Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Holidays, Fitness, and Food

Here we are on the cusp of the holiday food season, and the diet/exercise talk has already intensified. On the day before Halloween, that dreaded candy-workout image reappeared on social media - you know, the one that identifies different types of Halloween candy by what types of workouts you'll need to burn them off?

Here's why this type of thinking is dangerous: If you choose the Reece's over the Twix only for calorie count, you're missing out on an opportunity to eat intuitively, to find pleasure and enjoyment from food. To me, it doesn't so much matter if you choose one or the other (or neither or both), but if you're going on calorie count alone, you're ignoring your preference, something that could end up backfiring in the long-run.

Do your kids want candy? Let them eat it. The allure will fade away soon. I like this mom's approach. 

And how about those exercise equivalents? So often, we're positioning exercise as a punishment for something we enjoy. We're robbing movement of its innately reinforcing value and instead suggesting that exercise only exists for the purpose of calorie compensation. But this isn't true! This is a myth that the diet and fitness industries use to lure people to buy products, pills, plans, and memberships. But what if fitness were fun?

For several months now, I've returned to my fitness roots, leading group cyling classes at a local university. I can't tell you how much I enjoy teaching again! I love the opportunity to encourage and inspire students, to lead them through a challenging but manageable course, to appreciate good music together. I love that I'm helping them improve their physical and mental health. 

But my favorite part of returning to teaching is making a small dent in an often disordered industry, one that celebrates unhealthy weight loss, views exercise as punishment for eating, and tries to motivate through self-attack. My classes are about building strength and power, celebrating our capabilities, and mostly, about having fun. I'd rather have students approach me after class and tell me that they enjoyed my music (which they do!) than comment on their calorie burns. It's the joy of movement, and the feelings around it, that sustain a lifelong commitment to physical activity.

So, if you want the Twix, eat the Twix. If you want to exercise, do that, too, But keep these things mentally separate to avoid that slippery slope. 

You can find Does Every Woman Have an Eating Disorder? Challenging Our Nation's Fixation with Food and Weight on Amazon (as a paperback and Kindle) and at