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  • Writer's pictureMarissa Aiuto

Why You Need to Stop Exercising to ‘Earn’ Food (And What To START Doing Instead)

“It’s not worth the calories”, “I workout because I love to eat”, “Do the burpees to earn the cookies!”

We’ve all heard it before. We’ve all internalized it. Maybe you’ve said it yourself.

These were the phrases I heard growing up. These were the phrases I lived by for years.

These were the phrases that lead me down a disordered approach to eating and exercise.

These are the phrases that made me hate my body and because I hear the same from my clients, I know I’m not the only one.

The worst of it started in college.

My friend, let’s call her Sarah, was talking about her body. How she hated it. How she needed to lose weight, wanted to tone her abs and shrink her thighs. We were about the same size, so I thought… oh, I guess I should change my body, too. And, just like that scene in Mean Girls where ‘the Plastics’ are staring at themselves in the mirror nitpicking all of their “flaws”, I started to realize things that were “wrong” with my body, and I started hating it.

Now that we were bonded over hating our bodies, Sarah and I decided we were committed to achieving our “body goals”. We created “thin-spiration” boards with photos of super skinny models, and quotes like the one from Kate Moss: “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels”.

We started going to the gym every day, hopping on the elliptical or the treadmill and wouldn’t get off until we “burned” the amount of calories that we ate that day, or more.

We’d go to the dining hall together and we’d track all of the food we ate on an app, down to each condiment we added to our meal (honey mustard was an additional 50 calories to think about).

One day, Sarah grabbed a brownie off the dessert display. She took a bite, chewed it, and then spit it out. I just stared at her.

"I just wanted the taste, not the calories."

I’ll never forget that moment because it’s the moment restriction truly took over.

Everything started to revolve around earning food I wanted to eat, and burning it off afterwards. I started to memorize how much time at the gym it would take to ‘earn’ each meal I ate. If me and my roommates ordered pizza, or I drank drinks with ‘empty calories’, or binged on too many Mallomars, I’d punish myself with extra time in the gym or skipping my next meal. If I felt like I was eating too much I’d pour my water onto my plates so I couldn’t eat anymore.

I spent SO much time calculating how many calories I earned or burned everyday, but what I didn’t realize at the time was what I was missing out on. I was so obsessed with dieting, exercise, and changing my body that all I could talk about was dieting, exercise and my body. It was all consuming.

By the end of the year I felt terrible, burnt out, and I ultimately gained more weight than I’d lost. I was afraid of food, I despised the gym, and I hated my body more than ever.

I was constantly on and off the ‘earn’ and ‘burn’ cycle for years until I FINALLY ended my destructive relationship with food, movement and my body. It wasn’t easy, it took time, and a lot of resetting my brain. It took journaling, coaching, and a lot of unfollowing on social media. Every time I noticed diet culture phrases pop into my head, I’d tell myself “stop”, until eventually they faded away.

I’m happy to say that I no longer count calories, and I no longer see food as something I need to earn, or something I have to burn off.

I finally LOVE and enjoy food again - not just because it nourishes my body, but for joy, because food can connect me with people, places, and new experiences.

Movement is finally enjoyable, and no longer feels like punishment, but instead is a great way for me to de-stress and feel strong.

I don’t waste my time staring at myself in the mirror nit-picking things that are ‘wrong’, things to hate. I feel ‘right’ in my body, I finally, truly love it.

I wish I could go back, storm into my dorm room, rip down that “thin-spiration board” and tell 18-year-old me: You know what’s better than smaller thighs, what’s better than having abs, and, what tastes better than skinny feels? Feeling FREE to socialize, and enjoy a night

out with your friends without stressing about how many calories you’re consuming, doing movement that makes you feel strong and energized, not punished, and truly loving your body, regardless of what your roommates, the media, and diet culture say it should look like.

I’ve heard similar versions of my story from so many women. ‘Earning’ and ‘burning’ food is so drilled in our minds because we’re surrounded by those phrases: “it’s not worth the calories”, “I exercise because I love to eat”, “do the burpees to earn the cookies!” from the people we love, our friends, family, coworkers, social media influencers, and fitness instructors. It’s no wonder we think this way.

If you’re thinking, no way, I’ve always felt this way, I’m never going to be able to change or break-free from this way of thinking, I promise you it’s possible.

It’s possible to enjoy pizza without the shameful feeling of needing to go to the gym the next morning.

It’s possible to drink and laugh with friends and not STRESS over the “empty calories''.

And, it’s possible to look in the mirror and LOVE your reflection.

I’ve had clients who’ve been holding onto the ‘earn’ and ‘burn’ mindset for more than 20 years… and after working together, they finally feel FREE to enjoy their food, their movement, their bodies and their lives.

I’ve seen incredible transformations in my clients, and nothing means more to me than hearing them say “I never thought I’d change my relationship with food or my body, and

If you’re ready to quit the ‘earn’ and ‘burn’ mentality and finally feel good about what you eat, how you move, and truly love your body, I want to support you!

Join me for a FREE 30-minute food & body freedom assessment call. Together we’ll take the first steps towards you finally enjoying food and movement again, and making peace with your body. Book your free call here!

Don’t waste one more minute of life thinking about ‘earning’ and ‘burning’ food, so you don’t miss out on one more minute of living and enjoying your life!

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