Sweet Soul: A Balanced Life | Nancy Chen

As a verb, balance is defined as: “to keep or put (something) in a steady position so that it does not fall”. As a noun, balance is defined as: “an even distribution of weight enabling someone or something to remain upright and steady.” When it comes to my new series “A Balanced Life” I have chosen a few lovely ladies to feature that I believe embody what it means to live a balanced and healthy lifestyle. These women inspire me to keep buying organically (even if it is more expensive and some people just don’t get it), to keep working out (even if it is the first time in my life I am getting fit in a healthy way) and to keep up the positive attitude and energy.

Hi everyone!

Welcome back to my Balanced Life series. I took a little break from blogging to de-stress from a bunch of things that were going on, but I am back and ready to attack! In order to kick things off, I am bringing you my eighth Balanced Babe: Nancy Chen aka @approachingpaleo on Instagram. Not only is she a boss when it comes to fitness and leading a healthy lifestyle (just follow her on Insta to see what I’m talking about), but she is just a boss babe at being resilient. Similar to myself, she too fought through a horrible eating disorder and came out on top! That is truly inspiring to me, and I hope after reading her interview, you leave here inspired as well!

balanced life series nancy chen

1. What does a Balanced Life mean to you?
When I think of a balanced life, I think about being at inner peace. When everything is in balance, you feel settled. Complete. Whole. It’s the different pieces of your life falling to place, from health, to work, to relationships. I’ve been trying to find this balance for a long, long time; for my entire life, I’ve been a crazy Type A person who feels the need to cram as many things as possible into my schedule. So one year that meant interning 20 hours a week, taking a full load of classes, writing for Spoon University, competitively swimming on my college’s club team, working as a Peer Mentor, and holding various leadership positions. This past year it meant working 40+ hours a week, boxing, swimming, managing a group of 30+ writers, and continuing to hold my Peer Mentor and leadership positions. I filled my life with work and was constantly running from place to place, but I didn’t feel joy. And during this time, my eating disorder had taken full hold of me.
And then something shifted. I focused on myself, on what was truly important; I took a step back from the craziness that was my life and realized I needed to find balance. I quit the things that were no longer bringing me joy and made self care, along with relationships with my friends and family, priorities.
This middle ground is balance, and I’ve come a long way in half a year. I began exercising because I love it; I signed up for a half marathon and found that I love running. I channeled my Type A-ness into pushing myself at workouts: challenging myself to run further, harder, faster; becoming the girl who everyone looks up to at boxing classes. But I also learned when to let that competitiveness go, like during yoga classes, when I focus on breathing and being one with my breath. I began telling myself that I can eat because I need to nourish my body, and that I can eat trigger foods, because I’ve taught myself moderation.
I fought past my eating disorder; though sometimes the thoughts and behaviors slip past, I have a support network now, and it’s truly helped to live without restricting or excessively indulging. I found balance, and I found peace.
nancy chen sweet scene
2. Do you have an AM and PM routine that contributes to your balanced life?
Absolutely! I love scheduling things; routines, to me, are essential to a balanced life.
  • AM: Depending on what day it is, I do a different workout (running, yoga, or boxing). If yoga or boxing, my gym bag is packed from the night before (I get up at 5:30am or 6 am for the morning class) so I can change and head out the door in 5 minutes flat. I was in classes before, so I would head back, shower, and grab the breakfast I had packed from the night before (Siggi’s yogurt, berries, walnuts and an iced coffee). I’ll be on co-op (full-time internship) starting in July, and I plan to shower at the gym, then go straight to work. If I’m running, I still lay out my clothes, but have time to come back and make breakfast (either a smoothie bowl or eggs with avocado).
  • PM: No matter where I am, I take the time to get ready for bed (brush teeth, wash face, go through my skincare routine) and get into my PJ’s. Taking the time for myself at night is key to sleeping well but also to practicing self-care. I’ve been trying to read more, so I’ll read a few pages of my book before I go to bed.
nancy chen balanced life
3. What is your definition of self-love and positive body image?
As someone who’s struggled with an eating disorder, I think this is a hard one to answer. My eating disorder wasn’t fueled by a need to fit into standards of society per se, but to become wholly “perfect” in all aspects. I had this idea of perfection in my head from how my body was in the past, and I also had an insane fear of getting fat or out of shape. I think self-love is letting all of that go. I think self-love and body positivity are accepting all people and yourself especially for who they are, not what they look like, and realizing that you deserve to be happy. You deserve to eat not because you burned calories, but because you are a living, breathing person and you need food to survive. That exercise isn’t so you can have washboard abs, but because it makes you smile and laugh and feel alive.
I remember being “fit” when I was struggling through my eating disorder (after all, I was exercising over 2 hours a day everyday), but I constantly felt weak because I often felt like I’d pass out. Now, I thank my body for all it can do and all it has done: my legs can hold on through 10 miles, my abs can hold me through a 12 minute plank, my body can balance itself on my upper arms during yoga. I’ve let go of the obsession with perfection and learned to love my body no matter what state it is in.
nancy chen balanced babe
4. What are some ways you stay active and foods you eat to achieve a balanced mind, body and soul (favorite work out routines, favorite healthy dish/ snack etc.)
My friends know me as a health nut, which is very true because I’m always down to try any new type of exercise. I used to swim competitively so I had 2 hour practices every day; now I typically do mostly yoga, running, and boxing; I take spin classes on occasion and sometimes add in Kayla Itsines’s BBG workouts in place of something if I’m short on time).
My exercise schedule usually looks something like this:
  • Mon: boxing at Title Boxing Club in the morning, easy run at night
  • Tues: boxing at Title Boxing Club in the morning
  • Wed: tempo run in the morning, yoga at CorePower Yoga at night
  • Thurs: personal training (weights or mittwork) or boing at Title Boxing Club in the morning, yoga at night (only if did personal training)
  • Friday: boxing at Title Boxing Club in the morning or yoga at CorePower Yoga in the morning
  • Saturday: long run outdoors (only when training for a half; I take a boxing class in the morning if not training)
For food, I wish I meal prepped more – it’s one of my goals. I have a couple of go-to’s:
  • Breakfast: Siggi’s 4% yogurt with berries, flaxseed meal, and walnuts or smoothie bowl or an egg plate with veggies
  • Snack: hard boiled egg with 1/2 avocado and cayenne pepper, larabar, apple or with PB, homemade trail mix with goji berries and almonds
  • Dinner: steelhead or salmon with sweet potatoes and kale
5. Words to live by/ favorite quote that has to do with positivity, good vibes or positive body image.
“Learning to be grateful for our bodies and taking care of them are the best ways for us to empower ourselves physically, mentally, and spiritually.” – Demi Lovato
 If you want to follow Nancy, her delicious and healthy foodporn and continue to be inspired by her journey of leading an awesomely balanced life, then click here to follow her on Instagram!
Stay tuned to see our next Balanced Babe of the week!
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