When I was training for my first marathon, I used to get through a long run by envisioning the burrito I was going to eat when I was done.
There was a Mexican restaurant near my house that served the most enormous burritos — stuffed full of rice, beans, tofu, and cheese — which by my calculation contained at least a thousand calories. And when you added the chips, cheese dip, and guacamole (plus a few cold beers), the grand total came to around 2,000.
Since I burned about 100 calories every mile, I knew that after doing a 20-mile run I could eat my cherished post-run meal without any guilt whatsoever.
My goal of running the marathon had nothing to do with losing weight. And it’s a good thing it didn’t because even after logging an average of 30 miles a week, I never did.
The reason I didn’t lose weight wasn’t necessarily because of how much I ate after all my running. It was because of the checks-and-balances mindset behind all that eating.
I wasn’t eating according to hunger — I was “allowed” to eat back the calories I had burned. And I wasn’t eating to refuel after a long run — I was eating as a “reward” for hard work. (I just ran 20 miles. I get to eat whatever I want!)
Making Workouts a Chore
Ok, so I’m pretty sure you don’t run 30 miles a week (and neither do I!). But I’m sure you’re familiar with this way of thinking.
The first problem with thinking this way is that you’re never going to lose weight as long as you’re counterbalancing your exercise with your eating. And the second problem is that thinking like this makes your workouts a chore.
As I said in last week’s post, you want to make exercise something that’s a part of your life — something that enhances everything you do. And this is never going to happen if you don’t correct your mindset around food and exercise.
I want you to forget about the “gas tank” version of nutrition. You fill up on food and then you burn it off, or you worked out so hard that you “deserve” to eat.
And I have bad news for you. It takes a lot longer than you think to counteract the effects of a few cookies. To put it another way, the crap food you’re bingeing on is way higher in calories than the number of calories you burn on your treadmill.
For example, I can ride 12 miles on my Peloton and only burn 300 calories — then eat a brownie and gain those calories right back (and then some).
But here’s the good news: I gain muscle mass from that workout, and muscle is more metabolically active than fat (meaning it uses more energy and therefore burns more calories). And I gained clarity and focus, which helps me make better decisions throughout the day.
And that’s how I want you to look at it.
More importantly, I want you to see the food you eat not as calories, but as fuel. When you’re thinking of food as a reward, you’re going to eat the wrong foods — and you’re also going to eat more food than you need.
So let’s recap. Food fuels, not fills up. And exercise strengthens, not burns off.
7 Tips to Exercise Consistently (and Have Fun While You Do)
Now that you’ve got a better perspective on food and exercise, here are some tips to help you work out more consistently — and to make your workouts something you love, rather than something you love to hate:
1. Pick something you like. Just because all your friends swear by barre doesn’t mean you should drop $200 a month on a workout you can’t stand. It’s better to go on a long walk with your dog and stay consistent, then build on that.
2. Mix it up. You’ll eventually get tired of the same workouts. Try adding a new element here and there before that happens.
For example, I’ve just started adding a scenic ride on my Peloton because I was getting burned out on instructor-led rides. This switch-up brought back the newness I needed to prevent me from skipping workouts.
3. Add free weights. As I said earlier, muscle uses more energy than fat. Instead of constantly trying to burn fat (the mindset you want to get out of), add muscle mass.
I love how I feel when I’m doing weight work — even with lighter weights, it makes me feel strong and powerful. And you get so many small wins because it takes very little time to progress to heavier weights.
4. Make a killer playlist. Music is the most powerful energy-generator I know of. When I’m not feeling it, all I have to do is put on a motivating song and I’m ready for anything.
Sometimes I like girl-power anthems (Whitney Houston’s I’m Every Woman), and sometimes I like a good techno beat (please get on board with DJ Boris . . . you can thank me later). And 80s are always a favorite. Do your thing, whatever it is!
5. Get in the zone. Our culture loves the balls-to-the-wall version of things where you go all out for a short period of time. But try slowing down and going longer — especially if you’re having trouble getting geared up.
Start super easy, and you’ll eventually get going. Then stick with it longer each session. Taking this easier approach makes you dread your workouts less, which makes it easier to stay consistent over time.
6. Get some new gear. Feeling good in what you’re wearing makes it easier to show up for workouts, and just buying something new can totally re-energize you.
And if you’re wearing a stretched-out jog bra from the early 2000s, I command you to stop reading and head to Lululemon this minute.
7. See the future you. Instead of thinking about how terrible you look or how far off your goal is, visualize yourself exactly as you want to be. It’s been proven that people who visualize their goals as already achieved are more likely to actually achieve them.
Get as much detail as possible — and don’t just see yourself looking good, see yourself in action! Plus, coming up with inspiring scenarios takes your mind off the workout and puts you in the zone.
You Are Meant to Move
Exercise isn’t about burning calories — it’s about being energized. And it’s not about getting smaller — it’s about getting stronger.
We are meant to be physically active, and the more you move, the more you want to move.
Remember that inward changes are what give you outward results. If you want to change your body, you have to first change your mind.
Remove the “work” from working out, and you’ll get to your goal a lot faster.
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