel at the sports and activities I enjoy doing. I want to take care of myself so that my body can continue to perform as I age, but I also know that taking a couple of days is perfectly acceptable. Heck, just recently we went on vacation and I only worked out once in four days. Rather than clouded with guilt when we returned home, I was refreshed and quickly found myself lifting more weight than ever before.

I’m not a professional or ultra-athlete, I don’t have to have the all-or-nothing mentality when it comes to the gym or my diet. I’m just an average 35-year-old guy who wants to take care of himself and be able to play tennis, hike, and climb. I love fruits, vegetables, and quinoa but I also enjoy a donut, nachos, and pizza.

I would be remiss without noting that when I started this blog and my advocacy work, I went all in. It was to the point where it was impacting my own recovery, my personal relationships, and my daily responsibilities. I found myself going to extremes because I wanted to make a difference so bad. However, the last two months or so have opened my eyes to moderation when it comes to the blog as well. I don’t have to post every single day or spend hours on Instagrams or podcasts to make a difference. My breathwork coach once told me to repeat, “I am doing the best I can” whenever I feel overwhelmed by my own high expectations. And that is the honest truth. I am doing the best I can and I am enough. I’ve found a home here in the middle, in the gray area.


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Sounding the siren on men's mental health.

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