If you’re burning more calories than you’re taking in by cranking up your exercise, you should notice nice, steady weight loss. But there’s often a glitch in thinking when people ramp up their exercise. Some people feel they deserve a reward for their increased efforts, and more often than not that reward is edible—it’s something I like refer to as “marathon syndrome.”

When I look at the food journals of my clients who are training for a marathon, I often see pancakes, cookies, and other extras the day they complete a long run. I’m open to some additional calories after a 20-mile run, but I’ve noticed similar rewards in the journals of clients who have logged much lighter workouts—hence, “marathon syndrome.” Here’s how it works.

You Think You Need to Fuel Before & After

Another part of “marathon syndrome” is the notion that you need pre-workout and post-workout fueling. If you’re exercising for more than an hour, or if your session will last multiple hours, you should certainly factor in pre-, post-, and during-workout nutrition. But if you’re only spending 30 minutes on the elliptical, c’mon.

You Think of Food as a Reward

If weight loss isn’t your goal, “marathon syndrome” may not be a major problem for you. However, if you’re interested in dropping a few pounds, or if you notice you’re gaining weight despite an increase in effort, that’s another story. I work with clients on their self-talk. If I can help them see getting fit and lean, or slimming down, as the “prize,” sometimes it’s possible to skip the post-workout treat. Pre-planning meals and snack on more intense workout days can also help you avoid impulsive decisions.

There’s nothing wrong with having a treat or a snack, as long as you don’t think of it as a reward for working out. After all, love handles aren’t rewarding.