Guilt Trip? No thanks.

Early yesterday afternoon, the following tweet popped up in my feed:

Whoa, whoa twitter person. Something about this tweet rubbed me the wrong way. I don’t see anything wrong with fitting in some miles on the morning of a holiday. Admittedly, every year I run a 9-mile race on Thanksgiving and I have to say that hard-earned pie tastes better than regular pie. BUT, I think the mentality that you “have to run X miles” in order to enjoy a guilt-free holiday is not a healthy message. Worrying about burning off every bite of burger and sip of beer in advance seems like it’s creepin’ in on disordered territory. And normally this wouldn’t bother me so much (live and let live…), but Shape Magazine is one of my favorite periodicals – why the hell are they encouraging this sort of thinking? Why does running 5 miles have to be so closely tied to guilt and burning calories? Instead of encouraging women to run off that pie, how about focusing on how strong, de-stressed, and accomplished exercising can make them feel?

And it’s not just Shape Magazine that has been making the exercise + guilt connection. I was at my gym the other day listening to a membership advisor (a.k.a. sales person) tout the benefits of membership. But rather than top-notch instructors, unique classes, or a nice locker room her selling point was guilt.

Membership adviser to potential gym member: “Once you join this gym, you’ll start feeling so guilty when you don’t work out regularly. Whenever I miss my weekly yoga class, I just feel so BAD about myself. I know everyone in class is wondering why I’m not showing up.”

Granted, this membership adviser seemed a little cray-cray, but really, this was her selling point? I should join the gym so that I feel bad about myself if I don’t show up? No thanks. That’s not why I work out. Sure, fitting into my jeans and be able to eat dessert every day are nice bonuses of running, but if those were the only reasons why I did it, I don’t think I’d last very long.

Fact: A 2006 University of Michigan study shows that women who start exercising for body-shape and weight-loss goals alone not only work out less, but also are less likely to stick to it long-term than those who exercise for other reasons.

If people start exercising to lose some weight, that’s cool (you do you, imma do me). But when it comes to major fitness publications and gym representatives, I wish the focus of running would be less on making us feel bad and more on making us feel good. Running and chatting with my lady friends or watching the sunrise from the path in Central Park or setting a 5k PR are a hundred times more satisfying than finishing a run just to say I ran off some burger guilt. You hear that Shape Magazine?

Okay, rant over! My 4th of July weekend was actually a good one. Plans for a beach trip on Sunday were cancelled because of rain (womp, womp), but good eats, quality mileage, and the requisite holiday fireworks display made up for it.

I had a bunch of CSA veggies to use up, so I spent a lot of time in the kitchen. I’ve been eating a lot of restaurant meals and take-out lately, so it was fun to do some cooking. Well, everything except doing the dishes was fun. Cooking at home = 50 million dirty dishes

Saturday night’s meal was a pretty simple pasta and pesto dish. I made garlic scape and basil pesto based on a Washington Post recipe. I made a few changes, namely using 2 roasted garlic scapes instead of 8-9 (only had 2) and adding in a bunch of basil to make up for the lack of scapes. Note: roasting the scapes (toss in EVOO and cook at 350 F for about 25 minutes) makes the scapes taste a bit less pungent – a good thing, unless you love having super garlicky breath.

Saturday Dinner: Garlic scape and basil pesto tossed with pasta and crispy prosciutto. Fresh ricotta (made a second batch, I’m obsessed!), bread, and red wine.

Because it’s 4th of July weekend, I whipped up something patriotic for dessert. I followed a Betty Crocker recipe for Brownie ‘n Berries Dessert Pizza. The only change I made was using raspberry jam instead of apple butter and putting the jam on top of the cream cheese instead of using it as a fruit glaze. This dessert came together really quickly (boxed brownies, FTW) but it still looked impressive enough for a holiday picnic.

Sunday night dinner: chopped romaine, cucumber, dried cranberries, shredded rotisserie chicken, and TJ’s spicy peanut vinaigrette. With white wine and the remaining fresh ricotta and bread.

