Majority of my nutrition coaching clients are physically active individuals, who exercise vigoruosly at least 3-5 hours a week.
Despite the fact that they have been gym members for most of their lives they come to see me for nutritional advice mostly related to fat loss and/or muscle gain.
How is it that strong, physically fit people still need help when it comes to having the body composition they want?
Isn't exercise enough? Not in my experience.
In today's article, I want to explore the following question:
Why is it easier to stick to exercising than to eating healthy?
1. Exercise is less time-consuming.
You may be surprised by this one, but hear me out.
Once you commit to exercising you work out 3-5 hours a week on average. Maybe 10 hrs if you include moderate activities such as walking the dog, yoga, gardening and cleaning the house.
When it comes to consistently making healthy food choices your commitment grows to about 28 hours a week (my math comes from estimating that roughly 4 hours a day is spent on eating, thinking about eating, snacking, prepping, cooking and/or shopping for food).
If you are a mom this number is probably going to be even higher since you are constantly surrounded by food, making breakfasts, lunches and dinners for your whole family, and running to the grocery store every other day.
2. Exercising is fun, while eating healthy not as much.
Most regular gym goes love to exercise. They love how it makes them feel. On the food/drink side, usually it's the unhealthy foods and drinks that make us feel good, at least temporarily. They make our brains feel really good. Correct me if I'm wrong, but nobody serves grilled chicken, green salads with fruit platters at birthday parties. It's pizza, hot dogs, wings, cupcakes and Doritos. If you had a choice, would you rather go to a pizza place or a vegan salad bar? Yeah, I thought so.
3. Exercise is easy, while eating well requires planning.
One of the easiest things to do is put on a pair of sneakers and go for a run or walk. Or exercise at the comforts of your home with a DVD. Changing your eating habits, especially at first, requires a lot of thinking, planning and prepping. It's a lot easier to stop by Dunkin Donuts on your way to work than to make your own lunch. Or to get take out rather than to spend 1 hr prepping ingredients and cooking a healthy dinner.
4. Exercise can become addicting and rewarding a lot quicker than healthy eating.
Do you know the sensation that you get after a tough workout of feeling totally exhausted but also strong, happy and accomplished? It's very easy to get addicted to this "high" of positive emotions that you get pretty much every time you work out. You may not feel quite the same after having a salad. On the contrary, it's the junk food that really lights up the reward centers in our brain. Brain images shows the same areas of the brain lit up when exposed to junk food as to cocaine. Nobody is drooling over kale salads.
5. Exercise can become a gateway to indulgent foods without the feeling of guilt.
There is still a lot of people out there who go to the gym so that they can have Caramel Frappucinos at Starbucks or BigMacs later.
I look at dozens food logs daily and honestly, and a lot of people eat the most junk on workout days.
Somehow, on those workout days we don't feel quite as bad about having those French Fries.
Exercise = food reward. It's a tough habit to break.
5. Exercise can be done in public while most eating is done behind closed doors.
Like I said before, most of my clients go to the gym therefore they work out with or next to other people. It's stimulating, supportive, motivating and social. But since all eyes are on you everybody in the gym is on their best behavior.
Eating (especially over-eating) often happens at home or work, when nobody is watching.
6. Exercise is a lifestyle, while eating healthy can feel like a chore.
Somehow people understand that committing to exercising is a lifestyle change. They know it will improve their health and it's worth sticking to for the long run. They want to be fit, and lean and strong, and see their grandkids grow up.
However, when it comes to eating well, we seem to want to do it only for a few weeks. Only till we drop a size or two. Then we are right back to the cookie drawer.
Ok, that's it for the day.
I've explored some of the reasons why people may be more willing to work out regularly than to stick to eating well for life.
Are you struggling to find ways how you can make eating healthy a lifestyle rather than a chore?
Sent me an email and lets' talk about how we can change that.
Do you have any feedback or suggestions? Please share them with me!