I generally don’t care for most of the “motivational” or “demotivational” photos cluttering my social media newsfeed, but I was recently pleasantly surprised to see a fitness posting with the message, “You can never out-run your fork,” pop up in my feed. This post absolutely nailed something I tell people all the time: exercise is not the solution to an unhealthy diet!
I always hear and see stuff like, “I ate like such a pig, now I’m going to have to work extra hard at the gym,” or, “I just worked off that (insert crap food here) by doing an hour on the treadmill.”
The reality is none of these statements are true—these people are not able to exercise away the damage they have done to their bodies by binge eating and making poor food choices. No matter how many sit ups you do, no matter how many miles you run, no matter how much weight you lift, if you put crap in your body you can expect to look and feel accordingly.
The average person’s physique can and will be dictated by about 75–90% diet and only about 10–25% physical activity, and there are simply only so many calories than can be burned in a single workout session.
Now don’t get me wrong, exercise does matter, a whole lot—it boosts our metabolism; it raises our moods and brain output by releasing endorphins; it improves cardiovascular health; it builds strength and muscularity; and it has been shown to promote better sleeping patterns. But our bodies can only sustain a high output of activity month after month and year after year if we continue to give them the proper fuel they require: quality calories packed with vitamins and minerals derived from a balance of carbohydrates, protein, and fat—not the hydrogenated oils, processed sugars, and foreign chemicals found in junk food.
Instead of subscribing to the myth that we can “work off” the junk we put in our bodies, or get in shape through the newest “diet” plan, we should be building healthy and enjoyable lifestyles that we can look forward to sustaining every day. By building a lifestyle comprised of quality whole foods, we can easily maintain our health, and by experimenting with fun variations of these staple dishes, we can also really enjoy eating clean rather than “dieting” for awhile and then binging on junk.
It is important to enjoy food and have fun. If you want to eat out sometimes, grab the occasional drink, or have a good holiday meal, then by all means do it. Part of a balanced lifestyle is getting to enjoy the fruits of your labor, and there is nothing wrong with earning a treat, but do yourself a favor and keep sensible portioning in mind. Prior to rewarding yourself with this treat meal, make sure that you’ve already been staying hydrated, exercising regularly, and sticking to healthy and enjoyable staple foods that you will eat every day—to earn this treat, not to make up for it when it is already too late!
Plan smart, eat fun, and enjoy your health.