I was reading through a health article the other day and came across the words "exercise bulimia". It describes when you "binge" on exercise as an excuse for eating the foods that you want.
Have you ever chosen to exercise to "make up" for "being bad" over the weekend? Have you ever tried to exercise more so that you can "afford the calories" later? Especially when you know you are going to an event where there will be tons of "off-limit" foods?
Oh my gosh....I'm the first to raise my hand. I definitely did both. I would eat foods I truly wanted after I finished working out (scones and chocolate chip cookies were my vice), because I "deserved it". And I also would try to work out more if I knew there was a special event coming up.
If I think back to when I was overexercising, I wouldn't have labeled what I was doing as "exercise bulimia". That just sounds way too extreme, right? I didn't really think there was an issue with doing more work.
Here are some reasons why you might think more exercise won't hurt your weight loss goals (but do):
1) You haven't figured out what eating path is going to work for you, so you turn to exercise
Maybe you've tried a whole bunch of diets - paleo, vegan, low cal, low carb, low...food....the list goes on and on. And it's hard to stick to, it's too rigid, it doesn't feel right, it makes you feel like health is a chore... You start and stop, start and stop.
It's easy to feel like exercise = guaranteed progress when you haven't concluded what eating patterns work for you.
2) Exercising more seems easier than giving up foods you want
Stemming off of #1, you don't even want to explore diets anymore. It's just so much easier to motivate yourself to exercise than it is to restrict yourself food. It's easier to exercise than to eat foods you don't like. It's easier to exercise when you think it's your ticket to off-limit-foods-galore.
But you don't necessarily have to give up the foods that you love. The only foods I would recommend actually giving up are the ones you're intolerant to (hey, safe argument, right?). As for the rest, you can experiment with using alternative ingredients. For example, you can keep having pasta but try experimenting with brown rice pasta instead of refined white pasta.
3) You think that weight loss is only about calories in vs calories out
So, you slipped up on your diet and ate a bunch of food you knew you shouldn't have. Exercise will take care of that, right? I mean, as long as you burn more energy to make up for eating too many calories, the weight should take care of itself...yeah?
Actually, foods affect your body chemistry. If you're eating foods that make your body chemistry out-of-whack, it can be super hard to lose weight, even if you're exercising a lot. Maybe you've lost a little bit of weight only to gain it back quickly, and you can't figure out why you're putting in so much effort without being able to make the scale budge again. That's because it could be that the foods you are eating are not affecting your body chemistry, optimally.
This could be from:
-Eating foods you're intolerant to. If you're eating dairy when you're lactose intolerant, it's going to affect how your body digests foods. And digestion is going to affect your weight.
-Eating processed foods. You already know that processed foods aren't great for you, but what you may not know is how it can negatively affect your body chemistry. An easy thing to do is change up the ingredients you use. For example, maple syrup is a great alternative to refined white sugar. It'll give you the sweet flavor you're looking for without as much of a negative impact on your weight as refined white sugar.
4) You believe that more work = more play
Unfortunately, "more work = more play" doesn't apply to the world of health in the way it does to studying for a math test and getting an A. And this is a shame, because the health world feeds us information that suggests we will get what we want if we work harder and commit.
I don't like those words...("work" and "commit"). It totally removes any confidence you have in your body's natural ability to heal, regulate its weight, and look amazing. The words you should think of instead are "de-stress" and "compatibility". How can you remove stress from your life? This could be your finances, relationships, overexercising, eating intolerant foods - each of these have the ability to affect your weight. And what foods are compatible for you, not just in how you feel but if they bring joy to you in their taste, presentation, aroma....does your heart light up?
When it comes to feeling confident about your food choices and feeling comfortable in your body, you actually want to look at taking off more stress. And you can't take off stress AND be disciplined at the same time. Ironic, ay?
If the type and amount of exercise you're doing doesn't make you feel good, then why are you doing it?
The reason why I thought "exercise bulimia" is extreme is because I thought that "bulimia" = "damaging" (to the esophagus) where as "exercise" = "good".
But what you may not realize is that exercising too much is actually putting more stress on your body. And not the good kind of stress - the kind of stress that makes your body think that something is wrong in its environment and that it has to be prepared for danger. Overexercising is a really great way of getting strong but adding a thick layer of fat over your muscles.
Losing 40 pounds actually started for me with taking more stress off of my body - this meant resting to the point where I felt restored. Walking to feel calm and rejuvenated, instead of to the point of exhaustion, muscle pain, and cramps.
What do you think you can take out of your life to alleviate stress? What foods can you eat that will make you feel better? Leave a comment on your insights!