‘Tis the season for holiday cheer, all things pumpkin-spice, and perhaps a few too many spiked egg-nogs. Something else is supplied in abundance this time of year too:
Guilt. Shame. Punishment. All for, get this, eating food.
Scroll through social media and alongside tempting holiday recipes are videos and articles showing you how to Burn off those Christmas cookies! and telling you to Do this extreme fat-torching workout to earn that holiday feast!
What a terrific idea! Let’s make women feel like they must earn a favorite holiday food (or any food, for that matter). And if they didn’t “earn” that calorie-rich treat beforehand with a proper vomit-inducing workout, let’s shower them with guilt. Let’s shame them for choosing to enjoy buttery mashed potatoes and other homemade festive dishes instead of nibbling on spinach leaves. While we’re at it, let’s encourage women to punish themselves with a brutal workout for enjoying a slice of pecan pie because, hey, you ate it, now you must negate it.
Recommended article: The Huge Problem with Guilty-Pleasure Foods
Problems That Arise from the Earn-Your-Food Mentality
Telling women they must earn the food they’ll eat today or burn off yesterday’s dessert is bad enough, but if they’re conditioned to believe food must be “earned” or a workout must be performed as atonement for eating something “bad,” what complications can that present long term?
With enough repetition they may be plagued with a negative self-image; disordered eating habits may develop; exercise may become a grudging chore rather than an activity of self-care and enjoyment. These unintended issues may start out seemingly small and not problematic, but they can compound with time. This is a health and fitness disaster of epic proportion.
Recommended article: Break Free from the Ugly Side of Health and Fitness
I know this to be true not only from personal experience but also from working with women who echo similar tales and hearing from countless others who’ve reached out over the years to share their similar stories. Exercise being punishment for eating food and the negative consequences that mindset creates is a path too many women have found themselves navigating, and they’re left longing for a way out.
A workout should not be currency or penance for eating food.
If you’re currently captive to the must-earn-and-burn-my-food mindset or want to ensure you avoid it, let’s compare two mindsets for approaching a workout before or after a holiday feast: the Punishment Mindset and the Healthy Mindset.
Punishment Mindset says, “I need to do extra cardio today because I ate too much pie yesterday.”
Healthy Mindset says, “I ate too much pie yesterday, but I enjoyed every bite. Today, I’ll just do what I would normally do with my workouts. No need to change anything.”
Punishment Mindset says, “Tomorrow is a big holiday feast, so today’s workout needs to be absolutely brutal. If I’m not drained by the end, then I didn’t work hard enough and won’t have earned that meal.”
Healthy Mindset says, “Tomorrow is a big holiday feast, so today’s workout will be as productive as any other workout. I’m exercising to get strong and because it makes me feel great and is part of my life.”
One mindset will build you up and strengthen you. The other will dismantle you, bit by bit.
Health and fitness should be a lifestyle pursuit defined by flexibility, sanity, enjoyment, and empowerment; it should certainly include room for your favorite foods. Guilt and obsession and punishment deserve no place in that journey. One step in the right direction is banishing (or simply avoiding) the exercise-is-punishment and food-must-be-earned mindsets that are all too common in today’s fitness environment.
What to Read Next:
- The Women’s Beginner Strength Training Guide
- Here’s the Simple Guide That Shows You How to Eat Healthy
- Eating in Moderation: How to Do It Right
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