Too often I see advertisements or memes of how much exercise is required to burn off a certain food (i.e., one donut = 45 minutes of running). Although this can be considered promoting exercise and helping people be more aware of calorie consumption, I think in most cases it does more harm than good.
It can begin to create an unhealthy relationship or viewpoint towards food and exercise. You may begin to feel guilty when consuming food and feel forced to exercise rather than proactively engaging in it for the many health benefits. This can lead to you using exercise as a means of punishment for the ‘bad’ foods or excess calories you have consumed.
Many times I hear people say they have worked so hard all week so they deserve an indulgence. This type of mindset can lead to a bad relationship towards food or even to developing an eating disorder. Rewarding yourself for hard work is great, but if you already struggle with your relationship with food, try using a different method of reward. Using exercise as a form of punishment to undo overindulgence is the same behavior people with eating disorders follow, as a form of purging food. If you treat exercise as punishment for your “bad behavior” you will start to view exercise as a chore and no longer enjoy the fitness activities you partake in.
I can relate to this mindset from personal experience. For years I repeated the cycle of overeating, then punishing myself with food restriction and exercise in an attempt to reverse what I had done. I dreaded going to the gym and always felt defeated. I knew that reforming my eating habits was necessary and the only way I could develop a positive view of exercise. This takes time, lots of effort, and belief that you can change. Consistency is key and the more the results showed the more motivated I became. Eventually there were no more guilty reasons to exercise. I exercised because I felt good, and feeling good encourages you to keep going, making growth happen!
Food is a great source of energy. Instead of punishing yourself for the surplus of calories, this would be a great time to be excited about having extra calories to feel stronger! Instead of extra weight gain, I say extra strength gains! Changing the way you view this can leave you feeling better about yourself and motivated to get stronger. By no means is it OK to continuously overindulge but one or even a couple over-indulgences will not hinder your progress.
Exercise is a great tool for working to improve your health, mentally and physically, so if you are looking to make fitness a part of your life, then your outlook on exercise must stem from positive intentions. Don’t view working out as a punishment or you will never have the mindset needed to embrace and eventually love working out.
Remember, having great health with the ability to move your body is a privilege. Sometimes you don’t appreciate what you’ve got until it’s gone.
By Claudia Virgil
Claudia Virgil is a bikini fitness competitor, fitness model, personal trainer, and Team Max athlete. She is making the switch from NPC to WBFF in 2017. She resides in Arizona with her loving husband and their two Pit Bulls. Find out more about her at ClaudiaVFit.com.