From now until New Year's Day, your schedule will likely be filled with traveling, family obligations, and festive outings that include all sorts of tempting holiday treats. It's no surprise that many of us notice that our waistlines expand during this season. But this year can be different.
Staying true to your fitness routine during the holidays may be the last thing on your mind; however, the following exercise and nutrition recommendations could be your best defense against stress, illness, and the dreaded holiday gain.
To help keep us on track, I've enlisted the aid of several colleagues—leading experts in health and fitness, diet, and nutrition—for some motivation and advice. Here are their secrets to staying in shape during the upcoming holiday season.
Emile Tujague is the owner of SMX Personal Training, located at 735 Octavia St., Uptown (one block from Whole Foods).
SMX was designed to provide an exercise protocol that delivers results far more efficiently, in just 30 minutes once or twice per week. The exercise protocol used at SMX revolves around very slow, controlled, and deliberate movements using exercise equipment that was designed for proper exercise execution as well as rehabilitation. Every moment of each session is closely monitored by a skilled exercise clinician. Tujague is looking forward to the opening of his new studio, Rogue Culture, located at 3138 Magazine St., Suite B, Uptown (across from Rum House).
“Most of us want to look really good in that new dress, at that special holiday party, and in the hundreds of permanent appearances you will make in photographs, both in picture frames and social media postings,” he said. “There is no question that when we know ahead of time that we will be exposing or presenting ourselves for such viewings,” Tujague added, we can prepare accordingly. “For example,” he said, “going to the beach can be very motivating to do what it takes to get yourself in gear.”
To combat the critical celebratory season, Tujague advised people to write down the party dates and keep those dates as reminders of what is coming up in the near future. “Although I adore food, I try to pass on little things that add up that aren’t particularly special, like Hershey’s kisses on the coffee table,” said Tujague. “I try to save my calories for the 'special' treat that my friend or family member slaved over all day to produce.”
April Dupre is a fitness and wellness expert and founder of Footprints To Fitness, a health and wellness company with a mission to help others and provide accessible services to everyone through a variety of programs, including fitness classes, workplace wellness, special events, and CPR training.
“Less is more,” said Dupre. “The body doesn't require as much food as most Americans think. Smaller portions and more frequent meals allow our bodies to become more balanced.” Also, “Spice it up,” Dupre added. “Your diet is huge, but so is your physical lifestyle. Don't just stick to the same boring workouts, attending the same classes, etc. Spice it up for life by creating muscle confusion. Try different styles of exercise.”
Moreover, Dupre advised to “Treat ya self!” “This is my personal motto and the motto of Footprints. We live in New Orleans! It's completely unrealistic to think that we're never going to eat unhealthy and drink, so why not accept our surroundings, but in moderation? Just don't overindulge on a regular basis. Your mind, body, spirit, and hips will thank you.”
Lindsey Stouder is a 26-year-old fitness instructor certified in group fitness and spin. She currently works for TOUR Cycle Studio and Hour Blast. TOUR Cycle Studio was the first indoor cycling boutique, located at 860 Tchoupitoulas St., started in November 2015. As a rhythmic-based cycle studio, the classes are fun, yet challenging, on and off the bike. Stouder also instructs high-intensity circuit training classes at Hour Blast, located at 105 Focis St., off Metairie Road, and at 5171 Citrus Blvd., Suite 2020, in the Elmwood area. Hour Blast is recognized for its serious hardcore, full-body workout that incorporates cardio (on treadmills) and strength training.
Stouder’s perspective on health and fitness is about finding your happiness. “Find what you love the most—run, dance, weights, yoga—and do it every day. I’ll promise you that you will feel a thousand times better, physically and mentally.”
Her three tips to battle the holiday bulge include the following:
- Indulge in moderation. Grab a smaller plate (and only fill it once) for your meal and use the two measuring cups attached to your body—your hands. Carbs, such as rice, pasta, and vegetables, should be equivalent to the size of your fist (one cup). Proteins should be able to fit in the palm of your hand, or three ounces per meal. Use them to help you fill your plate with the right amount of food.
- If you do overeat, then get up and walk. Avoid getting stuck on the couch after a heavy meal. Get your metabolism going by taking a nice walk down your street and back. It doesn’t have to be a power walk, but walking after large meals always helps digest your food better.
- It’s not a time to get lazy in the gym and wait till the new year to work on the “new you.” Amp up your game more during the holidays.
Although exercise may help ward off those unwanted pounds during the holidays, the other essential component is diet. Even if you think you consumed enough to feed Santa, Mrs. Claus, and all the reindeer, don't starve yourself to make up for it. Here are a few tips from two locally known dieticians to keep your eating on track:
“Negotiate with yourself,” said Molly Kimball, a registered dietician with Ochsner Fitness Center and Eat Fit NOLA. “Ask yourself if this is really worth it. Allow yourself to indulge, but stay away from everyday indulgences. Don’t be so hard on yourself. Get right back on track the next day.”
From Halloween to Christmas, holiday overeating and family feasts are inviting, with their sugary desserts, fancy cocktails, and buffet-style meals. If you are hosting the family gathering, Kimball recommendeds that you offer healthy options. “If you would like to serve the hot spinach dip for your guests, as an example, then you can make it a healthier option by mixing it with Greek yogurt instead of mayonnaise or cream cheese,” said Kimball. “For the creamier dips, you can use the reduced-fat Greek yogurt, which is very tasty.”
Another local registered and licensed dietician with 30 years’ experience, Blythe Peters, R.D.N., L.D.N., revealed her top-five recommendations to avoid sabotaging healthy eating during the holidays:
- Realize holiday foods and the quantities available are generally NOT served with healthy eating in mind, so having a PLAN to eat healthy is important.
- Set realistic and attainable GOALS, such as making room for an alcoholic beverage, a serving of dessert, or a serving of snack food. Reminder: Portion sizes are important
- Avoid saying that holiday weight gain is inevitable. Eating healthy during the holidays is about choices. Choosing the best for you will enable you to feel your best during and after the holiday season.
- Don't skip meals to save calories for later. This leads to overeating later during the day, which does not fit into a healthy eating plan.
- Try to view all the foods/beverages available before beginning to eat/drink. This gives you time to get an idea of what will fit into your healthy-eating plan and what can be avoided. Eating slowly and enjoying the food choices made will help you to feel full and satisfied, not deprived. “Mindful eating, also known as eating with purpose,” Peters said, “means taking two seconds and acknowledging the foods on the menu. You may say, ‘ooh, that looks good.’ Then take another two seconds and think about a better choice.” Peter emphasized that it only takes two seconds to make a decision.
So, why not take a healthier approach to what we eat during this holiday season, and beyond?
According to a recent survey, almost 20 percent of people say that it’s hard for them to eat healthy because they don’t want to stop eating their favorite foods. The good news is that you don’t have to. Rather, you can still enjoy your favorite occasional indulgences, but in moderation. It’s all about being mindful of what you eat and not mindlessly eating.
Celeste Turner is a writer, blogger, and fitness guru who was born and raised in New Orleans. Please email comments, suggestions, or ideas for quarterly articles to [email protected] or check out her website at celestefit.com.