Relationship between Exercise & Food

How many times have you heard someone say, “I worked out earlier, so I don’t feel bad eating this” or “I can’t believe I ate (insert food they feel “bad” about eating), I definitely need to go to the gym tomorrow.” I’ve literally seen a gym advertisement that said “Pizza tonight. Gym tomorrow.” I cringe when I hear these statements. Exercise does burn calories and is good for your health; I have no problem with that. In fact, exercise is extremely beneficial for your physical and mental health. It gives you energy, relieves stress and anxiety, boosts your mood, improves sleep, strengthens your immune system and reduces your risk for many preventable diseases. If exercise does so many of these amazing things, why don’t we focus more on these benefits and less on the negative relationship between exercise and food?

My issue with clumping exercise and food together is that, in most cases, we turn exercise into punishment for eating (insert low nutritional quality food). Rather than focusing on all of the amazing things that exercise does for our bodies, we are focusing on how we are going to use exercise to burn off some food we feel bad about consuming. This in turn creates a negative relationship with exercise, when instead we could be thinking, “I’m really stressed right now. Exercise would make me feel better.”

This issue delves deeper into extrinsic vs. intrinsic motivation for exercise. If we solely focus on extrinsic motivators, like body composition, we are much more likely to lose our desire to regularly engage in exercise. If we don’t see the results we want in the amount of time we think we should, it’s really easy to lose motivation. However, when we link exercise to how we feel or something within us, we can reflect on that intrinsic motivator every time we move our bodies. For example, I like being strong, because it is relates to my desire to be independent. If I need something moved or lifted, I enjoy knowing I can do it myself instead of waiting for someone to do it for me. Sure, I enjoy the muscle definition that being strong provides, but feeling competent and physically able makes we want to sustain a consistent exercise schedule for the rest of my life.

Exercise should be about rewarding your body wtih strength and endorphios, not pnishing your body what you've eaten..png

I do think that food and exercise are very interrelated, but I think it is essential view this relationship with a positive light. Food fits into two categories for me: fuel and pleasure. Most of the time, I see food as fuel to make me stronger, help me perform better in workouts and focus at work. Our bodies rely on us to fuel them with the food they need to get us through the day and handle the many demands that life throws at us. From years of listening to my body, I know what fuel my body needs to perform at its best. I know that I can’t eat much before exercising, but I do need a large breakfast full of veggies, fruit, protein and fats after working out to keep me satisfied all morning. On the flipside, I know that consuming a lot of sugar makes my head foggy, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to stop eating sugar all together.

Sometimes I eat food simply for the pleasure of eating it, despite knowing that it won’t do anything beneficial for my body. Sugar usually falls into this category. I don’t focus on this too much though, because I know that it’s not my body’s main source of fuel. When an opportunity arises that involves a food that gives me pleasure, I try to focus on the experience not how I’m going to “burn” it off later. For example, I don’t frequently get the opportunity to share a donut with my nephew on a Sunday morning. We recently had a sleepover with him, so better bet that I sat there soaking up the moment and the donut! Did my body feel awesome after? Not exactly, but I really enjoyed the moment instead of thinking about how I was going to “work” it off.

Is it always easy to avoid turning exercise into punishment for food consumed? No. It’s extremely hard, because of the messages that society and the media have ingrained into our culture. I find my mind frequently letting those thoughts sneak into my head. Now that I am aware of the negative impacts these messages have on my overall outlook on health, I can quiet these thoughts and reframe them in a positive light. So, I challenge you to try the same strategy. Next time you are eating something that might not have the most nutritional value or isn’t something you regularly eat, just simply enjoy it. Don’t think about exercise at this time.Think about how the food tastes, smells and the memories it brings to your mind. Then when you’re thinking about exercise, think about all the positive ways it will benefit your health. Think about how you are going to feel after you exercise and how your body 20 years from now will thank you for investing in its health.  When someone around you makes a negative comment about exercise and food, take this moment as an opportunity to educate them. We have the power to change the conversation and create more positive spaces around us and our community.

I’d love to know your thoughts on this! Comment below 🙂

Weekly Grub + Protein-Packed Any Day Pancakes

Happy Monday! How was your weekend? We had a lovely weekend that included a lot of activities and some much needed relaxation. At one point on Sunday afternoon, I was lying in bed with coffee and a homemade mini pop tart, the sun was coming through our window and I was doing some work on the computer. It was absolutely wonderful.

