Is it possible to separate calories burned from calories consumed?
I know that it seems like a weird question when diet and exercise are inextricably linked. We hear it all of the time: Eat Less, Move More!
Clearly we know that the calories in versus calories out equation is true (to a certain degree). So, if you eat more calories than you burn, you should gain weight; and if you burn more calories than you eat, you should lose weight.
But the advice of Eat Less Move More is flawed for much of the population. Sure – it might be true for folks who are neither active, nor paying any attention to their diet. But when you’re already active and restricting calories, and plateaued, that advice doesn’t work anymore.
But yet, we’ve bound eating and moving together as if one cannot exist without the other.
When we overeat, we immediately think that we need to go out and burn it off by doing a bunch of exercise. And that totally makes sense – if our body was a calculator. But it’s not. It’s more like a chemistry set.
On the flip-side of exercising off bad food choices, if we’re especially active one day – maybe we go on a longer than expected bike ride, or participate in a fun run – we feel like we ‘earned’ the right to overeat. And this is actually a thing. It’s called ‘the Halo Effect’. It’s what happens when we do something good – that we don’t necessarily identify with. (example: I don’t see myself as a runner, but I participated in a fun run. So I’m going to reward myself by going out for pancakes afterwards!)
But what if eating was just eating, and exercise was just exercise, and the two weren’t related? What if there weren’t any calories at all? Do you remember a time when you didn’t know that the calorie existed?
We would move because its good for our body, and it feels good.
We would eat when we’re hungry, and not eat when we weren’t. We’d eat what makes us feel good in the long run – not what tastes good now. There wouldn’t be any guilt about what foods are ‘allowed’ & which ones aren’t – because what are calories? And if/when we overate, we’d wait until we were hungry again before eating.
I know that scientifically we can’t ignore the calories in versus calories out equation, because it does exist. But can we stop thinking about ‘earning’ our food through exercise?