Outsmarting Yourself: Easier for some than others :)

29 Mar



Doesn't earn this

Doesn’t earn this

The mysterious relationship between the mind and body is one that humans have spent eternity trying to understand. We have clues, little insights, but when it comes down to it we really don’t have a clue what’s going on. Until the science of pathology catches up, we have to rely on relationships, studies, and the outcomes of behaviors observed in groups. Something one learns on the road to becoming a dietitian (or by flipping through any number of fitness-related magazines), is that when a person starts an exercise regime, one of the first things he/she often does is dramatically increase his/her calorie intake. Dramatically. Ran 3 miles? Great have an extra 2 slices of pizza. Shoveled the walkway? Fantastic, have a chocolate milkshake. Human beings are so stressed out that we love when things can be mindless and simple. So instead of paying attention to whether or not they are hungry, they assume they have “earned” whatever high-fat/ high-sugar/ high-carb/ high-garbage treat they plan on inhaling. It’s easy to look past the fact that a 3 mile run is most likely only burning around 300 calories, which doesn’t exactly cover the close to 800 calories two extra slices of pizza will give. Many dieters will kill themselves in the gym and make the mistake of thinking they’ve burned thousands of calories, but the body doesn’t really work that way. These dieters will become frustrated when the scale doesn’t budge, or (gasp) it creeps up as they continue their fitness plan.  The novice gym-goer needs very few extra calories to maintain peak energy and fuel workouts, and it’s more the quality of food rather than the quantity that will affect performance.

Of course as the genious dietitian that I am, I know all of this. I know that the brain is programmed to tell you after a workout that you’re twice as hungry as you normally would be. Yet I still fall for it. I’m not twice as hungry, I just have twice the appetite. Hunger and appetite are what my generation calls frenemies. They act like they are BFF, but hunger really doesn’t want anything to do with appetite, and appetite is always stealing the spotlight. Every night that I run (which has been three out of five nights this week, applause please!), I come home and eat a dinner that is far bigger than what it normally would be. Now, I have been eating much healthier lately, and so this meal is usually plant-based, with whole fruits, vegetables, and nuts, so I don’t feel guilty about it at all. The problem comes at work the next day. Girl Scout Cookies that I had long since forgotten about under my desk during this last month of cleaner eating are suddenly jumping up and down for some attention. You’ve been working out all week and you look great, have a few Thin Mints!  That’s fair, right? I ran three miles last night, my metabolism is probably still buzzing. Except it’s not. And neither is yours. This extended calorie burn exists only in our minds, and only affects our bellies. My challenge this past month was to eat cleaner. And I did it, and it’s been amazing. This month I have a much more difficult challenge, one I pose to everyone trying to be fit and eat healthy: DO BOTH. Growing up, I mastered working out/ fitness, and eating mildly healthy . In college I mastered eating and drinking everything in sight (hello 25 pounds!), and in my mid-twenties I’m trying to reach that perfect harmony of food and exercise. The knowledge that sometimes our brains work against us with false ideas of how much we need to eat can be our weapon. I won’t eat a treat because I’ve earned it, I’ll eat it because I’ve decided I really do want it in that moment, and it’s my splurge. I’m in charge of what I eat, and I’m wise enough to know that 20-45 minutes of daily activity coupled with a mostly sedentary remainder of the day does not warrant an ice cream sundae every night… But maybe every once in a while!


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