I didn’t do much meal prepping last week and I definitely noticed the difference. I enjoy looking in the fridge on Monday and seeing stacks of Tupperware filled with prepped food ready to be cooked or eaten. I don’t enjoy looking in the fridge on Monday and thinking, “Crap I still need to get that ready for dinner.” Yesterday I spent some extra time prepping the following recipes, so we can have quick and nutritious meals all week long:

  • Breakfast for the Week: Salmon and Asparagus Frittata + Sautéed Kale + Avocado
    • Mix 1 can of salmon, 8 eggs and 1 bunch of asparagus (chopped) in a bowl. Sprinkle in salt, pepper and garlic powder. Pour in a greased 8×8 dish and bake at 350 degrees. I can’t tell you how long to bake it, because I forgot to set a timer and also completely forgot I put it in the oven. Luckily, I smelled it before it overcooked. Cut into 4 squares for a quick, ready to eat breakfast!
    • Remove kale leaves from stems and chop. I like sautéing these fresh each morning.
  • Sunday Dinner + Weekday Lunches: Lasagna with Eggplant and Zucchini Noodles
    • Prep: I cooked the sauce in the slow cooker all day, so I could just assemble the lasagna on Sunday night.
  • Monday: Fish Tacos + Sautéed Bell Peppers
    • Prep: Make coleslaw and slice bell peppers on Sunday.
  • Tuesday: Jalapeno Steak Salad
    • Prep: Make dressing, marinade and defrost steak on Sunday.
  • Wednesday: Leftover night! I’ll defrost something from the freezer.
    • Prep: Defrost on Monday.
  • Thursday: Cracklin’ Chicken + Twice Baked Cauliflower Casserole
    • Prep: Defrost chicken on Monday and chop cauliflower on Sunday.
  • Friday: Pizza Night out!
    • Prep: Agonize over where we want to get pizza from 😉
  • Snacks
    • Cashew butter (make on Sunday) + fruit
    • Beef jerky + pumpkin seeds

Protein Packed Any Day Pancakes

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Typically, I only consider making pancakes on the weekend. It involves taking out many different ingredients, some of which are in the powder form. This means that there will inevitably be a dusting of flour on my countertops when I’m done preparing them. I don’t need that on a weekday. However, these one-bowl, relatively mess free pancakes come together quickly and only make enough for 1 serving. Therefore, you don’t have to stand over the stove flippin’ cakes all morning. Also, as much as I love real pancakes, they don’t have the amount of protein I’m hoping for after a strenuous morning workout. I have no idea what the exact amount of protein these pancakes have, nor do I care enough to figure it out. However, I do know that these pancakes keep me full for hours and make me very happy. That’s all that matters to me.

I just throw these ingredients together and hope for the best. Last time I did measure some of the more important ingredients, like baking powder, but please be flexible and add whatever you like! There are tons of variations of this recipe and the general concept has been flooding Pinterest for a while. After many trials and errors, this is what I’ve learned:

  • Use a ripe banana, like you would use for banana bread. If you don’t have a ripe banana, don’t fret! Simply slice up the banana and microwave it for a minute. It will caramelize and become much softer.
  • The 2-ingredient egg and banana pancakes don’t do it for me. I think adding baking powder and protein powder makes them more pancake like.
  • Cook them low and slow and use oil on your pan! Coconut oil gives them a lovely flavor.

Serves: 1 (4 small pancakes)

Ingredients

  • 1 ripe banana, mashed
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ scoop of protein powder (I use vanilla protein powder. You can add more if you want, but I think the protein powder flavor takes over the pancakes.)
  • ½ tsp. almond or vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 Tbsp. flaxseed meal
  • Sprinkle of cinnamon

Instructions

  1. Mash banana and add in egg. Whisk until well combined.
  2. Add in remaining ingredients and whisk until well combined.
  3. Heat a skillet on medium-low and coat skillet with oil.
  4. Drop ¼ cup of batter at a time onto the skillet. I can usually get 4 pancakes, but it will depend on the size of your banana and eggs.

