Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Is Exercise greater than or less than Healthy Eating? (equal? not equal?)

As I drove out of the crowded school parking lot this morning, I pondered how at this new school in our new area, I see many moms dressed in workout clothes when they drop off their kids. Fitness seems to be a big part of their lives. That's fantastic to see! Where I used to live, some of the moms worked out, but it wasn't as common as it is here.  And most of the friends I've made talk about their runs, bike rides, spinning, kickboxing, and zumba classes. Some even do fitness videos like I do, which is always fun.

What's interesting though is that with all this focus on workouts, I don't see a push for healthy eating amongst the people I've met. Instead, the standard American diet with sugarful foods abound.  In fact, since I've been here in August, I've only met one woman who continually researches healthy eating and has adopted it into her life, home, and family. I find that interesting. How can one supersede the other? How can exercise be more important that what we put into our bodies? I know in my previous dieting years, I thought of exercise as a means not only to health and weight loss, but to offset any bad eating habits I might have. I didn't see that they were both essential parts of ultimate health.

I know when I finally discovered the joy of exercise, it became something that gave such instant results of energy and elation, that I had an instant reward from my workouts. Maybe the rewards aren't as seemingly instant with healthy eating. It does take awhile for our taste buds to change and become fine tuned to love real whole foods after a lifetime of eating fake food. And it does take a few days or more of detox to realize that the headaches, fatigue and low stress tolerance are not cues to eat more junk, but will actually be a thing of the past if we let go of the processed foods. (Yes, sad as it may be, sugar and flour are processed foods). There are also huge advertising campaigns for unhealthy, tempting foods.   Fitness clubs, equipment, and exercise videos all remind us of the need to get into shape.  The voices for healthy eating are quite small in comparison.   We also just influence ourselves with the way we've grown up thinking -- that the way we eat is just fine -- that increased disease and degeneration is just natural as we age and that changing the way we eat wouldn't make that big of a difference.  

On the flip side, those of my friends who are more conscious of eating healthy don't all find time for an exercise regime. They tend to get their exercise more in occasional recreational activities, such as hikes, bike rides with their kids, and doing outdoor projects or chores.

I don't think that exercise is greater than or less than healthy eating (well, if I had to choose between the two, I'd say "less than" because the quality of fuel we put in our bodies is crucial to how it runs), but truly, they are both vital to good health and should be seen as equal.

This holds true with how we teach our children too. I remember reading once (I think in the FIRM for Life book by Anna and Cynthia Benson, creators of the original FIRM workouts) that they were astonished at parents who took their children to gymnastics (teaching them the value of exercise), yet stopped at the vending machine on the way out to give them a bag of chips and a candy bar. There's definitely some irony there. With the push to get our children to move more, we also need to teach them to eat more nutrient dense whole foods. I'm continually working on this myself. In fact, my husband and I have been talking about having a "vegetable of the week" in our home, teaching our kids about all the vegetables they don't normally eat so they will try them different ways and learn about how they grow, what they provide nutritionally, etc.  As one who grew up with my vegetables being corn, potatoes and carrots, I know the rest were big mysteries and a bit scary for me to try. My kids have eaten a few more than that, but not nearly enough. I'll let you know how that goes once we get started with it.


  1. It's like that where I live, too. I know some moms who exercise so they can treat themselves to dessert afterward!

    Exercise is a short term commitment and healthy eating is a lifestyle change. It's a lot easier to sign up and attend a Zumba class with your friends than it is to become a vegetarian.

    I also think everyone knows how to work out. Once you decide to exercise you can take classes, watch videos or just go for a walk outside; no research or leaning required. On the other hand, the SAD diet is everywhere! People do it because they don't even know there is another option! "Healthy Eating" in most people's mind = calorie counting, not choosing better foods.

    Just a thought.

  2. I really like your thoughts, K La. I agree that most define healthy eating within the SAD. Thanks for posting!

  3. Loved ur post.I am a vegetarian,trying to be 60% raw and my son is a vegan due to his allergies,I can see looking at him with his allergies and all that hes the most healthy eater amongst his friends and even us I should say..
    I love all the fitness classes,it def matters what you eat,I have met skinny people who say I dont count calories or eat what i want bcos I am going to burn it up.What they dont realise it all that unnecessary junk the body is already processing and accumulating..and will continue till they change the way they eat.