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Hey there - you've got Vanessa this week.

As I write this, I’m about to participate in a running event for which I’ve spent almost 5 months training, and I maaaaay have felt the need to do a little bit of shopping for race-specific clothes. If you google “women’s running shirts,” you’ll quickly notice an entire category of apparel linking running with food and beverages: I run for donuts, I run for wine, I run for queso, I thought you said RUM, you name it. And sure, these items may generate a chuckle, but have you ever stopped to consider the actual message they are conveying? Do we want to live in a society where we justify our food and drink choices with our workouts?

Food and exercise are too often unhealthily bound in our culture. “Cute” or “funny” t-shirts like the above only further the confusion between the two, suggesting that if you don’t eat the donut or queso, you can run less and if you do, then you have to exercise to burn it off. I can remember thinking this way even as a teenager. And unfortunately, we’ve probably all seen how this pattern of thinking extends past just linking exercise and food to linking all behaviors with food: “If I don’t eat anything today, I’m doing really well on my diet,” etc.

So, how do we begin to change this? Instead of exercising to burn calories or lose weight, start exercising because of the positive health and mood benefits you see. Instead of forcing yourself to do X days of cardio and X days of weight-training, start to explore movement that feels good in your body. This shift in mindset allows exercise to become more enjoyable, less stressful and ends up being something to look forward to, rather than dread. Practicing this kind of joyful movement can help you start to nurture a healthier relationship with exercise and your body.

When we separate food and exercise from each other, as well as from weight loss, we become kinder to ourselves and ultimately healthier altogether.