The final thing I prepared this weekend was crostini with roasted kholrabi, herb gremolita, and fresh mozzarella. The original Food 52 recipe was a little fussy, so I simplified it. You’re probably thinking kohlrabi, gremolita, WTF? But it’s not that crazy, I promise. kholrabi is a root vegetable that tastes sort of like a cabbage-broccoli hybrid. I had a bunch in last week’s CSA shipment that I needed to use up, so that’s why this strange veg is making an appearance. And a gremolita? Basically, it’s just a paste made of olive oil, salt, garlic, and herbs. I was worried about how the kohlrabi would be received at the picnic (I mean… Sofia and BT were bringing bison sliders and homemade apple pie!), but surprisingly people gobbled it up. I think the copious amounts of truffle salt and fresh mozzarella may have contributed to it’s success.

Monday pic-nic fare: Crostini with herb gremolita, roasted kholrabi, and fresh mozzarella

Thoughts on the whole exercise-guilt trip thing? Are your main reasons for exercising and running weight loss? Or something else?

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  • Your kohlrabi crostini were absolutely fabulous, and you have now inspired me to try cooking kohlrabi for myself. Delicious.
    As for the guilt thing, I am totally with you. Shape especially has been tweeting some ridiculous things lately, but all the major fitness publications do it from time to time, and it’s not okay. I hope you tweeted back at them that that’s not the reason you run. If we all make some noise about it, hopefully they’ll get the point that we don’t want messages that encourage disordered eating in our twitter feed. It’s such a bigger issue, though, and such a bigger battle. 
    Interested to see what everyone else has to say on this subject…
    Anyway, it was wonderful to see you yesterday, and I hope not so much time passes before our next encounter!

  • Katie

    Smart and delicious post! This made my morning.

  • I definitely enjoy weight loss/toned legs as the the side effects of running but personally I run to decompress and to feel strong! I feel very accomplished after each good run! I agree with you that a media powerhouse like Shape magazine should not encourage behavior like that.

  • Devon Crosby-Helms

    I completely agree with your perspective. I love the feeling of a hard-earned meal (like you mentioned Thanksgiving, perfect example) but I think when guilt starts being involved then there is definitely some disorder thinking/eating going on. My main motivation for running is the running itself and I find that if I try to focus on anything else that the motivation isn’t as strong.

    Sounds like some delicious eats!

  • i find all these mainstream women’s magazines to be spreading a somewhat unhealthy message – or maybe even a message that’s tailored to those who are overweight and legitimately need to be guilted into working out. so i guess some of this sensitivity can be attributed to our frame of reference as active, fit and sweet-toothed females – combination that though not unique, isn’t universal.

    aaaanyway, everything in this post looks delicious. liking the salad and brownie pie action. and the kohlrabi was awesome! or maybe i just really like truffle salt? i’m honestly not sure. 😛

  • Couldn’t agree more… I HATE that idea that you should feel guilty if you indulge or skip the gym.  That’s life…sometimes we eat well and work out consistently and sometimes we don’t.  I definitely run because it makes me feel amazing, and when I skip a few days and feel crappy, it just reaffirms how much running adds to my life. 

  • Great post and message – I definitely agree. I have to admit that I do feel *better* about indulging after a hard/long run (you know I love my post-race rewards!!) but I like to consider indulging as a reward – rather than guilt if I don’t work out – I guess it’s a positive spin on it. 
    My personal plan is to keep it healthy during the week, and “go for it” on the weekends 🙂 Works for me and keeps me balanced – still staying healthy but enjoy all myself.

  • Anonymous

    good point, Sofia. i sometimes forget that not everyone works out and loves vegetables as us “healthy-living bloggers” do. if you’re just beginning to make lifestyle changes, i suppose (?) a certain level of guilt might get your butt out the door. 

    and yes, the truffle salt is amazzzzing. i am going to put it on everything 🙂

  • I love this post! It drives me bonkers when I see tweets or hear people talk like that. I run because it’s awesome, fun, and I like challenging myself. And I really can’t imagine NOT running, you know? I always look forward to running, and I think it’s kind of hard to feel guilty for missing a workout that way, because there’s always a good reason. To me it seems the people that feel guilty for skipping something usually don’t want to do it that much in the first place.

