Should Diet and Exercise Be Fun?

Does eating healthy and working out have to be enjoyable?

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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:

  1. food to create a result (better body composition)
  1. 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”.

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This was my meal prep 1 year ago when I was following the keto diet.

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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 😊

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7 thoughts on “Should Diet and Exercise Be Fun?”

  1. I disagree with this premise. First off for what you admitted in your post, I do just find it fun. But for my clients and others, I think there can be an element of fun that makes you want to keep coming back. Perhaps one of the reasons people don’t like working out is because like other things they treat it like a chore. I just read something awesome from one of the trainers I follow – I am paraphrasing, but it was similar to this basically saying that not every workout needs to be ‘goal focused’ a client or person can just go work hard, sweat and feel accomplished. I think the fun aspect makes people want to keep coming back and keep reaching for their goals. There are tons of ways to mix up any exercise to freshen it up so you don’t feel like every Monday is chest day and every Tuesday is leg day when you work out. Just because you’re exercising, doesn’t mean it needs to be mundane. Maybe that routing aspect is also why people think it’s work. As for food – Why the hell would you NOT make it fun? Here’s the problem – people look at dieting as ‘cutting out”. They look at it with a deadline. Eating healthy and eating clean is easy. It’s one of those things people say “Yeah I know what to do.” So why the fuck are you not? Why are you giving into all your urges. Grab a few good seasonings and go make so good protein, wrap it up and you have dinners for the week. Go grab some real veggies and boom you have dinner. Eating healthy also does not have to be bland. That’s where more of the fun comes in – Go find some good healthy recipes! You spend time with the family and cook. This is what we do with our challenges at my gym here in Gaithersburg. MD. We teach people that eating clean is not just easy, but really simple. We get great results from our members. So yes, both of these can nd should be fun!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I totally get where you’re coming from. When clients see working out as a “chore” it puts them in a different mindset that doesn’t lead to results. And changing up the routines can add an element of “fun” or at least “variety”.

      I’ve done a few bootcamps before where they promote that “every workout is different”. Again, for me personally, I didn’t find these fun at all. Mostly as 45 minutes of torture, but with an element of surprise each time. BUT I was very happy with how I felt afterwards, having survived this grueling workout and all of the endorphins.

      I also don’t see anything wrong with the mundane. I brush my teeth, I eat, I take a shower, and put on clothes, I drive to work. All of it is mundane, but I do it out of habit and routine. And all if it is done to achieve a result, whether it be good hygene, or to get to work and be productive. My point is that its doesn’t have to be exciting, and that I personally don’t rely on “excitement” to do something. I do it because I know its good for me and I enjoy the results of my discipline and hard work.

      My philosophy is that if we rely on our feelings to move us to action, we would never accomplish anything. We need to ACT in order to create the feeling (or just develop a habit so you don’t have to think about it at all, and achieve the results seemingly without effort).

      With diet, its the same mental framework. I understand what you’re saying about making it “fun” or exciting. And how people say they know how to eat clean, but for some reason don’t. I know plenty of people who think like that, and I was the same way. But again, you’re operating off of the premise that “if were fun, people would actually DO it and stick with it, instead of ‘resisting’ and ‘cutting out'”.

      Again, I’m only operating on my personal experience and value system. I’ve done exactly that and couldn’t stick to it. Not because my meal prepped food wasn’t good, but because the allure of the “bad” food was so strong gratifying (all of the salt, sugar, processed carbs, and the signals that the bacteria in my stomach send to my brain to eat more), and we’re all evolved to love those things. So it wasn’t the lack of excitement with my healthy meals. They actually tasted great.

      What I finally found worked for me was portioning out and balancing the good with the bad. I found that the more consistent I was with eating clean, and the higher percentage of the time I ate clean vs unclean (as well as macro & calorie count), the better results I got. Then I developed the attitude that there’s nothing wrong with loving the bad food. In fact, I could eat the bad food and STILL see the results I wanted and feel good. So the paradigm shift in how I saw my “healthy” food shifted, that its a means to an end.

      On top of that, I didn’t really care about how “excited” I was to eat my healthy foods. I just wanted to make sure I didn’t cut out my “cheat foods”. This dramatically increased my retention to my diet. And I value results more than feelings (because why am I on a diet if I’m not going to get the results?).

      Again, I understand your points, and I don’t disagree. And I’m sure this process works wonderfully for you, your team, and your clients. This is simply my perspective given my journey and being happy with the results.

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      1. Look, whatever works for you. And believe me, I am not saying that I don’t like a good bench press/barbell squat/pullup workout. Those are good, important exercises that need to be done. But there are certainly many ways you can do them so you don’t do the same workout every day and every week. Not to mention, your body gets burned out and it’s good mix things up. You actually sound like you have a good positive attitude and are very focused – but you also need to remember that not everyone is you. There are things that come easier to some and not others. Making a workout a bit more fun helps.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I agree, and I’m not saying that non-strength training workouts outside of bench/squats/deadlifts/etc aren’t good. And I agree, its good to vary up workouts (I do myself, and I never proclaimed that I keep the same routine either).

        My main idea was that it doesn’t absolutely need to be “fun” or “exciting” all the time. I don’t have feelings of excitement when I workout, but I put 100% effort and I am self-motivated by relying on discipline and habit. I’m also motivated by results, so whatever is working for me, it makes me want to keep doing it.

        I appreciate the kind words. And yes, I fully acknowledged in my post that this is simply my own experience and perspective. I never said I was “right” or that there is ever a right way. Being a professional yourself, I’m sure you’re fully aware that what works for one client won’t necessarily work for all others.

        The same principle applies here. What works for your clients probably doesn’t work for me. I mentioned that I’ve done circuit training bootcamps, and it wasn’t my thing. And that’s totally acceptable.

        Just like there is no “one-size-fits-all” diet either. I think we’re both on the same page that people are different.

        Thanks for your input and insight! I really enjoyed our discussion and it was a great reminder to me that there are always different perspectives. I wish you and your clients continued success!

        Like

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