How I Got Tricked into Joining a Crossfit Gym

When people ask me if I miss living in San Diego, I usually stare at them with a dumbfounded look on my face as I wonder who would even ask that question. If you’ve ever been to San Diego, even on vacation, you understand. It’s an amazing place. Of course I miss the beaches and the weather, that’s a given. But, one of the things I miss the most is the countless exercise options. Yes, there are tons of opportunities to move your body outdoors (especially with the lovely weather), but I’m mainly referring to group exercise classes.

You see, I’m a group exercise junky. I fell in love with group exercise when I first attended a Step Aerobics class with my mom when I was 16. I was easily the youngest and most confused in the class, but I absolutely loved every aspect of it. I love the community aspect the classes create. I love when everyone groans and moans together about the instructor throwing them a curveball, like another set of burpies even though you’ve already done like 1,000. Instead of giving up, you come together as a class to complete the challenge and congratulate each other after. I enjoyed group exercise classes so much that I eventually found myself on the other side, as the instructor, getting the eye daggers as I threw curveballs the the poor, sweaty souls in my classes.

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One of my favorite group fitness experiences, teaching at So Cal Fitbody Bootcamp!

When we decided to move back to Davis, one of the first things I looked for (besides trying to find us a place to live of course) was a gym with classes. Needless to say, Davis’ gym game is nowhere close to San Diego’s. There is a huge gym on campus, so I decided that I would just workout on my own. Although it was extremely convenient, my motivation and excitement towards exercise dwindled.

I decided to start looking into other options and while mindlessly scrolling through Facebook one day, an advertisement for Get Fit Strength and Conditioning popped up on my feed. It’s like the Facebook gods were giving me a gift (also sorta creepy).  I signed up for a trial month and was extremely excited to get started with something new. I walked through the front door and checked out the whiteboard for the days’ workout and immediately realized I had just signed up for a Crossfit membership.

I tried Crossfit for the first time in 2011. Crossfit wasn’t nearly as popular then, so I had no idea what to expect. All I knew was that there was a new class available in Davis, so I had to try it.  The coach had me do a 10-minute workout then spent the next hour talking to me about the Paleo diet. It really irks me when people talk to me about food and diets while I’m exercising. I truly enjoy exercise and love the way it makes my body feel. I like to focus on that when I exercise, not what food I should or should not be eating. Instead, please tell me how I can change my form to lift heavier weights and become stronger. Unfortunately, this initial experience with Crossfit really set me off from trying it again.

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Being upside down terrifies me, but I’m quieting the voice in my head and learning to get used to it one day at a time.

Needless to say, I was a little shocked when I found myself at another Crossfit style gym. I was already there though and needed to exercise for my mental health, so I gave it a go and guess what? I absolutely loved it! I loved it so much, in fact, that I signed up for a membership and consider this gym my community now. These workouts challenge me in a whole new way. I am using muscles I didn’t know I had and am getting stronger every week. Every day we focus on how to improve our movements to get better at what we are doing, not how we can burn more calories to change the way our bodies look. The coaches truly care about each individual and their progress. Also, the coaches seem like real human beings, not some superhero fitness people that live crazy, unrealistic lifestyles. On my first day, someone turned to me and asked my name. That rarely happened in a class in San Diego. Everyone supports each other and doesn’t talk about how they feel guilty for their latest “cheat day”. Instead, we motivate each other to push our limits and support each other when we listen to our bodies. Now that’s what I would call motivating.

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Literally supporting each other
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Some of the kids of parents in class joined us for a round of lunges!

The biggest challenge in trying these new workouts is learning to quiet the doubtful voice in my head. I believe I am very good at self motivation and believing in myself, but I do still doubt my abilities from time to time. Do I think I can really lift this bar with weights above my head? Can I really deadlift more than I weigh? It’s incredibly easy to let these voices get the best of you and I have before, but it’s most rewarding when you learn to prove them wrong.

The lessons I am learning in the gym are transferring into other aspects of my life. I’m finding that I am more confident in my ability to accomplish tasks at work and am more willing to tackle challenges I was hesitant to confront before. For example, I officially turned in my parking permit and am a full-time active commuter (woohoo!). Will it be hard to do it on a daily basis? Yes. Do I think I can do it? Yes. Do I think it will benefit my body in the long term? Yes.

 

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When I first walked in and saw this I dreaded the day we would have to climb it. Now, I look forward to it as long as I have long pants on. The feeling of being at the top is incredibly exhilarating.