“Life is too short to spend a day at war with yourself”
Less than a month ago, a certain type of post started circulating the social world. You’ve seen them, you know – the ones that imply the food you eat must be burned off through X hard minutes of X type of dreadful exercise. The ones that make you think twice about treating yourself to a food or meal you enjoy, but may not be the healthiest. The ones that make you feel guilty and awful about yourself, with exhausting cardio and bullshit burpees as the only way to recover from the shame and excess.
The ones that really piss me off.
Yes, these posts are coming again to a social network near you. And seeing them more is fueling my fire to want to address them and the message behind them. Because, no matter the time of year, whether they’re at the peak of popularity or not, that negative message doesn’t go away. So we’re going to talk about this topic again: Food isn’t the enemy. Exercise isn’t punishment. And you’re not bad.
Food. It’s a great thing. It’s delicious. It has social ties. It’s necessary for our daily functions. It’s family traditions. It’s fuel for a great workout and recovery for our bodies after the tough workouts.
Yum, food. It’s all these wonderful things. When viewed in this positive light, a person can have a good relationship with food and see it for what it is. However, too many people view food in a negative way. These negative associations lead to people having bad relationships with food, seeing it for what it’s not.
Let’s be clear about a few things food is not. It’s not bad. It’s not something to be avoided. It’s not something that should cause shame or guilt. It’s not a villain. And, I can’t say this enough, it’s not the enemy.
Now that we’ve covered that, it’s time to look at the other side of this – exercise.
Exercise is a great thing. It’s good for your heart. It builds confidence. It’s been proven to prevent diseases. It can be social. It’s stress-relief. It’s empowering.
Boom, exercise. It’s all these wonderful things. When viewed in this type of positive light, a person can have a good relationship with exercise and see it for what it is. However, too many people view exercise in a negative way. These negative associations lead to people having bad relationships with exercise, seeing it for what it’s not.
Let’s be clear about a few things exercise is not. It’s not a chore. It’s not for erasing calories. It’s not something to be avoided or dreaded. It’s not something done to combat the guilt of eating. And, I can’t say this enough, it’s not punishment.
Live The Life You Want
Now, to the people who create and share food-to-calorie-exercise-burning content: Who the hell do you think you are? Can you honestly tell me every time you “slip up” and eat a Reese’s you do 50 burpees to burn it off? And every time you “cave” and go to happy hour for a beer, you walk for 2 hours after, at a brisk pace, to cancel it out? Are you seriously going to go for a 15-mile run to pay for your once-a-year Thanksgiving “cheat meal”? If you do, that makes me sad but hey, different strokes for different folks. But I’m guessing you don’t. So why would you be an asshole and make anyone feel like they should have to pay penance for their food or feel like the eating choices they make are bad ones? Stop it. Or at least keep that shit to yourself.
Finally, a little reality check on all this. I’m not saying there isn’t a relationship between food and exercise. I know that exercise burns calories and is a method for weight loss. I know that active people can have more eating freedom and those who are sedentary maybe feel they can’t be as carefree. I know there’s a correlation between the amount of calories you’re taking in with the amount you’re burning off for health and weight management.
I know all this. And I’m not trying to say you should eat with reckless abandon or feel bad if you appreciate that exercise helps you maintain your weight. I guess I’m trying to advise that we all focus more on positive thinking vs. negative. Striving for balance vs. striving for perfection. Living a life that makes you happy, yet one that knows discipline.
Having a positive association with food and exercise isn’t something that happens overnight. Like mental wellness and mindfulness, it’s a process, something that’s ongoing to a degree. I’m still not totally there but I’m working on it. Always trying to find my happy balance. And, I guess I’m trying to do my part to help you find your happy balance too.
Where do you stand on your relationship with food and exercise? Do you agree with my outlook or do you see exercise as something you need to do to cancel out your eating, and eating something that must be erased by exercise? Post a comment or tweet me @runlikeagirl311 on Twitter.