I love how after a good training session my legs wobble so much passing a field sobriety test would be challenging. Or when the "bed head" look is the only option for the day because it just hurts too much to hold up a blowdryer for longer than five seconds.
I'm sure you can relate. How awesome do you feel after sweating through an intense hour-long DVD workout? Or when you feel on top of the world because you sprinted at max speed the last 60 seconds of your usual running route.
Relishing this sense of accomplishment is one of the reasons regular exercisers are consistent. It gives you the confidence to handle the rest of life with ease. I do chin-ups and push-ups with my own body weight . Why yes, I think I will carry all 13 bags of groceries in at once!
However, don't let your exercise accomplishments translate into over-confidence. More specfically, believing you earned a free pass to eat whatever you want.
"I worked out for an hour today. Deep dish pizza for dinner it is!"
"Running that extra half mile will definitely cancel out this ice cream sundae."
"I went to the gym three times this week. Three times! Open another bottle of wine."
Yes, exercise burns calories. It helps contribute to that pesky energy balance equation we have to worry about (calories in = calories out = weight maintenance.....calories in > calories out = weight gain). Not to mention it boasts a multitude of other benefits such as increased metabolism, stronger bones, lowered risk of chronic diseases, higher engery levels, improved self-esteem, etc.
Giving yourself a free pass for every successful workout isn't moderation. It's a habit. As I mentioned before, our daily physical activity is responsible 15-30% of our daily calorie expenditure. That's less than a third! In the grand scheme of things, it's not enough to negate consistently poor eating habits.
Keep up the exercise, without a doubt. Just avoid putting all your eggs in one basket. You need balance to get the body you dream of. Equal effort into your eating habits, stress management, and sleep schedule (to name a few) will go a long way.
Trade in your free pass for a different kind of reward. A massage. A new pair of shoes. Download some new music. Change your mindset and your health will follow.