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Whether you are thinking about fueling for a workout or getting hungry, we are wired to think about our next meal. But do we put too much thought into it? Blaming ourselves for cravings? Let’s learn how to think about food differently.
As athletes, yes you, you need to fuel your workouts. We sometimes have unhealthy ways of thinking about food…
“I ate too much breakfast, I need to stay out for an extra 15 minutes.”
“I’ve got to work extra hard right now to burn off that cookie from earlier.”
“If I do an extra few miles, I can have desert!”
“I haven’t worked as hard this week, so I have to make sure I don’t eat a lot.”
“I overate last meal, so I should skip this one.”
“I’m sooooo hungry right now, but I didn’t get in my workout.”
Negative relationships with food. Feeling guilty about food and using exercise to compensate. Exercise as a form of punishment for food…
Do these sound like you? Stop abusing yourself for what you eat. All these statements are negative ways to think about food. Sometimes you want to justify what you eat and how you eat, but we need to remove ourselves away from disordered eating habits and, perhaps more importantly, thoughts.
Run because you can, because you want to, because it makes you feel good about you. So what if you had desert last night. It’s our long term habits that make change. And although short term and smaller changes help, forcing our thought process to think about exercising as a form of just deserts for our deserts is not healthy.
Our bodies like slow change. Think about it this way: you’ve probably done enough exercise to know you can’t just deadlift 200 pounds, or run a marathon, you have to work up slowly to adapt to the changes. While going “cold turkey” does work for some (say for extreme habits like alcoholism or smoking), most of us need gradual modification.
Make one small goal, like an extra glass of water for the day, or substituting one thing for another. You don’t need to go ham on removing all meat from your diet, or quit bread to end all bread eating. Reward yourself for doing something good for yourself. Instead of eating at Wendy’s, try for a place that has more side options like a veggie or fruit instead of fries. Try it for a week, try it for a month.
As social creatures, we are oftentimes in a position where we feel pressured to overeat. These times are during the holidays, parties, and outings with groups or friends. Eat until you are comfortably full, you don’t need to eat everything. American portions are quite large, you’re not failing by not finishing or eating as much (or more in cases) as everyone else.
If you’re in the camp of eating too little because you won’t be able to run that day or the next to “make up for eating a bit too much”, stop. Let yourself enjoy things, especially when it’s not a habit to be out.
If you’re on the other side and are eating too much, think about eating to fullness and saving the rest for the following day. We understand a lot of people are not fans of leftovers, and we get that, but we oftentimes feel guilty leaving food behind. Don’t see it as negative. Eat the best parts and leave the rest. Take care of yourself. But don’t think you need to “burn it off” or eat it so it doesn’t go to waste.
Overall, thinking about food in a healthy way is very difficult in our society where we feel pressured to eat a certain way, or feel guilty for the food we eat. We should not feel guilty especially if we are fueling our bodies correctly. One large meal during the holidays or an social gathering isn’t going to hurt our long term habits. Creating healthy food habits and doing what we enjoy without needing to justify extra time on the stair master for what we consumed is a critical piece of the mental puzzle.
Do not feel guilty. Do not punish yourself with exercise. Enjoy what you do and enjoy your food too.
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