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I’ve loved spicy food and had a genuine love of Mexican food since I can remember.  I’ve hit the “hot” end of the salsa spectrum since I was about 5 years old, and as I’ve blogged before, I allow ample amounts of “Chips N’ Salsa” as one of my few nutrition vices.  I recently found out once again that when it comes to health and wellness  chili-peppers--300x300extreme behavior is not the way.  Health and wellness is about sustainable, balanced healthy decisions.

Am I saying that pushing yourself, taking on challenges and that some extreme choices aren’t good for you.  No.  On the contrary, I believe that pushing yourself to a place of slight discomfort is quite good for you, whether it be tackling a marathon, a tougher ski slope, or stepping up to your favorite song at a Karaoke club.  I’m talking about taking anything and consistently doing it to the point that you’re clearly no longer “in balance”.  My simple example, is the fact that over time I took my love for spicy food, chips and salsa, and have assaulted my system with it.  My mouth can handle any salsa, and in large amounts.  However, my body isn’t quite as enthusiastic to see the hot stuff coming.  I recently had some strange health symptoms that really didn’t make much sense to me, for a relatively healthy guy.  After a number of tests, the doctor asked me about my diet, and was particularly keen to see if I had been eating “any” spicy foods.  My quick answer was yes…  always, and actually quite a bit of high heat.  He asked me to eat a bland diet for two weeks and prescribed a medication to help manage the amount of stomach acid my body produced for the same period.  It’s been two days, and I feel remarkably better.

balance2This quick and significant turnaround started me thinking.  Even for a guy who really watches what goes in his body (manage fat, hardly ever eat cheese, don’t really snack, and truly avoid things like pizza, chips, french fries, sweets and those things that lead to empty calories), I have taken one thing that I really dig to eat, spicy food, and pushed it to an extreme on a consistent basis.  I have literally over-done-it, and my body has called me on it.

Does this mean I should stop eating salsa or Mexican food.  No.  It means I need to make sure I’m not an idiot, and that I balance things any given day, week or month, so that my body isn’t in a fist fight with a habanero or jalapeno chili too often…  so that my system can recover and have reasonable periods of stability.

Spicy food may not be your thing, but I’d bet that there are things that push and pull you more to the extremes when it comes to your health.  For these things, I don’t ask you to stop, I ask you to determine what would be a more healthy balanced approach, and use that vision to set some goals for yourself in a true small steps fashion.

Small steps add up!!!