Stop working out to earn [or burn] your food.

February happens to be National Eating Disorders Awareness (NEDA) month and as somebody in recovery myself I have taken part in it several times before. This time touching on a topic not only those diagnosed with an eating disorder deal with.


Eating a bagel for breakfast  = run for 45minutes.*

An ice cream sundae =  a 75-minute spinning class.*

A few handfuls of chips = lifting weights for more than an hour. *

No, I didn’t make up the numbers above. Chances are you’ve seen these kind of equations on a magazine or somewhere online*. And if you’ve spent just a few weeks or months around the blog world or on Instagram – and most of us have been around for much longer, right? – you’ll have seen it there, too. “I know this day seems carb-heavy but: leg day!” or “deserved this treat after a hard session at the gym”. I’m not shaming any of the people making these statements because I’ve been there and occasionally still find my mind drifting off. In the past months, though, I’ve made progress here and being forced to lay off any exercise aside from walking helped change my thoughts.

You don’t need to work out like a mad [wo]man to “deserve food – or rest.

You don’t need to justify your food choices through the exercise you’ve done.

Would you deny a toddler, a doctor [somebody working mostly sedentary] or your frail grandma food? Restrict their intakes because they hardly move throughout the day? Actually,  you wouldn’t deny your rabbit/cat/dog food or hush it around the block for another lap making sure it truly deserved its food, either, no? Deny your child a snack on a long car ride because it didn’t [get a chance to] move?  Granted, there might be mums who do but I’d like to think they’re the exceptions.

Are you nodding now and saying yes, sure, point made but these examples are different from you? They’re not.

You, a toddler, your grandma: all human beings. All deserving of nourishment – in large enough quantities – to exist. Breathe. Get sh*t done [if that’s the way you want to express it]. Actually, yes, you do need to work for your food: by earning the money to pay grocery bills but that’s about the only connection between earning and food. Speaking off earning and assuming most of us either work in desk jobs or study: never forget mental work counts, too. Our brains run on glucose = your carb cravings explained. Or just don’t seek for any explanations.

I’m not suggesting for everybody to stop exercising completely and sit around all day long stuffing their face with all. the. food. Extremes again, huh? Rather, tuning into our intuition will lead us to make the right choices food-wise. And by right I mean right to keep us fuelled and happy throughout daily life – carbs and protein, pasta  and cookies just like nut butter and Greek yogurt.

Almond butter jar_Mandelmus

If we were to take this concept further the same is true for resting. There’s no need to explain why you “deserve” binge-watching your favourite show on Netflix at night. Unless that’s all you do all day every day while bossing others around to work for you. In that case please move your butt off the sofa and get work done.

The problem with shifting the mindset of earning food is its ever-presence in our society that makes it impossible to ignore*. Blogs, magazines, TV shows constantly praise the mentality of “burning off your food” and in also glorify the idea of under-eating [hello, 1200-calorie meal plans].

Exercising just for the sake of it: A gift we – myself included – often take for granted. A luxury exclusive to us living in a society where we don’t need to worry about the availability of food to refuel. An activity that some of us even turn around to be punishment for eating “too much”.

* unless you lived under rock which you shouldn’t feel bad to admit as it’d honestly be an admirable state of blissful ignorance here!

You deserve food. You deserve rest. As much of both as you need to feel energized and ready to tackle your days. Eat. Exercise. Don’t make the former depend on the latter but only the other way around in eating enough to fuel your workouts.


No questions. Just your thoughts on the topic.

Happiness inducing today: Many many small things all throughout my day. The sun shining. A short chat with my colleagues in between wokring.

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18 thoughts on “Stop working out to earn [or burn] your food.

  1. Amanda @ .running with spoons. says:

    It kind of kills me whenever I hear someone talk about having to exercise to work off the calories of something they ate. One of the biggest things that helped me in recovery was actually talking to myself as if I were 10 years old – would I deny that girl food and force her to work out relentlessly? No, so why was I doing it to my adult self? We need to be kind to ourselves — that’s the best way to get the results we want.

  2. Lyss says:

    Love this!! We need food regardless of whether we work out or not. Such an important message and I am glad you touched upon it and brought awareness to it!

  3. Emily Swanson says:

    THANK you, I still struggle with this sometimes, and it’s definitely a way in which God is working on me. I don’t need to work out to earn the right to eat. HE made me to need food for my body.

  4. foodiecology says:

    Love this post.
    It makes me angry when I see or hear these kinds of comments (although, yes, I’ve said things like “guess I’ll do a little extra cardio since I ate 2 donuts” or similar). Food is not something we have to erase from our memories/bodies/etc. Food literally is energy!
    We should exercise to FEEL good and care for our bodies – period. I feel like days with salads and lots of veggies balance out with days of extra cookies and ice cream.

  5. fuelforfreedom says:

    Love your message. I used to equate food with calorie numbers, minutes spent working out… as if I needed to “earn” the very thing that keeps us alive. Eating for enjoyment and nourishment is so much easier when you don’t feel like you have to desire your food. Because you don’t!

  6. Kate Bennett says:

    Ugh I work with someone who says these things all the time. I care about her, so I try to encourage her to think otherwise, but I don’t know if it’s my place to say “you may have a problem.”
    I pretty much eat the same whether I workout or not. Sometimes if I workout maybe a little more, if I am hungry for it. I never let myself go hungry to make up for what I ate earlier.
    Great message- I hope this information will spread!

  7. hungryforbalance says:

    It can be so hard to shift your mindset away from the ‘I ate it and now I need to negate it’. I know that I’ve been there too many times.
    Thank you for this reminder!

  8. mylittletablespoon says:

    It’s So hard to sit back and hear all those comments – daily – about working off calories, when you know the truth of what it’s like to be tormented by those very demons. I know people don’t understand, and we can’t ask them to, I just wish we could go back in time and never let the whole “burn off calorie” mentality to even begin

  9. The Mindful Maritimer says:

    I absolutely applaud you for writing this, especially with it being NEDA week. I feel like TOO many people do this on a daily basis and think that they are far from having any sort of a disordered mindset. I’ve been there, and I mean I do still struggle with it.. I think it’s hard not to in the society we live in where it’s practically in our faces 24/7 that we need to “burn off” what we ate or we can’t have food unless we’ve exercised throughout the day.

  10. Meghan@CleanEatsFastFeets says:

    I’m right there with you. It bothers me immensely when people say things like I run to eat. How about you just eat and run if you’d like? They don’t need to be connected. It’s sad when I see those things. Great post, well said.

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