Q: I workout so I can eat whatever. Why am I getting fat, though?

IMG_1406Q: I workout so I can eat whatever. Why am I getting fat, though?

A: You just answered your own question. Thanks.  Enlighten.your.body.

OK, I’m kidding, but you did really answer your own question here. I have heard this question plenty of times, but am writing this after discussing this exact issue with my chiropractor the other day rather than because someone asked me it directly recently.

We all know someone who says this (maybe you’ve said it yourself).  “I go to the gym, so it’s ok to eat XYZ and drink ABC.”  Or, “I work out so I can eat whatever I want.”

To me, this is a common viewpoint held in America, and maybe Western society overall, where we confuse fitness with health.  Being healthy isn’t just about not being fat.  Or not having to stop moving after 15 minutes because you’re too tired and winded.

No. That’s a very basic interpretation of what I consider fitness to be. Fitness is the physical ability to support and sustain the activities we do in life. That’s my definition, and it may not be technical or medically correct, but I think it hits at the heart of the matter.
IMG_1078Health, on the other hand, is much bigger. It’s holistic. You can be fit and unhealthy. To be sure, if you hit the gym to burn off the calories of a greasy burger, fries and multi-beer dinner, you aren’t doing anything about chemistry of that dinner. Where are your vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, etc? Don’t tell me the wilted lettuce you took off the burger after spotting it once you’d eaten half of the leaf counts as a serving of veggies.  And I know beer comes from plants, but it doesn’t count as a salad, ok?
You see, you can’t use exercise to undo what you aren’t doing the rest of the time (primarily, what you are and aren’t putting into your body).

How does this play out? You see fit people having heart attacks and saying things like, “But I go to the gym three times a week.” You see athletes in college and their early twenties living a party lifestyle and looking great only to become overweight 40-somethings because they don’t have as much time to put into the gym and their metabolism slows as they age, taking away their ability to mask the effects of their diet (not to mention the cumulative impact of eating poorly on their bodies).  Don’t believe me? How may high school or college football or basketball stars do you know that in a shape rather than just in shape at the 20 year reunion?IMG_1339

So, no need to be preachy or judgmental here. Not my intention. Instead, I want to help people see that there is little value in going to the gym or getting a personal trainer in a vacuum. I always tell people, I can certainly go to the gym with you and tell you how to pump iron, but that’s not what I do. I work with people holistically to help them with their entire approach to their health.

Sound like too much? If you look at it that way, then it surely is. But if instead you realize that focusing on only one half of the equation means that the other half will work against the positive work you’re doing, you may find yourself insisting on the holistic approach. After all, who wants to put in a ton of effort while simultaneously wasting that effort by undoing it?

So the idea is that you can’t just do one or the other. You want to do things that compliment and accelerate the other great things you’re doing for yourself. Positivity building on positivity. I promise you, once you get rolling with it, you will be happier, healthier and more inspired. You’ll find other parts of your life falling into place, and your satisfaction with your life as a whole improving. It’s amazing how we can fuel ourselves by starting a virtuous cycle of positivity and achievement. That’s how you enlighten.your.body.

About bryan falchuk

bryan falchuk is the founder of newbodi.es, a certified personal trainer, behavior change specialist and the best-selling author of "Do a Day". bryan coaches people on their whole health - the physical, mental and emotional combination of wellness that we need to thrive and change our lives.

4 comments

  1. Thanks for addressing this, Bryan. And agree with you totally that a fit person can be unhealthy and vice versa. Living a “healthy lifestyle” may include fitness, but the fact of the matter is that fitness and health are actually a bit different — yet we need them both to be good to be at our prime. Good stuff!

  2. I very much dislike the thinking that working out can keep you healthy regardless of what you eat – NOT SO AT ALL — As you mention! I truly believe it’s 80% diet, 10% exercise & 10% genetics!

    • Totally, GiGi. I am living proof since, as my diet has changed to a plant-based, whole food diet, my weight has responded pretty dramatically whereas it didn’t move before even if my intensity or duration changed. I got pretty far on diet and exercise, but ultimately, it’s been diet that’s driven the bulk of my overall health.

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