I hear people talking about working off bad food. “I better get a run in because I ate like crap on the weekend”. “One beer equals ten minutes of running”. People who are talking this way are seldom crushing their goals and making massive progress. Here is why this approach doesn’t work.
When you eat poorly, especially foods high in refined carbohydrates, you make changes to your gut microbiome. Changes to the microbiome can promote weight gain and increase the likelihood of serious diseases. Dr. David Perlmutter goes into great detail in his book
Brain Maker: The Power of Gut Microbes to Heal and Protect Your Brainfor Life The beneficial bacteria that we have in our gastrointestinal tract play a big role in overall health. Damage here is not significantly repaired by exercise.
“Today is my cheat day”
“I will pay for this later”
“I am going back on (insert any of a hundred different diets) next week”
Have you said one of these things? I sure have. Many people follow diets that are too restrictive and then feel deprived. This is a dangerous place to be. All too often, this is where the “yo-yo” starts. Exercise doesn’t make up for not following your plan. The problem is your plan, or lack of plan. It is best to design a regimen that has you feeling nurtured and allows for indulgence. Life is too short to spend it depriving yourself and cheating. Make a better plan and don’t cheat.
This may not be true for everyone. Maybe you already eat quite well and it is exercise you are struggling with. However, for most people, the foods they choose will have much more of an impact on their bodyweight than their exercise habits. I am often surprised to see how many overweight people cross the finish line at a half marathon. What is the reason that all the running doesn’t have every runner looking svelte? Because food is more important.
Lifestyle around food is probably the biggest obstacle to weight loss goals. You are lying to yourself if you think you don’t need to address it and can simply make up for it with more exercise.
Many people have a mean inner critic that can say hurtful things. There is no need to feel bad about yourself when you are enjoying tasty food, even if it isn’t healthy. My suggestion is to make intentional choices to enjoy food. Build enjoyment of food into your plan, not cheat days. Instead of filling your head with words like: cheat, unhealthy, bad; try using words like: indulgent, treat, decadent, dessert, occasional, if you are making the choice to enjoy some indulgent food.