Have you ever been tempted to indulge a little because you have been working out hard? It’s an easy thing to rationalize. If you have just pushed yourself to the limit on the treadmill for forty-five minutes, you can at least grab a chocolate shake on the way home.

You’ve earned it, right?

Actually, no. Although many people operate on the assumption that they can cancel out their dessert habit with a daily spin on the elliptical trainer, it simply does not work that way in reality. It can come as quite a shock to learn just how many calories can lurk within our favorite foods.

For example, a workout of moderate intensity will burn about 300-400 calories in sixty minutes. During that workout, you have worked hard, raised your heart rate up and sweated quite a bit. Congratulations! That kind of work deserves a pat on the back.

But if you try to use that workout to justify a treat, you will likely come up short. For example, a couple of glazed donuts from Starbucks pack a whopping 840 calories! That is more than twice what you managed to burn during your hour of effort at the gym. Is that a good trade? You will have to decide whether more than two solid hours of intense exercise is worth the three or four minutes it takes you to eat a couple of donuts.

The truth is you cannot lose weight by simply exercising. That is not to say that exercise is not important. It is. In fact, exercise is a great way to keep the weight off that you have already lost. But few people can exercise enough to justify over eating; you simply cannot expend that much energy. The extra calories will be stored as fat. And it is a lot harder to get the fat off your body than it is to put it on.

This is not to say that you cannot indulge occasionally. Of course you can. But understand it is a treat—an exception. It should not happen very often, and your indulgence should be in moderation.

And make sure that you know exactly how many calories you are eating when you choose your treat. Hidden calories can sabotage your diet. Once you know how many calories are in that double scoop of ice cream, you can decide whether you really want to eat it or not. You may learn that you can be just as satisfied with one scoop and be happy to have less fat being stored on your body!