You may, or may not, have heard recently on the news that food labels are soon to change the way the nutritional content is displayed. Food packaging is going to display how much exercise it will take to ‘pay off’ your item of food in calories. The idea behind this change is to encourage people to exercise more and perhaps think twice before eating unhealthy snacks. It aims to educate people about how active they need to be and to cut down on growing obesity levels in the UK.
Unfortunately, there is speculation that this may lead to an unhealthy relationship with food and exercise, especially in young people. People will start to feel as though they need to earn their food, and you may find some people working off their calories, not allowing their body enough calories to function throughout the day. Another problem that this brings is that people will be focused purely on calories as opposed to nutrition.
100 calories of crisps is never going to be as nutritional as 100 calories of fruit or nuts. Dairy products that are high in calories may be sacrificed in preference of lower fat items, such as biscuits or sweets. These examples are perhaps extreme, but possible. Lack of vitamins, nutrients, calcium and other essential foods may well be missed out upon, leading to increased osteoporosis, obesity and other health problems.
With eating disorders at an all time high in young people, these food labels may also add to the obsession. If people feel that they can punish themselves for eating, they may do so after a guilty binge or try to get into negative calories. It’s perhaps encouraging this behaviour, albeit with good intentions.
Food is like our bodies medicine. It is there to nourish us, to keep us healthy and energise us. It is also not criminal to enjoy eating food without feeling guilty, or like you need to go and train for hours after eating a shop bought sandwich and crisps.
Exercise is, of course, essential. However, the recommended amount of exercise is different for everybody. Different ages, different builds and different metabolisms need different regimes to keep themselves healthy. The link between food and exercise should not be compared in such a dramatic state. Admittedly, if we overeat and under exercise, we will become overweight, there is also a problem of under eating and over exercising which can lead to being underweight. Both come with their own health risks, both of which can be life threatening.
The concept of earning your food in the gym, or similarly punishing yourself in the gym for having eaten food is a mindset that needs to be changed. Squat because you love it and you want a pert bottom, not because you ate a cupcake. Reset your thoughts and strive to use food to help your performance. Eat carbohydrates before a long run, and allow yourself to enjoy both. Enjoy the health benefits that both food and exercise can bring.