The Post-Workout Ritual That Held Me Back From Losing Weight

From a young age, I learned that working out hard led to big indulgence. It started in my middle school days. A trip to the drive-through was always allowed after my evening dance lessons. Even after moving as an adult to San Francisco, I would leave yoga or dance class and immediately start scheming about what pig-out meal was up on the menu. In time, when unwanted pounds started creeping on and weight loss became one of my primary goals, I knew that my old habits of face-planting into a pizza needed to end.

There’s good reason the quote “abs are made in the kitchen” has stuck around ¡ª it’s true. While it might seem like you earned a huge burrito with chips or a burger with fries after your workout, if weight loss is a primary goal ¡ª?like it was for me ¡ª a decadent meal is essentially canceling out your hard work (and then some). If you eat too much after your workout, you mess with your body’s fat-burning potential and very often overcompensate for calories burned.

Up until I decided to lose weight, I had no idea how deeply eating was ingrained in my post-workout routine. As soon as I would leave a workout class, my brain would go straight to food; my breathing would get short, my heart would speed up, and I felt like I had earned [insert crazy calorie bomb here]. The first time I recognized this was happening, it was a bit of a shock, but once I became aware of my propensity to overdo it, my habits started to naturally shift.

Since I was aware of one piece of the emotional puzzle, I needed to deal with the other: I was regularly hangry after working out. To offset this, I took the advice of women’s strength-training expert and author of Lift to Get Lean Holly Perkins, who recommends having a nutritious meal two to three hours prior to a workout or enjoying a light pre-workout snack 30 to 60 minutes before. Since implementing a smarter snacking habit (I’m a big fan of Health Warrior Chia Bars) I’m rarely ravenous when my workout is said and done, and I’m able to stay on track.

Occasionally indulging is a necessity, but each workout does not constitute a special meal! Whenever I get the urge to reward myself with food, I take three deep breaths to calm down, and the crazed cravings tend to subside. With a clearer mind, I can choose a healthy option that supports my needs and is not served with a side of guilt.

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