5 Ways To Avoid The Gym Trap: Work Harder In The Kitchen Than In The Gym

Standing in front of my daughter’s school for afternoon pickup, I was approached by another mom.

Other Mom: “Are you a personal trainer? I am looking for someone to come to my house to train me a few times a week. I just can’t lose weight as I used to after having my son a year ago.”

Me: “I am not a trainer. I am a nutrition coach.” She went on to ask more questions and I responded with answers about macro nutrition, effort, and a general focus on kitchen effort.

Other Mom: “Oh no…that is way too hard for me,” she replied. “I don’t have the discipline and time to pay attention to my diet. I’d rather just go to the gym.”

I politely wished her great success in finding someone to work with and hoped she got the results she was looking for by “just going to the gym.”

Here’s the deal people — that just won’t get you where you want to go. The best results come from a combination of work in the kitchen and in the gym. I was frustrated. Frustrated for her because I wanted so badly to tell her that if she would actually invest in fueling her body that the gym pressure would be relieved. That if she invested time and hard work in learning how to form good eating habits that she wouldn’t fall victim to the “gym trap.” That her money would be better spent on good quality food and finding someone to show her a sustainable eating approach than on a personal trainer.

What is the “Gym Trap”?

The gym trap is something I am all too familiar with. It is that black hole of treadmill running, back-to-back cardio classes, and lifting to try to justify the late night pizza and beer sessions and all day chips and salsa benders. Oh, I’ve been there many times and can 100% relate. I used to pig out on Barro’s pizza and wings and Cold stone ice cream and then go run for hours to try and find balance. It wasn’t healthy and it never worked.

Here is what I’ve realized: 2 hours of cardio in the gym is much easier than 12 hours of daily discipline in the kitchen for most people. It used to be for me too. But it never bred real results.

You Can’t Out-Train A Poor Diet

It is a saying I’ve heard in the past but never truly listened to. I was oblivious for a long time thinking I was eating to fuel my body only to blow that hard work with repeated binging habits.  No wonder I was getting nowhere no matter how many miles I ran or how much weight I lifted.

(Want to learn how to fill your body with real food to look and feel your best? Check out my Feel Amazing Naked challenge by clicking here.)

If You Don’t Know Where You Are, Then You Don’t Know Where To Go

Here was my problem: I really had no idea of what my caloric intake was. I thought I was eating “clean” and that my binges were so minor they wouldn’t affect my progress. “It’s only one day,” I thought.  I will work out even harder this week. And that pattern repeated itself over and over again.

I had resolved myself to think that the girls in fitness magazines were content with starving themselves. I was never gonna be that girl I thought, I love food way too much for that. So, I pretended to be content with where I was, act confident, and eat on.

When I actually began to look deeper into what I was really eating it was eye opening.  In fact, my 3 mile moderate paced run was burning roughly 300 calories and was completely negated by my 2-3 tablespoons of almond butter a daily habit because I really had no food awareness.

I had no idea how much each scoop of nut butter, although a great fat, was adding up to. Or how much each pump of mocha syrup in my coffee really meant to my body. No wonder I saw ZERO progress!

If I didn’t know what I was actually eating how could I ever reach my goals? 

It is so basic. I was a science teacher for goodness sake. I taught my students every year that we had to have a baseline to measure against to understand if the variables we are changing are actually affecting the outcome.

Why would my diet be any different?

I had to go back to the beginning and find out my food baseline until I could ever know how to make progress.

I encourage you to do the same. Begin to track your intake by writing it in a journal or even better recording it in an app like MyFitnessPal to truly see where you are. My clients gain so much value in that very first step of becoming food aware by learning what they are really putting into their bodies.

Basic Principle of Scale Loss

The most basic principle of losing weight is a discussion of calories in versus calories out.

If you eat more than you use then you won’t see that scale shift.

That includes your daily fitness activity, your own metabolic rate, but also your resting metabolism, called N.E.A.T.  All are critical components to scale progress and contribute to that calorie out component.

Find What Works For You For The Long Haul

Once you know where you are, you can begin to hunt for the healthy lifestyle that works for you. Not the typical fad diet that lasts 30 days and then you gain all the weight back.

You want a healthy lifestyle that actually teaches you how to become “food aware.” The one that teaches you how to navigate life through vacations, social situations and date nights. It gives you skills to make choices in those situations to support your goals.

There is no “one-size-fits-all” approach to finding nutritional sustainability.  The value of knowing where you are and what you are putting into your body is a perfect springboard to finding the size that does fit you.

Food Awareness Is Priceless

I know that tracking food for the rest of your life using an app is not for everybody.  But here’s what is: learning food awareness so that you know how to eat balanced portions, create meal balance, plan ahead, and become a proactive eater over a reactive one.

I have seen clients pay over $500 per month for weight loss centers and supplements. Their success is extremely short term until they enter back into the real world eating real food.

Like learning any new skill, food awareness takes time and effort. But I guarantee its value is lifelong and priceless.

Enhance Your Relationship

Ok not what you’re thinking…but close.

Working out should be a stress reliever. A thing you enjoy doing, not a thing you do to justify or offset food intake. By being in control of your food you enhance your relationship with the gym.

(Ready to avoid the gym trap and instead work out because you love it? Check out my Feel Amazing Naked challenge by clicking here.)

I have been a chronic exerciser my whole life. My freshmen year of college is when it began. I was in a new place, with new food, new people, and a major fear of gaining the “Freshman Fifteen.” I didn’t realize it then but I was obsessed. I was running through the snow to the gym to only run more on a treadmill. It did relieve my stress but the heavy feeling in my chest if I missed a day was a burden. I carried that feeling with me for a long time until I finally found a sustainable way of eating.

When you combine diet and exercise your results are enhanced. But what I’ve found is that when my diet was finally in check I didn’t feel so obligated to exercise. I began to enjoy it even more. Working out finally became something I chose to do and not always something I felt I had to do.  Now if I miss a day, I have zero anxiety about it and that feels so liberating.

By gaining control and putting the effort into how you fuel your body you too can avoid the “gym trap.”  Think about your relationship with fitness and food and where your energy is best spent. Invest those hours of hard work in the kitchen too so it pays dividends the rest of your life.

Do you think it’s easier to be food aware or work out?

Work Hard Be Kind,


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