You are More than an Equation
I’ve been hearing a lot lately about the myth that eating a “bad” food after a workout “cancels” the workout out. Or that a workout must be done in order for there to be “room” for a “bad” food that day. Or how about the thought that putting butter on your veggies “cancels out” the “good” of the veggies. Basically…all comments centering around the idea of calories in < calories out = weight loss.
These types of comments, frankly, make me sad. Mostly because that is a surefire sign that you are stuck in the trenches of the diet mentality, but also because that viewpoint is soooo black and white. So I wanted to talk about why your body is more than simply calories in and calories out, despite what your calorie counting app tells you.
First of all, let’s talk about the whole calories in calories out mentality. This thought process states that your weight can be controlled by simply eating less calories than your body burns. HA.
I laugh because this doesn’t take into account your basal metabolic rate (the amount of energy your body uses just to stay alive). Your genetics. Your personal dieting history. Your sleep habits. So. Many. Things. If this simple equation really worked like they say it does, would we still have a thriving diet industry? Probably not.
You may notice that this method works initially, but soon you’ll notice that you’re not losing weight anymore. This is because our bodies are extremely protective and will actually alter metabolism to make sure it’s getting the energy it needs. Not feeding your body enough? Your metabolism will actually slow down in order to conserve more energy. That’s why people hit a “plateau” in weight loss, and why often after years and years of dieting, people come out on the other side heavier than when they started.
It is much more beneficial for you to work with your body and trust it to take care of itself, rather than engage in activities that leave you hungry, feeling guilty, and cause your body to have to work harder.
Besides the fact that this just simply doesn’t make sense metabolically, the CICO (calories in calories out) mentality doesn’t account for LIFE. What happens when your day ends up jam packed and you can’t possibly fit in a workout? Do you skip dinner because your app says you don’t have any calories left? Or when you’ve perfectly balanced (according to your app that has no idea who YOU are) your calories in/out but then your friend calls you up and wants to go to ice cream? Do you say no?
I’ve been there. That is not living. That is not freedom. All that kind of thinking does for you is cause stress, shame, and guilt. And feeling negative feelings like that actually has more of an effect on your health than simply the calories you eat.
Also. Even if your app says you don’t have room for more calories in your day, your body DOES. Your body knows what to do with the food you eat. It knows where you need it and how to use it better than an app does. Especially if you are grossly undereating your caloric needs. On the flip side, I’d also like to say that if your calorie app says you have “extra” calories for the day, that also doesn’t mean you have to eat! Oftentimes this can lead to binging on something that you potentially weren’t actually desiring or were hungry for. We, as fluid human beings, have different needs every day. Sometimes that means we need some extra fuel, sometimes that means we don’t need as much. A simple equation that spits out a number of calories to eat/day cannot account for that.
Eating based on your internal cues will always be healthier than eating according to external cues of an app/equation/diet.
Let’s talk about your body and how it handles calories.
Do you really believe that there are little minions in your body saying, “Well shoot, she put butter on her vegetables. In order to punish her, we aren’t going to absorb the vitamins and fiber of the vegetables and we’re going to make that butter go STRAIGHT to her thighs!” Really?? Because this is what it sounds like when comments are made about butter or cheese or whatever, “cancelling” out the vegetables that you’ve eaten.
Your bodies take in everything you eat, and digests, absorbs, uses, and stores whatever is needed, wherever it is needed. You have little control over that.
If putting fatty, palatable toppings on your vegetables gets you to eat them more often, that is a good thing!! Keep doing that! Trust me, your body benefits from you eating cheesy vegetables daily more than you not eating vegetables at all.
Another black and white way of thinking is that an exercise doesn’t “count” if it isn’t a certain amount of calories.
Again. Your body doesn’t look at this and go, “that wasn’t enough calories to cover the last meal she ate, so screw it. We aren’t going to make that exercise “count”.” No! Thinking about exercise this way contributes to so much guilt and I guarantee it is interfering with your life and ability to truly enjoy exercise.
Instead, when you are in tune with your body and exercise, you may think about movement in a more holistic way. For example – that 15 minute afternoon walk was just what my body needed to get back in the zone and finish up that project. Or, that yoga session really helped me feel less stressed about what’s going on in my life. Or even, choosing to watch Netflix for a few hours yesterday instead of exercise really helped me feel re-charged today.
There are benefits to exercise no matter how many calories you burned. But when you view exercise’s only purpose as simply “erasing” food you ate, you are trapped in an incorrect mentality that will make it so difficult to truly enjoy the benefits of moving your body.
One of the best ways you can get back to listening to your body and starting your intuitive eating journey is deleting your calorie counting app. Focus on internal cues vs external cues. That app cannot possibly measure all of the different components of YOU that contribute to why you eat, when you eat, and what you eat.
That app is a robot. That equation is a robot. You are not.