The most vivid example of this was my sophomore year of college. I had a kitchen for the first time and I was super excited about being able to bake cookies in my apartment. My group of lady friends was ALL about making cookies. Baking cookies was REALLY fun and great way to hang out with my friends in a relatively cheap and fun way.
The downside was that I loved cookie dough and I loved cookies but I never really allowed myself to eat them.
If you've been reading the blog for long enough, you know that this very restriction is what lead me to lose my shit when the cookies were before me. Every time I made cookies, I ended up feeling really really uncomfortably full.
One particularly terrible time, I hadn't really eaten lunch. Instead, I ate a bunch of cookie dough and cookies.
With a belly crazy full of cookies, I decided that before I could go see my boyfriend, I absolutely needed to go for a run. I figured it would be a good idea to go for a run long enough to burn off the majority of the cookies.
And, so, instead of running off into the sunset with my bae, I ran over to the gym. I proceeded to feel exceptionally sick while I tried to run on a treadmill at the gym on a Saturday night with a belly full of cookies and cookie dough.
It was awful. I hated every moment of that run.
Every acidic bounce of my body hurt. My lethargic muscles tired from previous days of exercise and a lack of protein felt like warm glaciers burning slowly. I didn't finish the run and I was hungry again afterwards.
Compensatory exercise doesn't work and all it really does is make you hate exercise. I don't want to get into the numbers of it but suffice it to say that running for 30 minutes to burn off 12 cookies doesn't always work.
The worst offense of compensatory exercise is that it takes something that is biologically designed to make you feel good via endorphins and turns it into a chore.
Because exercise is good for you, it should be something you enjoy. This is something I have written about before. Exercise should be fun. It should be joyful. It should make you happy. It shouldn't make you feel like you're walking through the inner levels of hell unless you're in to that. #50shades
In the long term, this compensatory relationship with exercise hurts us more than it helps us.
Just as restriction often sets us up for a binge, compensatory exercise ultimately sets us up for an unhealthy relationship with exercise. In healing myself from my own weird habits around food and exercise, I decided to stop hitting the gym whenever I felt like I was motivated by guilt. This meant I had to sit with what I felt like with that food.
When you focus on the workout instead of the food, you might be missing a critical component of your own relationship with food.