Some people just love taking all the fun out of ‘fun size’…
Ya know what I can’t stand?
Those stupid charts that start floating around this time of year telling us how long we have to torture ourselves at the gym in order to pay for our sins of eating some Halloween candy. They’re everywhere, created by well-meaning people (probably) who believe that we just DON’T KNOW that chocolate bars are high in calories. They believe that if everyone would just share their Instagram or Facebook post warning us of the dangers of our indulgences we’d all think twice about grabbing that mini Kit Kat.
As a Personal Trainer and Dietitian you might think I’m the exact type of person who would totally be sharing those charts, heck probably even creating the damn things, making sure each and every one of you know that candy is UNHEALTHY!
But guess what? I actually think they’re incredibly stupid. For a few reasons…
1. They’re completely inaccurate.
That’s right! They’re usually just plain wrong. How many calories you burn during exercise is completely dependent on you as a unique individual. How fit you are, your body weight, and the intensity of the exercise will all drastically change the calories you burn per minute of activity. What type of person are these charts based on? who knows? More importantly, exercise is not simply a tool for burning calories from the extra food we eat. We can’t just increase our time on the treadmill to “burn off” weekend indulgences. Physical activity benefits literally every system in the body and we should be doing regular exercise regardless of how many boxes of smarties we ate, or didn’t.
Exercising just for the sake of “burning calories” turns exercise into a chore, which brings me to my second point…
2. Viewing exercise as punishment sends us running in the WRONG direction.
Trying to “work off” treats in the gym is ridiculous because EXERCISE SHOULD NEVER BE SEEN AS A PUNISHMENT. In my experience, this is the #1 reason why people don’t exercise. To them, exercise is hard, painful, and unpleasant. They over-indulge on the weekend, so back to the gym on Monday for a torture session. From a psychological perspective, this teaches the brain to want to AVOID activity! (obviously, right? I mean our brains are trying to look out for us, by making us want to avoid things that can harm us. So if every time we exercise we’re perceiving it as punishment and suffering, we will go to great lengths to not feel that way again!)
Instead, find an activity you actually enjoy, and that makes you feel great while doing it. Maybe it’s walking instead of running or perhaps you ditch the treadmill altogether and take a dance class with your friends. Yoga, Weights, Cycling, Swimming, Martial Arts, however you get your body moving is completely up to you. But remember, exercising at a pace that is right for you is the most important thing to find enjoyment in movement.
We should exercise at the fitness level we’re at, not the level we WANT to be at
…Besides, is a teeny chocolate bar really such a big deal?
3. Personally, I think mini chocolate bars are great.
They come in perfect little portion-sizes for satisfy a little sweet craving. Most are less than 100 calories each, which is a nice amount for a little treat. Hell, have 2! Let’s face it, a 100% ZERO treat, no-sugar-ever diet is not something most of us are interested in following. I know this because even the “no white sugar diet” folks are forever trying to make their own versions of sweet treats with their agave syrup, coconut sugar, maple syrup, dates, or other ‘natural so it must be better for you’ sugars. (like it even matters).
The real issue that a lot of people run into with the fun size treats is the feeling like they can’t stop at one treat (or two, or seven). If this is you, and you often find yourself feeling really out of control around certain foods, the problem probably isn’t what you think it is. Many people blame things like sugar or food addiction for their overeating tendencies, which causes them to feel like they need to control themselves or just gain some f****** willpower in order to stop feeling so weak around the Reese’s Cups. What really happens though, is this constant restriction actually leads us to eat MORE of these foods when we get a chance, or when we encounter another trigger for overeating like having a bad day or being stressed, lonely, or bored. After these episodes we feel like shit about ourselves, which leads to more guilt, more restriction, and ultimately, more overeating. It’s a nasty cycle in which we’re never happy or satisfied.
If this sounds like you, find a Dietitian (like me!) who can help you work on improving your relationship with food (and maybe even your relationship with yourself!)
So, don’t let the diet culture get ya down. Go ahead and enjoy one of your Halloween (or Christmas, or Easter, or whenever-the-hell-you-want) treats, without feeling guilty or like you need to torture yourself at the gym in order to “pay” for what you’ve eaten. Please! Exercise regularly because you LIKE it, and it makes you feel good, not because you’re trying to pay for your sugary sins. Trust me, it’s worth it!
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About the Author:
Stephanie Hnatiuk is a Registered Dietitian and Personal Trainer based in Winnipeg, Manitoba. She believes good health doesn’t need to be complicated, and that you don’t need to be afraid have your cake and eat it too.