“We’re eating turkey and dressing tomorrow. 

Push harder!!! 


Head down, legs pumping as fast as they could.  Those mountain climbers had nothing on this group.  Yet as soon as the words left my lips, I cringed at the sound of them.

“No, Lindsay.  NO!  You don’t believe it so don’t coach it.”

And it’s true.

I don’t let the corners of food and exercise touch.  Like those (odd) people who can’t let the juice from their black beans touch the corn on their plate, I don’t allow my mind to even go to that place where exercising X amount burns off X amount of food.  After talking to several recovering ED friends and just women in general, I realize that this is a blessing.

Food and Exercise.  Why DO we put these two things together so much??

We say things like: 

“I ate this donut so I’m going to run for 50 minutes to burn it off.”


“I want to eat a donut later so I’m going to run for 50 minutes to make a calorie deficit.”

Read this:

If you want to lose weight, you need to watch your food intake. 

If you want to get fit and strong, you need to exercise. 

The borders of food and exercise should really only meet when we’re talking about pre and post-workout fueling.  That’s it.


When we use exercise as a punishment, pushing as hard as we can, for the food we’ve either eaten or want to eat, we dishonor our bodies.

When we binge on food because we worked out really hard (or maybe twice in a day), we dishonor our bodies.

When we use the phrase “let me burn this off,” we get stuck in this perpetual pattern of feeling shameful about our food choices or approaching exercise with an attitude of punishment.  Not good.  Not healthy.


I want to tell you right now – there is nothing more JOYFUL than moving your body.  It’s a pure blessing!  I think once you’ve dealt with an injury or sickness, you immediately recognize the privilege that is MOVEMENT.  Same goes with food – fueling your body in a way that promotes digestion, clear skin, energy – that’s a gift you can give yourself.  Eating vibrant, energy-giving foods is a way of honoring your body.

To move freely, for fun…for pleasure.  That’s the goal.

To eat healthfully.  That’s the goal.

Not “calories burned.”  

Not all the numbers.  

And most definitely not out of guilt or obligation.

(So long story short – don’t let “calories burned” rule your life, don’t let food and exercise touch and keep your black beans separate from your corn.)

QUESTION:  Are you stuck in this pattern of exercising to burn off what you ate?  Do you count calories?


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  2. So well put, and amen!!

    I do talk sometimes in my classes about stress & how exercise helps us feel better, and/or mention aesthetics for those who want to hear about it, but it’s never a main focus & I’d never say we have to burn off such and such.
    Great post!

  3. Excellent points made here — just found your blog and I love it! For so long I was caught in the vicious cycle of food and exercise working against each other, not with one another, and let me tell you, it feels great to be free of it! Thank you for sharing this post :)

  4. Yes yes yes! I love this! I especially love you point about binging is a dishonor to your body. I dealt with binge eating with a similar mentality. I knew it was not healthy to have that kind of relationship with food. I exercise because I love it, and couldn’t dampen that love by making it some sort of “punishment” for my eating. Thanks for reminding me!

  5. I agree 100%!! There was definitely a time in my life (not too long ago) where I absolute made the connection, in a scary way. There are so many components to health that I now know that focusing on ANY two alone makes everything out of balance – especially mental health…I love that you pointed out eating well and exercising are blessings! Couldn’t agree more!

  6. I love, love, love this. Very well said! I found this to be so true – by accident actually. Having my son meant I had much less time for exercise, which meant losing weight = watching my diet in ways I never had before. Seeing the weight drop off without excessive exercise was amazing. And now I truly am in a place where exercise is joy and endorphins and has nothing to do with burning off calories.

  7. I love this. One of my issues with using such “calorie trackers” like My Fitness Pal or SparkPeople is that on days you do NOT exercise you are feeling like you can’t eat as much because you aren’t “burning” as much. As we know, this is not totally true, because our bodies continually burn after working out (even a day later) and it is negating the positive need to REST our bodies. I think this can lead to a cycle of exercising too much. I try to use those apps more for % breakdowns of carb/fat/protien but it can get to you to see those “off day” results! Intuitive eating is where it is at!

