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Exercise As Punishment

I’m annoyed.

Sometimes it is such an uphill battle fighting all the nonsense in the fitness/nutrition world that I just want to wave my white gym towel and say ‘Ok biggest loser…you win’. Obviously, I won’t ever do that, but the things people put on the internet – and worse, what people follow and share – is just mind boggling.

Take this little gem, for example.

Really?

Now, to be fair, this truly looks harmless enough. It gives a realistic look at what the calories in these items are comparable to, and sometimes that is necessary when deciding if something is really “worth it”. AND, frankly, the items listed are definitely treats that shouldn’t be consumed 24/7. But that’s as far as the compliments go.

First of all, whether we realize it or not, this attitude and behavior is the beginning of a very slippery slope to food restriction and over-exercising. If you literally think in terms of how many minutes you need on the stairclimber per piece of pizza, do you really think it will stop there? Every time you see a calorie label, your brain is automatically going to convert it into some ridiculous exercise plan that is going to have you going above and beyond the necessary (and safe) recommendations. Not to be offensive, but it is SO easy to rationalize poor decisions and putting junk in your body if you use exercise as your “morning after” pill.

Further, we are humans – not animals. And, contrary to popular belief with all this Paleo nonsense, I’m willing to bet most of us aren’t struggling to survive between meals. This adds an important component in regards to diet and exercise. You have control over what you eat, how much you eat, and why you’re eating it. You’re also in control of what you like to do for activity and what makes you happy. Using exercise as a “guilt trip” makes you resent food, and view working out as a punishment instead of something that can make you empowered and all around awesome. As well meaning as these charts might be, this really promotes the wrong kind of thinking. Dogs use the reward/punishment system. A brain as sophisticated as a human’s should be beyond that.

Lastly, just because you DO indulge occasionally, does not mean you have ruined all your efforts in the gym. This is a journey, and it doesn’t get ruined by a few cookies. It is so easy to get sucked into such negative thinking (ahem- refer to the above chart) when really you should be feeling proud of your efforts each and every time you eat something healthy, or spend time getting active. If you really made an effort to count your triumphs instead of your failures, by the end of the month, you’d actually see progress. This progress might inspire more progress, and then before you know it, you’re setting higher goals.

I’m just a big fan of everything in moderation. I also can’t stress enough that no matter what they look like on tv or on the competition stage, compensating social activity and occasional indulges for strict caloric intake and aesthetics is not healthy either. There are a lot of extremes out there, and too often we fall for them and then punish ourselves when we can’t keep up with ridiculous standards. Instead, take a step back, and start appreciating your body and yourself. Find people that motivate you, but don’t tear you down. And PLEASE don’t eat cookies and then do jumping jacks, because nobody wants to clean up after you.

#TeamNoDaysOff

Nothing screams NEW YEAR like crowded gyms, over zealous facebook statuses and stale Christmas cookies. With that, I figured, what better way to return to the blogosphere than to comment, in usual sarcastic fashion, about goals/resolutions and why your over-the-top approach is already a failure.

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With everyone aggressively dieting and exercising, I just want to shed some light on the chaos that will be taking over social media for the next 3-4 weeks. This phenomenon of ‘all or nothing’, intense, fast-paced, DON’T QUIT attitude is admirable, to a certain extent, but downright dangerous when abused. It’s what causes me to take a step back from posting articles on facebook at this time of year.  In fact, I tend to remain tight lipped about fitness & conditioning in general unless it is really necessary for me to intervene. Otherwise I have the same conversation with everyone I meet– “No, I haven’t tried p90x” “No, I don’t know what muscle confusion is.” “I don’t take supplements”. etc.

I belong to pretty much every social media site out there – instagram, pinterest, twitter – you name it, I’m creeping. But one thing seems to be constant — people using these sites to fuel their fitness fire (and, subsequently, their addiction) and motivate themselves with catch phrases like ‘NO DAYS OFF’ and ‘2-A-DAYS!’. Unless you’re a HS athlete training during preseason (aka a 3 week period), 2 a days are a poor decision 99% of the time. Don’t just take my word for it, your central nervous system will give you all the proof you need.

Coming off a significant lifting/blogging hiatus, I can tell you for a fact that sometimes, you just need to SIT. THE. HELL. DOWN. I can admire people with weight loss goals, and those that have had success from working hard, but I assure you that the “no days off” approach will only get you so far before an injury, or, perhaps even worse, a total burn out occurs. Sure, you’ll see results at first – and probably some significant ones, because guess what? Everything works….until it doesn’t. So when the plateau hits, the golden rule to remember is that more is NOT better.

Whether you’re coming off an injury, you’re finally making a health conscious effort, or you’re just trying to get back up after falling off the wagon during the holidays – I applaud the initiative. But do yourself a favor, and steer clear from the social media frenzy that starts as motivation and can seriously deter your progress. Creating new habits and making significant lifestyle changes takes time, and your body needs a chance to adapt and recover. Nothing worth having ever comes easy (or fast), so patience is key. If you want these changes to last, you have to build a foundation.

 

The main resolution for 2013: Have more patience.