Don’t Earn Your Food in the Gym’ and Six Other Lessons I Wish I’d Learned Sooner

Don’t Earn Your Food in the Gym’ and Six Other Lessons I Wish I’d Learned Sooner

I heard this saying recently: “Don’t Earn Your Food in the Gym.” It’s haunted my ears since. So many of us think this way, like we’re eight years old again and if we do our work, then we get a cupcake.

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The concept of food as a treat is baked into our society. I’m not immune to this concept and, before I learned to love lifting iron for the sake of how it made me feel (versus the way it made me look), I was much more of an outcome-motivated gal. I was in that gym thinking that an extra set of this or more time doing that allowed me to eat more. I was earning my food in the gym.1_1

But those days are gone now. Why? Because I do what I love and I let those old proverbial chips fall where they may. I’m deadlifting and squatting (and doing all sorts of other things) because I love how strong and powerful these movements makes me feel. The fact that those deadlifts work my glutes and make my butt look firmer? Icing on that cake that I’m not eating. (I’m not a big cake fan. Go figure. Chocolate chip cookies, however, have taken my virtue many times.)1_2

Back to earning/not earning your food, though. The road to an invincible mindset that can lead you to success in nutrition and exercise and so many areas of your life? That road starts in your mind, as well as your body. You need to get your head and your butt in gear. Clear thinking plus movement is the road, and you need to get on that road.


So, reorder your thoughts. Earn your strength in the gym. You don’t have to earn your food. You’re not a dog dancing for treats. You’re an independent badass uncovering even more awesomeness inside you. If you want a sustainable lifestyle that will unlock your potential and supercharge your happiness, then you need to prioritize your mind: fuel your body to increase your performance, instead of increasing your performance in order to fuel your body.

Some other things I’ve learned that I wish I’d known sooner:

1.) I’m happier and more focused when I’m not starving.


Who can concentrate when your stomach is rumbling and all you can think about is getting something to eat? These are the weak points in your day, when you’re distracted by hunger. Better to eat smartly and keep your body fueled. Now your mind can stay on the task in front of you.

2.) Food is the original “5-hour Energy.”


I didn’t come up with this saying, but I’m a believer. So many products out there that you can buy, but they’re all variations on the basic stuff our bodies need: food for fuel. Plan your day, plan your meals, and set yourself up for success, not failure. Be smart.

3.) Most of us are not eight years old anymore, so we don’t need motivation designed for that age.


Food is not a treat for being a good girl or boy. This is tremendously freeing when you really think about it. If you have to propel yourself with the treat mentality (because you like it or you’re used to it), just pick something else. Run a mile and your treat is back squats. Finish your workout and your treat is a nap. Learn to pick different treats, and rewire your own thoughts. You’re not eight years old so you get to set the rules (and the treats) now!

4.) Naps are more useful than cupcakes.


Who doesn’t like naps? Plus, sleep helps repair your body and get you stronger. Win win. Next time you’re faced with the choice of cupcakes or naps, pick the nap. It will do far more for you than any cupcake ever could.

5.) Guilt helps no one, and it definitely does not help your deadlift.


If guilt built strength, we’d all be lifting 900 pounds. But it doesn’t. Stop beating yourself up about what you’ve done. Just do better now. Your last decision may have been poor, but this next one? It could be spot on. Make it so.

6.) Life is more fun if you’re not miserable.


There are enough things in life that will beat you down. You can’t control everything. So control what you can: your attitude. Set yourself up for success by adopting a mindset that will lead to success. Make smart, healthy choices. And if you veer off your path? Correct your course, and get back on the right path. Don’t earn your food in the gym. Perform in the gym. Fuel your body for life, and go kick some butt.