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Don't exercise to eat; eat to exercise

In just one week, millions of Americans will be on their way to the first of what will be many holiday festivities filled with family, friends and, perhaps the most sought-after companions, food.
In just one week, millions of Americans will be on their way to the first of what will be many holiday festivities filled with family, friends and, perhaps the most sought-after companions, food.
©istockphoto.com/olgna

In just one week, millions of Americans will be on their way to the first of what will be many holiday festivities filled with family, friends and, perhaps the most sought-after companions, food.

But before diving into the pumpkin pie, candied yams, stuffing and turkey, you must earn it, right?

So the morning of Thanksgiving, you and your family run in a turkey trot in an effort to offset any caloric consumption that will take place over the course of the day. The remainder of the day is spent indulging in excessive amounts of food — because you earned it, right?

Not so fast.

While I am a big proponent of the annual turkey trot and will be running alongside many of you, the mindset that one must earn food through exercise is backward and a harmful way of thinking.

Food is not the end product of exercise any more than driving your car long distances and at excessive speeds is rewarded by a long, juicy swig of premium gasoline.

Food, while one of life’s great pleasures, is fuel.

This concept is best illustrated by a recent conversation I overheard between my 7-year-old son, Ace, and his grandpa.

After glancing at a can of soda that read “zero calories,” Ace looked at his grandpa and said, “Zero calories? Why would you want zero calories, Grandpa? Don’t you know you need energy?”

Grandpa was speechless.

Ace has been taught that calories equal fuel and are needed for your body to perform everyday activities, including exercise.

So many of us have been conditioned to think that we exercise so that we can eat, that we can consume excess amounts of food then hit it hard at the gym to work it all off. “Burn off those extra calories,” we say. “When you’re done, reward yourself with that chocolate cake you’ve been eyeballing, because you’ve earned it.”

We would never imagine filling our cars up to overflowing, or driving extra blocks around the neighborhood just to burn away excess fuel. That would be silly, wasteful and, quite frankly, harmful to our vehicles.

But why do we do it with our most important vehicles, our bodies?

I’ll let you answer that question yourself.

So, as you prepare to run your annual turkey trot, do so not with the future consumption of food in mind, but considering the necessary amounts of healthy calories needed to perform well.

And when you sit at the dinner table with family and friends, go ahead and enjoy your meal by fueling up with foods you know will provide you with the energy needed to enjoy your day with the ones you love most.

Arianne is a mother of six young children. Her downtime is spent running the trails of the Wasatch Mountains and beyond. Contact her at ariannebrown1@gmail.com or search her Facebook page, "A Mother's Write," or follow her on twitter @arimom6.