  8. I have done this more than once for sure!
    A good friend of mine still brings up the time we had banana pudding at a school function (16+ years ago) and I went for 2nds. I said something along the lines of no big deal I would just run 10 more miles. (it was said in fun but also because I knew I would run extra that night!!).

  9. Yes! I agree with you for the most part. If we view exercise as calories burned, which = what food we burned off, it just becomes a perpetual cycle of overeating>exercising to burn it off>being super hungry> repeat. While yes, exercise plays an important role in weight maintenance (or loss) it shouldn’t be thought of as “cals burned.”

  10. Such a great post and so many great points Lindsay! I know that I fall into this trap but have been actively trying to keep my food and exercise separate! I want to exercise because it feels good and makes me feel good, not as a means to an end.

  11. I love this! I do not associate exercise with food, although I have been guilty of telling my class how many calories they will burn in a workout and as soon as I said it I knew it was wrong and not the way I want to motivate others. I want to encourage others to move and exercise for the energy it brings and that awesome feeling that comes after a hard workout that you weren’t sure you could finish but when you do you feel like you could conquer the world.

    I admit I exercise to be able to be more flexible in my eating. But having a balanced lifestyle means that chocolate and yummy things are all just meant to be enjoyed guilt-free.

  13. SUCH a good post (as usual!). I love your wisdom and your courage in sharing it! I don’t count calories…that is WAAAAY too slippery of a slope for me. Even when I’m trying to lose weight, I just watch what I eat and figure the calories will take care of themselves. And ever since I’ve gone through periods of time where I didn’t work out and actually LOST weight, I’ve ditched the old “calories in/calories out” weight loss rule. I just don’t think it’s true all the time, for every person! I’d rather pick quality over quantity when it comes to food and fitness any day. Preach it, sister!

  14. Definitely guilty of this, but I have gotten better…It comes in waves and I am definitely making sure I do not do this during the holidays and so far I have been good. Enjoying what I want when I want it…still working out…but enjoying the food, the moment, the people, because that is what it is all about. PS: I will be enjoying a big old slice of chocolate cake tonight! #getinmybelly

  15. You’ve nailed exactly why I found all those Halloween info graphics with pictures of chocolate bars and the number of burpees required to negate them so offensive!
    (Plus, it’s much harder to burn calories off via exercise than most people think…)

    Exercise AND eat to feel great in your body! xo

  16. YES. Hung out in that mindset for years, and the only place it got me was the corner where F***ed-Up and Self-Loathing intersect. I actually stopped going to a certain spin class at my old gym because the instructor would ALWAYS make comments about “earning” food/treats, etc. Not to liken your teaching style to that at all, of course…I’d only skip your class because the whole living-across-the-country thing makes a helluva gym commute ;)

  17. Love this message! While I do track what I eat, I don’t equate food and exercise together. I think that was one of the biggest a-ha moments for me…you don’t ‘get’ more food if you work out and less if you don’t, you don’t ‘burn off’ a piece of cake (hey, just plan for it and watch whatever else you have that day!) and you definitely don’t shame yourself for eating something and then working out twice as long to make up for it! great post!

  18. Thanks for putting this into words! Such an important concept & just saying that makes us believe that eating or exercising can be punishment. Who would want to eat well or exercise when it even occasionally is treated as a punishment.

  19. In college I wanted to be of the “calorie counting” and “burn it off” mindset, but I’m bad at math and was kind of lazy so it led to feels of guilt and failure. Now, I enjoy food and exercise separately – and never the two shall meet! ;)

  20. I love that you let your blog/writing go places that SO many people experience but never, ever want to chat about. I’m certainly “guilty” of letting my food and exercise touch… and this little note was just what I needed to let myself become a bit more aware of where I’ve been letting my mind go lately. I adore your blog.

  21. I was definitely had a “burn it off” mentality in college, which really took the joy away of exercise and eating. Now I try to look at them as two things that I enjoy, but don’t mean I can’t have one without the other!