    Truffle salt = nom nom nom. The crostini was delicious!

  • Anonymous

    yes, i agree! if you truly love doing something, then you won’t skip it for
    just any old reason.

    now, if only i could get my body to like waking up early…that would help
    me enjoy morning runs even more 🙂 thanks again for the company today!

  • J (morning runner)

    I think my main reason for running and exercising is so that I feel good.  I just feel so much better once I run.  And I feel bad when I miss yoga class at the gym only because I know how good I will feel afterwards.  But life gets in the way and sometimes I cant make it to every class or go run every day and I am ok with it.

  • Katherine Hefter

    I completely agree with you and I’m disappointed that Shape would post something like that. They really should know better. Plus, I personally (with no nutrition/health professional background) don’t think it’s a successful mindset to compare miles to food consumption if you’re trying to lose weight – there’s a ton of other factors that come into play such as your metabolism and WHAT you’re eating. That being said, sure I may focus on the pizza and wine I’m eating after a run, but if I ran 4 miles instead of the 6 planned, I’d enjoy the food just as much 🙂

  • Katherine Hefter

    I completely agree with you and I’m disappointed that Shape would post something like that. They really should know better. Plus, I personally (with no nutrition/health professional background) don’t think it’s a successful mindset to compare miles to food consumption if you’re trying to lose weight – there’s a ton of other factors that come into play such as your metabolism and WHAT you’re eating. That being said, sure I may focus on the pizza and wine I’m eating after a run, but if I ran 4 miles instead of the 6 planned, I’d enjoy the food just as much 🙂

  • Thanks for sharing your perspective on this. I hate how many non-runners are quick to draw a connection between running and getting skinny. In college (before I had the marathon goal within reach), I definitely loved working out, though I admittedly did it mainly to ward off the freshman 15 without kicking my sweet tooth. But these days, racing is definitely more for the sense of accomplishment. That’s also why I only have a handful of running blogs (yours included!) that I read regularly– so many running bloggers’ posts are way too diet and calorie-centric for my liking, and that will keep me from coming back.

  • I agree. Even though I joke a lot about how I need to run to earn my ice cream, the main motivation I lace up my shoes every day isn’t to “eat.” Its to achieve a new PR, to go chat with friends, to get some nervous energy out, to enjoy the scenery and listen to good music…being able to eat ice cream most every day is just an extra bonus. I never stuck with running when it was just “exercise.” Once I turned it into a sport or competition, I’ve never stopped since. 

  • Great post! That sort of stuff drives me mad. Yes exercise can sometimes be good for losing weight, but hands down it is way better for increasing good mood vibes and happy endorphins and for getting out and discovering the world you live in – why can’t people figure that out already? Thanks for sharing … and my god, the brownies and berries dessert, I think I need to wipe the drool off my chin!

  • I can definitely be guilty of the whole “I didn’t work out today so I shouldn’t splurge” mentality, but lately I’ve tried to work even harder at letting go of that way of thinking.  Now I work out because it makes me feel good and I know it’s part of what I have to do to stay healthy instead of trying to earn a free pass to gorge on whatever I want.  Just because I skipped kickboxing doens’t mean I can’t have ice cream after dinner, but it definitely tastes better when you know you worked hard that day. 

  • Being able to indulge occasionally is a nice side effect of working out, but it is not my main motivation, nor should it be anyone’s.  If you want to lose weight, yes, it will help to work out, but the bigger factor is focusing on what you are putting into your body, and for many, a life style change.  

