A Simple Analogy That Will Transform Your Fitness Mindset
For anyone who translates pay day to mean shopping day, I feel pretty safe in guessing that they’re probably always broke – and likely in debt, too. Likewise, if someone thinks that exercise “earns” them bad eating habits, it’s safe to assume their workouts aren’t dramatically changing their body – and they’re likely accruing a “food debt” in the form of body fat.
In short, the mindset of using exercise to “earn” more food is a fast track to the fitness equivalent of going paycheck-to-paycheck.
Just to be clear and put the rest of this post in perspective: I’m not implying that you should NEVER eat something that isn’t 100% healthy. You’re human. The point is just to change how you associate exercise with food.
Balancing Your Fitness Account
Just like your finances, the goal of exercise is to create a positive balance, not to break even. The fact that you just burned 600 calories doesn’t mean that you can now afford to eat 600 calories of extra junk food. And I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but you probably burned more like 150 calories during that workout that you think burned 600. It doesn’t matter the total number of calories you burn during your activity, it only matters how much more you burned than you would have if you hadn’t done that activity (you’re never burning zero calories).
Additionally, when you play the calorie balancing game with exercise and bad food, you end up altering the entire equation. Yes, if you burn more calories than you eat, you will lose weight – but that’s not the whole story. The quality of the food you eat also affects your hormones, which in turn affects your metabolism. So, by eating crappy food you may not only be adding to your calorie intake, but you could be greatly subtracting from your metabolism (not to mention your health!!!).
Your hormones also impact the distribution of your weight by altering your ability to efficiently burn fat and/or build muscle. This means that even if your calorie math adds up, you could end up with more fat and less muscle at the same weight. Since muscle mass is one of the most crucial factors in determining metabolism, this once again means that you’re sabotaging the equation from the top down. So if you follow that 150 calorie workout with 2 Somoas (yes, 2 of those tiny girl scout cookies) OR just 6oz of red wine, you’ve effectively canceled out your workout AND created a poor environment for your body to respond to that workout.
Compounding Good Habits
Going back to the comparison to personal finances, the people who manage this successfully emphasize both ends of the equation and focus on increasing their savings, not their shopping. If you want to get in better shape, you have to apply the same logic to your eating and exercise habits. The bigger the “surplus” you can create between the two (without starving yourself), the better your results are going to be. This may seem like common sense, but so is saving money – and yet most people still don’t do it.
Like most things, it’s the obvious changes that make the biggest differences. This simple shift in your mindset will reap gigantic rewards. Not only will your results finally match your goals, but you’ll likely find that you enjoy it more, too. Whether it’s your bank account or your health and fitness, going paycheck to paycheck is stressful. When you start getting the full benefit of your efforts, you create a more positive relationship with the process.
Finding the will power to stay motivated day in and day out without dramatic physical changes is exhausting. When you get to enjoy the amazing rewards of your actions then you create a subconscious connection between the two. Once that happens, you’ll suddenly find yourself being that person who gets annoyingly excited about exercise.