I read an article recently, If You Find Joy in Exercise, You’re Less Likely to Look for Joy in Food, and the title really stuck out for me. There was quote that I found really spot on and I wanted to share it here:
It concluded that those who perceived exercise as a fun activity (and not just a ton of effort) were less inclined to compensate with junk food after their workouts.
These findings appear to support something that Precision Nutrition refers to as “hedonic compensation,” wherein if people feel like they’ve been deprived of pleasure in one place they will compensate by seeking it elsewhere (i.e. “I had a tough week, I deserve to relax and have a beer.”)
I agree! I found that once I started eating healthy and exercising on a regular basis, I didn’t want to “ruin” it with junk food. My taste buds changed. My cravings changed. Instead of wanting a king-sized candy bar, I was leaning towards fruits and vegetables. It was a slow shift in my brain, it surely did not happen overnight, but once I started to FEEL BETTER, I started to make BETTER CHOICES. (Body Love Week: Structure, Perfectionism, and Authentic Living)
Then I came to a point where I looked at junk food as what it was: junk. It wasn’t fuel for my body. It didn’t help me in the gym. It didn’t make my body feel good. (Read this post: Healing Your Body.) And the more candy I ate, the more I craved it. But when I cut it out, those cravings went away. Is there anything better than fresh fruit in season? Yum, I want those raspberries!
The above quote talks about “hedonic compensation” — if you deprive yourself something you seek it elsewhere, you want it more. While I was cutting out junk food from diet, I wasn’t DENYING myself treats entirely. Like I’ve written about many times before, living a life in moderation is what helped me STAY SANE while I lost 110 pounds. I never felt like I was denying myself things I wanted because I ate certain things in moderation. After I lost the weight I continued with that method and it worked. For 7 years I kept the weight off.
Now let’s talk about exercise. So many people have told me that they wished they could lose weight but they hate exercising. (5% of Americans Exercise Daily) I think if you rename it and not look at exercise as a punishment you won’t dread it. Here are a few posts I wrote awhile ago about this topic:
I think the biggest mistake people make when starting to work out is this: they pick something they don’t inherently enjoy. If you pick an activity you don’t enjoy, force yourself to do it, hate every minute of the activity, you start to think “I’ll reward myself for this workout with ____!” Pizza, ice cream, whatever! Fill in the blank. It’s easy to sabotage your efforts with a “I deserve this! I worked out!”
If you hate running, don’t run. Start with walking. If you hate the treadmill, join a running group at a local running store–they are usually free and super fun! And running outside is so much better than being stuck running in place.
Try the elliptical. If you have aches and pains in your body and it hurts to work out, try swimming. Trust me, when you are overweight or obese and your body hurts, swimming is AMAZING.
If you hate the gym–don’t join one! There are SO many options out there. Get a bike trainer and ride your bike in front of your TV in the comfort of your home. Read this post by Michael: How to Watch More TV!
Try hiking. There are hiking groups you can join. Meetup is a great place to find new friends, join activity groups and I know in my area there are TONS of hiking groups!
Do you have a dog? Join a local dog training group that includes fitness! A friend of mine posted about a group here in Portland that I’d love to try someday. A quick google search has shown that there are a ton of groups like this all over the country. See if there’s one in your area.
This is not to say that you CAN’T find joy in food. There is so much joy in food. I love baking and am learning to love to cook. There is nothing more rewarding than trying a new recipe and it’s a success. I love cooking for other people and throwing dinner parties. I like creating appetizers. Don’t we all love going to a nice, new restaurant with a group of friends and sharing good food and a bottle of wine? But is it really JUST about the food? Isn’t more about the process? The people? The socializing? For me, the joy in food is sharing it.
What do you think? How do you balance the joy in food with healthy eating? Have you figured out a fitness method that brings you joy?