    My main motivation for exercising is the enjoyment, the sore muscles, the friends and the challenge.  I really enjoy setting goals for myself and working to break through them, and then set new goals, whether it is a distance to run, a weight to lift or a time to break.  Though I will admit, not feeling so guilty about the brownie is nice.  

    Like someone said, many of the magazines, particularly those aimed at women, are all about the need to lose weight and not be content with where you are.  There are some good tips and ideas, but I don’t like to read them because that is not who I am–I am active, fit and eat relatively well.  I don’t think guilt is the way to motivate those who need a lifestyle change though.  It makes it seem too difficult and not attainable, which means people won’t try at all.  Making many small changes seem easy would be the better way.  

  • Trying To Heal

    I totally agree with your opinion on that tweet, that is not the kind of idea we should be putting in people’s heads!  We don’t need that kind of guilt from eating while we’re celebrating!

  • Definitely agree with your opinion on the tweet! People ask me all the time, “so you run marathons, does that mean you can drink and eat whatever you want?” Usually I just laugh and say no, but now I’m starting to tell them how stupid that question really is.

  • Firstly, that dessert and berry pizza looks DIVINE! Must make soon!

    I work out because of how it makes me feel afterwards. I think it’s hard to exercise consistently if you don’t have a non-aesthetic motivator (as you quoted in the study above). I always marvel at the often unhealthy messages being relayed by the ‘big wig’ health magazines like Shape and Fitness. But I  also agree with Sofia in that their intent may just to be provide any kind of message to get people moving.

  • Great rant! (and beautiful pie!)

    I haven’t been running regularly for a few months now. I can tell you that runner’s high is WAY more motivating than the guilt I’ve been feeling instead. I find negative emotions only create more negativity.

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  • Go garlic scapes! I get kholrabi in my share today, will probably have to play with this crostini idea. I made more garlic scape pesto last week and put it on pizza (amazing)… the question is what to do with this week’s batch 😉

    I wonder if the whole reason to run thing has something to do with when running (or any exercise) first became a part of your life. I started to run way before I knew what calories, or things like weight and body issues, really were. I’d run 2 miles with my dad, I’d go to 4th grade track practice and hang out with my friends. And then I ran competitively for years. If you come at it from that angle, it naturally offers so much more, and isn’t automatically associated with weight/food/etc. Just another reason why I think getting kids running (within reason) is awesome.

  • Dad

    Delectible goodies! Love the patriotic pizza!

    Great rant too. Agree that all too often media spin/focus is a guilt trip targeting women and their weight instead of comprehensive wellness of body and mind. Perhaps they do this because it drives revenue. Hmmmm….

    Why not publish a “Runner’s Kitchen” magazine with contributing articles from like-minded colleagues? Your’s is an under addressed demographic with a wide open niche market. Thoughts????

  • Corey @ runner’s cookie

    Thank you so much for writing about this, Megan. The guilt-inducing messages about working out seem to be popping up more and more (in major media but also everyday conversation), and it really bothers me too. I find it to be an extremely unhealthy message, and as someone who has worked with ED populations, I find it ridiculously frustrating that young girls are growing up thinking that they need to “earn” their food at the gym.
    I think you put it perfectly when you said that the selling point of working out should be feeling strong, de-stressed and accomplished. Certainly exercise is a great weight loss tool, but personally I think it always needs to go along with a healthy outlook.
    (And your dessert pizza looks fantastic!!)

  • CWB

    I actually am not surprised that shape magazine would tweet something like this. I think that this is completely in their mission–look at the title of the magazine, after all. It is clearly made for women who want to diet and exercise to look good.

  • Anonymous

    good point – i just took a look at the Shape website and it’s covered with articles about the lowest calorie foods and losing inches. i guess i’m just frustrated with the mission of many “lady magazines” (i know i’m not the only one). i feel like there’s so much negativity involved. i suppose i could boycott this type of media, but i enjoy reading the mags for the most part. when Shape, Fitness, and Self aren’t touting weight loss, they actually have some good articles and healthy recipes. le sigh.

