Remove "Deserve" From Your Fitness Vocabulary

Cara Kobernik

Section Editor

Roseburg, Oregon, United States

CrossFit, Running


Good angel on one shoulder, bad angel on the other. One little voice whispers to you that you can do something, the other that you can’t. One insists that you want something, but the other reminds you that you shouldn’t have it. We all face the internal struggle to make good choices while weighing the options. We all have this internal dialogue.


“I deserve” are perhaps the two most dangerous words in fitness. On the one hand, it can be the appropriate recognition of diligent work. But far too often, we use it as a license; a shield to hide ourselves from the consequences of choices that we know aren’t in line with our goals.



The “Worthy” Fallacy

There are many athletes who have their nutrition dialed in. They may be tempted by the “I deserve” mentality, but they resist wavering from the nutrition goals they’ve set. How do they do this? They possess a high degree of discipline, which takes practice to achieve. Or perhaps they had an experience with weight loss that has permanently shifted their mindset, because the idea of going back to their prior weight is not an option for them.


Remove "Deserve" From Your Fitness Vocabulary - Healthy Eating, nutrition, motivation, mindset, accountability, dieting, meal prep, decision fatigue, choices


This is one case where the dictionary can be instructive with our mindset. Merriam-Webster defines deserve as “to be worthy of, merit, fit or suitable for reward.” When we apply the phrase “to be worthy of” to the pan of brownies, it seems a little weird, right? Am I worthy enough to eat the brownies?


The mentality that we are, or are not, worthy enough to consume any food becomes a dangerous mindset, when it comes to nutrition. It is a concept that can equally encourage eating too much or too little. Many of us have such a poorly formed concept of ourselves and our worth that the chances of accurately applying “I deserve” to our nutrition are next to zero. For that reason, I think it is best to purge those words from your vocabulary.


How to Rid Yourself of “I Deserve”

I work with an amazing dietician who has taught me so much about my mentality when it comes to my personal nutrition and goals. Her approach is not about dieting; it’s about lifestyle, and creating a reasonable, manageable nutrition plan that can be maintained and incorporated into the average person’s life for long term health. The following items are my takeaway points from the conversations she and I have had. Instead of chasing the concept of what I deserve, I focus on the following points:




Plan Your Meals and Treats

Meal planning and prep are sometimes not very fun. But they are really important if you have training and fat loss goals, or even if you are looking to maintain where you currently are. Having food purchased and prepared for your week relieves stress and anxiety, because you will know exactly what you are to eat and when. Instead of making a half-dozen decisions a day on portion size or selecting healthy foods, you do it once, at the beginning of the week.


Don’t Make It Weird

If you’ve planned your nutrition for the week, you probably also know in advance that you have a friend’s birthday party at a brewery on Friday night. Have you planned your nutrition during the early part of the week to account for the beer and cupcake you will have on Friday night? If so, great! Enjoy the heck out of that beer and cupcake. If you haven’t worked the potential for additional food and drink into your nutrition for the week, then decide beforehand whether you are going to partake and go outside of your goal for the week, and then stick to your decision. Only you can decide what you are willing to have (or not) in a given social situation. If you need to politely decline at the party, do it. But don’t make it weird and go into detail about your nutritional goals for the week to uninterested listeners who are having beer and cupcakes at the party. If you’ve decided that you are going to have the beer and cupcake, keep it reasonable, and don’t decide in the moment to have 10 beers and 7 cupcakes. Remember your goals in that moment.


Use Moderation

News Flash: Food is delicious. There are world-renowned restaurants for a reason. If you are going to your favorite restaurant, have your favorite meal while you’re there. Life is meant to be enjoyed! But if you know your nutrition has been off all week, and that dinner comes with a side of anxiety, then adjust your mindset accordingly.


Be Accountable Outside of Yourself

Having likeminded friends when it comes to training and nutrition is one of the most valuable assets you can have. I have a friend who works with the same dietitian, so I message her when I’m struggling, or proud, or just having a frustrating day. Friends to offer support or cheer you on can help you feel like you’re not alone with your nutritional goals.


Focus on Your Goals

Where does your nutrition fall in line with your goals? Are you willing to compromise your goals that day, or that week, to have what you want? If so, then decide and be prepared to own that decision. If you know that you have to run 10 miles the next day, the deep-fried fish basket may not be the best choice. That doesn’t mean never to have the fish basket, it just means there is a better time in your training plan to have it. Think outside the present moment. That perspective may help make many decisions for you.


Nobody Deserves Candy

If you incorporate one or all of the above concepts, I believe you can get yourself out of the “I deserve” spiral. Enjoying food is important. Instead of deserving, enjoy. Instead of earning, enjoy. Don’t work out in order to eat candy. Sit on that beanbag chair eating Cheetos every now and again, and please, don’t do burpees afterwards.


By replacing the emotional reaction with an objective assessment, you’ll place yourself in a position to make more rational decisions and reinforce positive behavior more consistently.

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