I recently stumbled across the above chart on Women’s Health. My first thought was, “Donuts, yum!” My second thought was, “88 minutes of abs? Yikes! I can barely survive 5 minutes of ab work. Should I never eat a donut ever again?”
I hear over and over that weight loss is 80% nutrition and 20% gym time. As in, you can treadmill, crunch, lunge, and lift as much as you want, but if you’re eating pizza, burgers, soda, and cheesecake all the time, all your hard gym work will be in vain. I’m one of those people who tries to eat good-for-you-foods, but who has a great weakness for plenty of bad-for-you-foods. And since I spend so much time at the gym and bike everywhere, I often convince myself that I can eat more bad-for-you-foods than other people.
It all goes back to finding balance. Even though health and fitness is extremely important to me, I can’t eat tofu, spinach, and egg whites for every meal. If I did, I’d be miserable. Maybe I’d be two sizes smaller and maybe I wouldn’t even have to go to the gym because my calorie intake would be so low, I wouldn’t feel the need to burn off any of my bad eating decisions.
But, I’d be miserable. I’d dream about cheeseburgers. Watching anyone else eat one would bring me close to tears. Plus, an all-good-for-you-food-all-the-time diet wouldn’t be sustainable. I can see myself getting so sick of eating so well that I’d swing the other direction and spend a week going after every piece of fried food, sugar crystal, and carbohydrate I could get my hands on.
I don’t think the Women’s Health “Think Before You Eat” graphic is telling us that we better steer clear of milkshakes, frappuccinos, and fried chicken for the rest of our lives. Instead, it is reminding us that these foods should not be part of our everyday eating habits. We often eat these sorts of things on impulse, and the chart is reminding us that we should really think about chowing down on one of these bad-for-you-foods.
It’s reminding us to ask ourselves, “Is this really the best choice at this very moment?? Sometimes the answer the answer may be, “Hm… I should go for something with vegetables in it instead.” Or sometimes the answer might be, “Well… maybe I will share a milkshake or get a 12-ounce frappuccino instead.” And there may be some days when the answer is “Yes! I am going to eat this whole chicken burrito, and like it! I understand the consequences on my health and fitness goals, but I am willing to deal with those consequences.”
So maybe the Women’s Health chart is not telling us that we can’t eat the donut. Instead, this chart is telling us not to eat every single donut that crosses our path. But we can have a donut or two. And when we do eat that donut, we can really appreciate it because we worked for it.
Betsy Mikel | betsymikel.com