  • Anonymous

    yes! i joined the track team in junior high (before i even knew what a calorie was) and my first memories of exercise/running involve hanging out with my friends and team bus trips to track meets. thinking about that makes me want to get involved with NYRR’s youth running program…

  • oh, i am right there with you on this. i exercise because it makes me feel awesome. i rarely have to psych myself up for it, and i never struggle with taking rest days or giving myself a break because i do it for fun, for stress release, for “me” time, for endorphins, for a challenge.  i wish there was a mainstream media outlet that celebrated that way of thinking (maybe your dad is onto something with the runners kitchen mag idea haha). i guess we live in an image- and diet-obsessed society, so a side effect of that is that the media always lumps exercise into the image and diet category.  it took me a long time to realize exercise is so much more, and i think that’s partially a product of simply never being in an environment where people exercised for a different reason. of course, that’s not to say that i don’t enjoy the aesthetic benefits of being active, but i gave up thinking “5 miles = pie tonight” a long time ago.  people who do need to lose weight might be more encouraged to start exercising if everyone was saying, “this will make you feel amazing!” rather than “don’t eat your pie if you don’t go to the gym!”

    i guess i wish we could all just celebrate things rather than lament them.  can’t we talk about how food is delicious and exercise is fun and leave the guilt behind?  this is why i love us and our friends.  speaking of, i thought your kohlrabi crostinis came out great – perfect picnic fare!

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  • Found your blog through Sofia…glad to have found it. 🙂

    I know that a lot of us exercise because it feels good [I swear, almost every time I run I smile and think about how confident it makes me feel], but a lot of people exercise to stay slim, to lose weight, or to think they can have another glass of wine or eat another piece of cake. I’ve heard things like that even from my friends who run or workout regularly. It’s too bad our culture hasn’t yet focused on other positives of exercise…endorphin highs, health, meeting people.

    Yay for homemade ricotta! I made a big batch last week, and hope to make some more tonight or tomorrow.

  • I have to admit, sometimes I feel better about indulging in a treat if I’ve completed a hard run or workout earlier in the day, but in general, I definitely agree that exercising just to offset calories is completely wrong thinking. It doesn’t work and that saturated fat and sugar is still bad for your body whether or not you ran 5 miles before you ate it. Obviously exercise is a major component of losing weight, but the ultimate goal should be to be generally healthy, not just to get a lower number on the scale. Exercising should be fun, not a way to feel guilt free.

  • Random question-where was the music video you posted not that long ago. It was a really upbeat song, female singer, and I heard it in cycle class last night and remembered listening to it on one of your posts. I tried to go back and find it but maybe you could help me out because I’d like to download it. 🙂 thanks!

  • Anonymous

    hmm, it might have been Robyn’s “Dancing on My Own”?

  • Andra Hibbert

    Yes. Thank you so much for writing this. As someone recovering from an ED and loving running for running it’s so frustrating to have it co-opted by that BS.

  • Dina Friedman

    I think exercise so I can eat “bad” foods or because I feel bad about myself if I don’t is verging on disordered thinking. Eating healthy is important to me but I’m not perfect and indulging in dessert/white bread/beer is not something I would beat myself up about. 

    That being said, exercising because it makes you feel good, you have a goal you want to reach, or because you enjoy it will make it a lot easier to actually doing it. If it’s a chore or work or I am only doing it so I can eat nachos would make it much more difficult to stay motivated.  

  • Oh my goodness! Great post! My number one pet peeve is when group fitness instructors say things like “just think about those extra glasses of win you had last night” or “work extra hard for that piece of cake” WHAT?  How about just working hard for the sake of feeling good?  If an instructor starts saying things about working hard to eat ‘treats’ I don’t go back to his/her class.  There aren’t many classes I attend more than once.  So sad. 

  • Healthyeverythingtarian

    ugh, guilt trips. seriously, when are people going to stop doing this? not only does it make people crazy, but it just sets people up for cycles of obsessive/not healthy behavior. okay, consider my rant over now too 🙂