I hear people say sometimes “I only exercise when I’m doing something fun” or “I don’t eat healthy because I like to enjoy my food.”
But does exercise need to be fun? Does food always have to be enjoyable?
In my opinion, no. Let me explain.
First off, some definitions (my own):
Recreation: something physical that is done for enjoyment (hiking, recreational biking, swimming)
Sport: something done competitively or for fun as a part of a game (basketball, tennis)
Exercise/training: something done repetitively in order to achieve a result like weight loss, increased strength, or increased performance (working out, strength training, conditioning running)
Now back to the main idea.
Things that we do for recreation should absolutely be fun like going out for hikes, walks around the park with the dog, biking, swimming in a pool, etc. Also, playing sports with friends for friendly competition should be enjoyable as well.
When it comes to training, however, I don’t think “fun” is a necessary part of the equation.
Maybe some people who work out regularly may agree with me, but I don’t necessarily enjoy going to the gym 5-6 times a week. If I didn’t have a reason to go (weight loss, better body composition, increased longevity, better energy, and health), I wouldn’t go. It is not fun and I don’t get the same enjoyment as I would playing basketball with friends or biking on the beach.
When I train in the gym, it is to increase performance, not have fun.
A counterpoint people may argue is that they “feel good” after a workout, and therefore it motivates them to keep coming back. But this isn’t what I’m referencing.
This “feel good” is a combination of your brain releasing BDNF (Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor – I just googled this) that has a protective and reparative element during moments of stress (physical/mental) that gives you that ease/clear feeling after exercise.
Exercise also releases endorphins, which is another chemical to fight stress and minimize discomfort during exercise. This blocking of pain can be associated with a feeling of euphoria.
So yes, this “feel good” result can become a great addiction that forms a good habit. However, this doesn’t mean the exercise itself should be fun or enjoyable.
In fact, I found that the more I push myself in tougher training sessions, the reward centers in my brain trigger afterward. Not only do I enjoy the physiological rush of the chemicals swirling around my brain, but the mental reward of knowing I pushed through a tough workout (see my blog post about why Fitness Bootcamp is the Worst Thing Ever).
My main point: exercise doesn’t have to be fun. Its purpose is to create a result. Though, the after-effects can be addicting in a good way.
Now onto food.
What I say next will definitely be blasphemous to at LEAST 80% of the people who read this, if not more.
“Food does not have to be enjoyable either.”
Let me explain.
Similar to how training is a form of physical activity where enjoyment is not a necessary part of the equation, I don’t believe everything you eat has to be enjoyable or taste amazing.
I find this especially true as I go through my own journey of nutrition, trying out new diets and experimenting with what works with me.
I split the food I eat into 2 categories:
- food to create a result (better body composition)
- food to enjoy and savor (great experiences)
I’ve been meal prepping what I eat for the past several years now, and my main staples have evolved over time as I’ve learned how to cook more things.
Overall, however, my food would absolutely be considered “bland”, “tasteless”, and “boring”.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t purposefully make the healthy meals I meal prep taste bland or unenjoyable. But the main idea is:
I don’t focus on trying to make it taste amazing.
My two main focuses when I craft my diet are: will this make me feel good and will it help me achieve my goal?
And because I focus on these things, trying new recipes, adding new spices, or things that will flavor my food more aren’t as big of a concern to me.
I find several benefits in me eating what many might consider “bland” meal prep food.
- It has trained my mind that I don’t need to enjoy everything I eat. It “lowers my standards” in a sense of my taste buds so I don’t feel unhappy if what I meal prep every week doesn’t blow me away.
- It simplifies my cooking/prepping process significantly. Because I don’t have to worry about changing up my meals, trying out new ingredients, or buying extra food items, it makes my prep process extremely efficient and takes up less of my mental energy.
- It makes food taste AMAZING when I do go out and eat something I know I’ll enjoy. It’s the idea that because I don’t have high expectations or a lot of flavors, it exponentially increases how much I savor the food when I do go outside of my diet (friends will attest how much I LOVE desserts and sweets when going out)
My main point: there are many benefits to not wanting everything you eat to be amazing. But if you’re like me and have a purpose for eating a healthy diet, you may understand where I’m coming from. For me, the result is more important than the need for every bite rock my world.
If it isn’t apparent, my aim isn’t to convince you or argue that my perspective is “right”. I’m simply digesting my own thoughts that I’ve had on this subject given my own fitness & nutrition journey so far. This is just my perspective.
Honestly, I’m curious to hear your thoughts!
Do you agree? Do you disagree?
Let me know 😊