Can I eat whatever I want now that I’m exercising? This is a pretty common question that I get asked by clients and followers alike. Here’s are my thoughts.
You can eat what you want anyway
As I’ve mentioned in a number of articles in the past, you can eat what you want, always. Unless you have allergies or intolerances to specific foods, no food needs to be completely removed from your diet. Instead of thinking good vs bad foods, think everyday vs sometimes foods and make a selection that you believe will satisfy your hunger at the time.
The weight loss equation
Broken down into its simplest form and how it is often discussed is calories in vs calories out. Calories are simply a unit of measurement for energy. Kilojoules, if you’re used to hearing about them here in Australia, are just a different measurement for the same thing. Our bodies use energy all day every day just to keep us alive.
Essentially, the equation suggests that if you put in less calories than you are burning, you will lose weight. For example if you put in 1800 calories and your body burnt 2800, there would be a 1000 calorie deficit. One kilogram of fat is equal to 7700 calories. So if you did this each day, you should lose 1kg in a little over a week.
It isn’t even that simple…
The equation is nice and all but it doesn’t take everything into account. In most cases we are working with estimates anyway but all bodies work slightly differently and as such, burn calories at slightly different rates for a range of reasons.
The equation can give you a bit of an idea about your energy consumption and expenditure but it’s not that straightforward so please don’t get too caught up in calculating every last calorie and then wondering why it doesn’t correlate exactly with what the scales are telling you.
Having said all that, at the end of the day, how much fat your body stores is related to the amount of energy going in and out. So the mere act of exercise isn’t a licence to go to town and pay no attention to what or how much is going into your mouth. Being physically active means you can likely have a bit more food than someone similar to you who is sedentary and maintain your weight but there is still a point where you will gain weight if you overeat.
What should you do?
My best advice would be to focus on mindful, intuitive eating instead of going to either extreme – counting every calorie or eating mindlessly. In combination with your exercises, try some of these mindful eating tips:
- Try to eat when you feel physically hungry and stop eating when you feel satisfied. It will take time as many of us are pretty out of tune with our natural cues for hunger, satisfaction and fullness.
- When you are physically hungry, try to choose something to eat that will make you feel satisfied at the time instead of trying to choose ‘good’ and avoid ‘bad’ foods. No food needs to be eliminated, focus on what will satisfy you.
- Slow down when you eat. Really taste and enjoy the food while you’re having it. We often overeat simply because we are eating quickly and we can lose touch with the taste of the foods if we don’t stop to savour them. You might find you don’t like some things as much as you thought you did and rediscover other that you’d forgotten about just by slowing down.
It’s all about moderation, guys. And balance. Exercising isn’t a free licence to eat mindlessly but it doesn’t mean you have to go to the other extreme where you are rigidly recording and counting everything that passes your lips. Focus on being physically active and eating mindfully and things will start to fall into place.