Author: Abby Resek
A thought: we so often talk about food and exercise as if they cancel each other out.
For example, have you ever read anything like: “Unless you have good, clean nutrition, all the exercise means nothing”?
Or thought to yourself while enjoying a burger or a bowl of ice cream, “I’ll have to burn this off tomorrow”?
Does reading those things now make you feel stressed out? Because it makes me feel stressed out. When we read things like this, or say them to ourselves, we’re approaching food as something we need to punish ourselves for eating (and, by extension, viewing exercise as that punishment).
In a word, we’re talking about food and exercise as if they cancel each other out – as if one can somehow take away something from the other. Telling ourselves that exercise means nothing without ‘clean’ nutrition can leave us feeling hopeless – like moving and exercising is pointless unless we’re doing everything else perfectly too, so why even bother? As if when we train hard, or go on a run, or enjoy some yoga, and then eat a burger and fries, suddenly that work didn’t happen.
Here’s the thing to remember: it did happen. Whenever you move or exercise, that’s meaningful and purposeful and helpful, regardless of what you do before or after. You moved, you exercised, you devoted time to yourself. In a word, you still did the thing!
And yes, there’s a science to nutrition and exercise: carbs are fuel, protein helps rebuild muscle after workouts. But step away for a minute from the ‘best’things to eat before or after a workout, and instead try to think about food as something that can help you when you exercise, not take something away.
Next time you sit down to enjoy a good burger or a big ol’ plate of fish and chips, instead of viewing all that good hearty food as a crime for which you’ll have to punish yourself (i.e. ‘burn off’), think about how it can help fuel you later. Maybe shoot for a heavy deadlift the next day. Or maybe you’ll feel fueled for a long walk the next morning. Or maybe just enjoy it, because it’s good food and it deserves to be enjoyed – and you deserve to enjoy it.
Similarly, be proud of yourself when you exercise. Exercise, after all, is not a means to cancel out the food you make. Instead, exercise converts all that good fuel into movement – it doesn’t cancel out that food, but makes it more beneficial.
The point is, when we view food and exercise as things that negate each other, we’re misunderstanding that relationship, we’re taking away from our own accomplishments, and we’re making it a lot more difficult to enjoy either to their fullest. Think about how the two can make each other better – because nothing tastes better than a sandwich after a long hike, and nothing makes a workout as enjoyable as some good fuel before and some tasty protein after. Because, in the end, exercise and food belong together.