Eat Your Cake, Lose the Judgment
I saw an ad outside of a fitness studio the other day that went something like this: “Come get your sweat on with us at 5 p.m. and earn your happy hour!”
I know that this is not a one-off kind of advertisement; we actually see it all the time, not just from fitness studios advertising that we come in and earn our brunch or happy hour or pizza or whatever, but also from people in general posting things to their social media accounts about hitting the gym to work off last night’s birthday cake or running 5 miles to earn wings and beer on football Sunday.
And I admit, I have been guilty of doing this in the past as well. In fact, I used to punish myself for eating “bad” things by doing an extra mile on the treadmill or working out twice in a day.
This mentality is not healthy. In fact, it represents a disordered relationship to food, to exercise and to one’s own body.
I am the first one to sing the praises of regular exercise. I am all for finding the kind of workout that gets you excited, boosts your mood, brings you energy, and strengthens your body and heart, and doing it as consistently as you can. But you should be doing it because you want to. Because it feels good. Because trying something new or pushing your limits or challenging yourself helps you to grow as a person. Because our bodies are freaking amazing and we are actually capable of doing like 50+ burpees at a time!
Exercise is not punishment.
Just as having pizza and wine for dinner is not “bad.”
Nor is going to happy hour.
Nor is having football with a side of chicken wings on Sundays.
This mentality keeps us stuck in a cycle of judging ourselves for our choices, rather than just owning them.
I choose to work out because it feels good. I choose to eat healthy most of the time because it makes me feel good. I choose to eat ice cream sometimes because I freakin’ love it!
And how lucky are we that we live in a society in a period of time where we can make these kinds of choices? Each one is a gift because there are people in other areas of the world—or even just from other places in our own country—who don’t have that power of choice. Ice cream? What a luxury.
Stop feeling like you have to earn something that you really want to eat, or asking yourself if you have been “good” enough that week to “deserve” it. Stop associating the amount of exercise you do with the amount of food you can eat. Unless you are a professional athlete or preparing for a fitness competition, that mentality does not serve you.
Instead, tune into your body and own your decisions. If you really listen to your body, maybe you will find that your sugar craving is just stress and can be satisfied with a few jumping jacks and a handful of raspberries. If you check in with your body while you are out to brunch with your friends one Sunday, maybe you will find that what you are craving is lots of leafy greens and eggs. If you slow down for a hot minute and luxuriate in the taste, maybe you will find that one glass of wine scratches the itch, and you don't need to reach for a second.
Maybe you just want some freaking funfetti cake.
You always deserve a piece of cake if you want a piece of cake. Stop judging yourself for it, take ownership over your decision, and enjoy it! The more you deprive yourself of the things that you want, the more you will overdo it on them later. So slow down, really taste and savor every bite, and ditch the guilt. The guilt is a lot worse for you than the calories.
Finally, if you Instagram a picture of your delicious piece of cake, there is no need to caption it “cheat day!” or “it’s all about the balance.”
There is no such thing as “cheating.”
This is not a board game, these are decisions about how you want to fuel your body. You don’t have to make excuses for it. You don’t have to worry that other people will judge you for it. We get it, we all think that balance is important too! Give yourself permission to just be excited that you found the perfect filter to really make those funfetti sprinkles pop and look melt-in-your-mouth delicious.
Cause they are.