We don't have to earn our food. Food is a perfectly normal thing that we all need to live and function properly, just like we need to breath, sleep and drink water.
There's no reason having to “earn” any of those things, including food.
Especially this time of the year, you'll going to see a lot of workouts all over the Internet that are titled with something along these lines: “Burn off your holiday treats!” or “Make up for your cookies by doing this workout!”.
(I even stumbled upon a 20-minute workout somewhere, that promised to burn 1000 calories. That, unfortunately, is complete BS.)
But when we look around, it really sounds like we have to feel guilty and ashamed of eating. First we have to earn it, then work it off...
If We Don't Overeat, There's Nothing to Feel Bad About
We don't have to earn our food, just like we don't have to work it off.
The first thing that is useful to learn is not to over eat at at all.
I understand that it may be hard to do, especially during the holidays when we're surrounded by so much delicious food. But it's possible. Learning how to look at food as a normal part of life and not going overboard with it starts from not depriving ourselves to the point where all we can think about is food.
Especially during the holidays and other occasions where we know there will be a lot of food, the following thing happens: We basically starve ourselves all day when we know that we'll be having a larger meal later on that day. It shouldn't be a surprise that once we sit down to eat, we're so hungry that we can't control ourselves.
And because we didn't eat all day, ran two hours and lifted weights, we're now allowed to at allthefood.
There's a problem in this kind of thinking, and it's twofold.
Our mind thinks that we have the permission to eat it all. We earned it by starving all day, right? (Wrong.)
Our body is just hungry. Which shouldn't be surprise, if we haven't eaten all day, and if we have worked out like it's our job, burned a ton of calories, but consumed none.
The way to avoid overeating during the holidays (and any other time) is not to starve and “save” the calories for later, but eat normal way throughout the day, according to our bodies needs. That way there's no need to overdo it later, and no need to “work it off” either.
But If We Overate Anyway
Eating normal amounts of food, which is only possible by listening to our bodies, may take time. It's a practice and it usually doesn't happen overnight.
But even people who know how to eat intuitively according to their needs, sometimes end up consuming more calories than other times.
Not all days are the same. Some days we eat less, some days more. Some days we need less and some days we need more. There's no body (yes, no body) that needs exactly 2000, 2200 or 2400 calories every single day. And there are very few bodies that need less than 1600 or so calories a day.
Even if we eat intuitively, we may end up eating slightly more calories during the holidays and other celebrations. Foods that we eat may be just more calorie dense, there are cakes and cookies that we probably don't eat everyday, and there may be a few more glasses of wine at dinner than usually.
There's nothing surprising that we end up eating the total of more calories than normally. It should be fine and we should move on with our lives, not to stress about it. Because there will be days when we're naturally less hungry, and eat less, because our bodies tell us that they need less food.
But even on days when we eat more than usually, we don't have to work it off by training two extra hours.
The feelings of guilt and remorse and the actions we take because of those feelings can really mess with our minds. It is absolutely true that we can't expect positive outcomes from negative thinking and negative self talk.
And if we totally overdid it with food, working out additional hour may not make that big difference anyway. We may burn about 500 additional calories by running another hour, but if we totally binged and consumed thousands and thousands of extra calories, then it doesn't make a big difference. We'd have to run five more hours, if we really wanted to “work it off”.
We can think about it in a way positive way: We can use this extra fuel to get in an awesome workouts, and put all these carbs to work for us. Totally different perspective 🙂
Move On With Your Usual Training and Eating Habits
While I don't think we have to make up for our eating or earn the food, spending the holidays sitting around, doing nothing else than adding more food on the plate while binge watching movies and being in a constant food coma aren't the smartest things to do either.
It's still super important to keep working out consistently, and keep eating satisfying amounts of healthy food most of the time.
Just like we have to eat every day, we need to move ourselves every day too. Walking totally counts as well. Lifting some weights, doing some bodyweight exercises, yoga, running or just walking, whatever it is for us that keeps us moving, we should do it consistently.
But it doesn't have to be much, and it shouldn't be obsessive.
If you want to stay consistent with your workouts during the holidays, you can check out this Holiday Travel Workout Guide, that helps you make working out during the holidays easier. They are short and simple workouts that won't take you much time at all. You'll find a bit more information about this guide on the blog Wednesday, and on Instagram throughout this week.
I put this guide together with the goal in mind to help you keep moving when you have limited time, space and equipment, not because you have to feel like crap about yourself and desperately try to burn off every morsel you ate. These workouts are not about earning food, but feeling awesome in your own skin in December.
Working out to earn your food and burn off your consumed calories in mind may be sexy things to say. Add those quotes like “sore today or sorry tomorrow” and “sweat is your fat crying” that you may have seen and you get a perfect recipe for creating self-hate, guilt and remorse, and you end up hating the holidays.
Which is actually really sad, because holidays should be the time to hang out with our favorite people, enjoy some time off and do fun things (also other than eating), not stress about food. We can enjoy all that, without going overboard, and if we do, get back to our regular habits at our next meal.
Do you ever feel the need to “work off” your calories?
Me: I definitely used to. In the past, that was exactly what I did, but it got really stressful as I put my body through extremely long workouts, and my mind through a lot of guilt.