A well deserved treat…. 🚶🏼♀️☕️
How often do you reward your physical activity with some sort of food or drink? Or how often do you justify eating or drinking something because you’ve worked out or done a long walk or because you’re going to? I hear it all the time from clients – ‘I did end up having fish and chips, but I did 3 classes’ or ‘I did go over my calories at the bbq but I did do 25000 steps’.
Now whilst the physical activity is great and is absolutely something to be proud of – it’s not something to use to justify overeating. For starters you don’t need to justify eating food. Trying to ‘earn’ food isn’t a good thing and it also sets up a really unhealthy relationship with food whereby you almost have to ‘punish’ yourself to be allowed to eat. Also the chances are that in most cases you’ve grossly overestimated the number of calories burnt in that activity. If you’re trying to lose weight and aiming for a calorie deficit and using those ‘exercise caloires’ to justify eating more then you’re probably affecting your progress. Even if your activity tracker tells you you’ve burnt xxx cals – it will be an overestimate. Most of our activity trackers (particularly wrist based ones) are inaccurate. So if it tells you you’re burning 600 cals, you’re probably burning far less. A recent study compared calories from activity trackers for various workouts (cross trainer, spin, treadmill etc) and found they over estimated calories burned by an average of 40% with some overestimating by 90%!
This is a great example – you’ve just gone for a two hour walk, and you get to the coffee shop and reward yourself with a large cappuccino and a flapjack! That’s ok right? Because you’ve walked miles! Obviously the calories burnt vary with age, gender, height, walking speed, fitness etc but an average calorie burn for that distance for a 50yr old, 5ft 5 female walking at average pace is 324 cals. The coffee and flapjack are a minimum of 594 cals!
So does this mean we shouldn’t bother working out? No of course not! Workouts and general activity (energy burned from daily life activities) all help to increase the calories we use, build lean muscle, keep our hearts and lungs healthy etc so it’s vital! What you shouldn’t be doing is eating these back or using them to justify eating more than you need. They’re a bonus; an additional help towards that calorie deficit. Track them, log them, but don’t treat them as a green light to eat what you want.
Equally you don’t need to ‘earn’ food – if you’re aware of the calories in things you can make informed choices about what you eat. It’s your body – you can eat what you want, when you want – you don’t have to exercise to earn it. Just be aware of the impact it may have on your progress if weight loss is a goal, then make the choice! Knowledge is power!