On Saturday night while Andrew and I were chowing down on chips and salsa, we
eavesdropped overheard a conversation between two women at the table next to us. One of the women appeared very fit–thin and toned–and was giving nutrition advice to her friend. At first glance you’d think she had it all together, but after listening for a few minutes (unintentionally, of course; Andrew and I couldn’t really talk because it would have required us to take breaths between bites ;-)), I thought, Whoa, this lady is way off base.
“Women need at least an hour of heavy cardio every single day.”
“I generally eat 1500 calories a day, but things carry over day to day; I’ll make up for this indulgence [motioning to her small cocktail] tomorrow by only eating 1000 calories.”
In immediate response to that I said to Andrew, “That sucks. I won’t.”
I witnessed a similar event a couple of months ago; I overheard a woman in the gym locker room say this to another woman after they’d just taken a group fitness class together:
“Well, I’m going to go do the Elliptical now because I decided to eat Girl Scout cookies last night!”
In addition to what sounded like a grueling class, this woman completed a full workout on an Elliptical machine in order to make up for something she’d eaten the day before.
I call this an “atonement workout” or “atonement eating,” in the case of the sad 1000 calories–in which a person thinks they must work off a food debt they’ve created or make right the horrendous wrong of, say, eating a few Girl Scout cookies–and I think this attitude is all wrong.
While there’s obviously a connection between our weight and the calories we eat and burn, this attitude misses the big picture… and can drive a person nuts. Food is not something to be punished for, but is, along with physical activity, a means to care for our bodies. I like to think of physical wellness not in terms of the “bad” things we “shouldn’t” have (“I can’t eat carbs/fat/cookies/chips…”) but rather the sum of the kind things we do for our bodies. I feel well not because I didn’t eat dessert yesterday (I did,) but because I ate a lot of fruits, vegetables, and lean protein and took a walk–The sum of the good stuff rather than the absence of the bad stuff. And I am not working out for longer today because I ate a delicious, homemade cupcake yesterday.
Health is about more than hitting a certain calorie goal each day. And by the way, if I completed an hour of hard cardio daily and only ate 1500 calories, I’d be a very unpleasant person; don’t even get me started on the 1000 calories (which, for the record, is below what is considered starvation.)
Be good to yourself!
What kind things will you do for your body today?