Don’t reward workouts with food

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As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not a big fan of counting calories each day. Learning which foods are more calorically-dense than others is helpful information, but trying to mathematically balance your daily calories-in verses calories-out causes more problems than it solves. One of the biggest problems is that it allows people to justify compensation.

Your subconscious is already trying to trick you

Your body does not like losing weight. It considers it a sign that you’re starving to death and will send all kinds of subconscious signals to get you to regain that weight. One of these signals is an increase in appetite in response to working out. Some types of training, like high intensity interval training, limit this subconscious response, but it’s still something that sabotages many people’s weight loss attempts. Awareness of it limits the problem. As long as you know that you’ll be tempted to snack or add an extra spoonful to your plate, you can resist the call. One behavior that makes it worse though is thinking you can reward yourself after a workout with a little treat. I’ve seen it many times before, people think that since they burned 300 calories, they can have a 300 calorie sundae without impacting their waistlines. The problem with that is no one ever gets the math right.

You’ll eat double what you thought you burned

A 2010 study in The Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness demonstrated just how badly people are at matching what they burned to what they eat. Everyone involved in the study was at normal body weight, so this isn’t just something that happens to people struggling with obesity. Participants first burned 200 or 300 calories during a workout, and afterwards they went to a buffet and were told to eat exactly the amount of calories burned. It turns out that participants ate 2 to 3 times more calories than they burned. So many weight loss plans are derailed in the kitchen despite how much effort people put in at the gym. It’s a common problem that effects all kinds of people, so the next time you get frustrated after weeks of eating right and exercising and seeing no progress on the scale, look at your meal and snack portions to make sure they haven’t increased just enough to negate your hard work.

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