We have all been there. We begin to make great progress with our exercise program, lose weight, and maintain a healthy diet, only to find that one day can completely blow up the plan and unravel us at the seams.
One day off of our exercise routine can lead to a week off, which often lends to more health-sabotaging behaviors, like excessive eating.
Missing a workout can be easily justified for any number of reasons, but unfortunately, it seems to be a one-two punch. When we skip an exercise session, not only do we bank the calories we could have burned, we somehow manage to take in extra calories by means of poor food choices. Why does exercise decrease our appetite for excess food, often the wrong type?
Exercise provides accountability. When I know I have to stand in front of that wall of mirrors at my gym in tight shorts, I am less inclined to have my face in a pan of brownies. I simply don’t enjoy feeling like a manatee in sports bra.
Exercise helps to retrain the brain’s happy pathways. Exercise, like food, is a mood enhancer; working out releases endorphins, those natural hormones that promote that “feel good” feeling. The more we workout, the less inclined we are to turn to food for the same high. Of course this doesn’t mean you have to nix all chocolate from your diet, but you may just crave less if you hit the elliptical trainer regularly.
Exercise fills a void of time. Left to our own devices, we may visit the fridge too many times in between meals. Using our idle time constructively—getting outside to walk the baby, playing a game of tag with the kids, going for a bike ride—leaves less time to wander into the kitchen. Less downtime means less time for mindless snacking.
Exercise is a natural appetite suppressant. While your appetite may increase if you significantly increase your workout regimen, generally speaking, you are less likely to consume large portions following your gym session. Consistent, moderate exercise helps stimulate the hypothalamus in your brain, causing it to secrete a hormone that actually inhibits hunger.
Exercise increases our need for hydration. Water, too, is a natural appetite suppressant, so by drinking more fluid, we tend to feel fuller longer. Often times when we think we are hungry, we are just dehydrated. Drinking water helps curb the desire to eat more and eat more frequently.
It’s okay to fall off the wagon and skip workouts from time to time, but a long term commitment to a fitness program will not only benefit your health from an activity standpoint, it will help keep your nutrition plan on track, as well.