Well, it’s here: the season of consuming — and I don’t just mean gift giving and receiving. It’s that time of year when we let everything go a little bit, including our waistlines. With all the holiday treats tempting us in the office and at home, we can hardly blame ourselves, right? (I’m looking at you, pumpkin spice latte, latkes and Christmas cookies!) But we don’t have to wait for New Year’s Day to resolve to have a healthier holiday season. To find out how to make better choices and handle indulgences now, we asked local fitness experts for tips.
Instructor at Flywheel Sports CityCenterDC and Dupont locations
Q: What does a typical day’s menu look like for you?
A: I’m kind of a creature of habit. I get up at 4:15 every day. I teach a 6 a.m. class in Dupont, and I don’t eat anything before that class. I teach and then I come home, and I usually try to have something pretty clean, high in protein — if have time, scrambled eggs and fruit are my go-to. I eat the whole egg. I’m not a big fan of just the whites. If I’m running late, usually some sort of breakfast bar that’s high in protein, low in sugar.
For lunch, I tend to go to this place called Beefsteak pretty much every day. I work [at a law firm] downtown near [the George Washington University] campus at Foggy Bottom. There’s a Beefsteak and it’s flash-steamed vegetables, so a bunch of green vegetables and a little bit of quinoa. It’s really good. Or I like to go somewhere and get a salad. I usually get protein on the salad, but not always. I can’t eat anything like a big sandwich during the day. I just get too tired.
I go back to Flywheel and I teach late afternoon or early evening, depending on the day, so if I haven’t had that bar for breakfast, I might have it as an afternoon snack, but something a couple hours before I teach.
I don’t get home until 8, so my dinners are usually pretty small. Last night I had snapper and a salad.
Q: How does that change during the holidays?
A: I’m just not the person who’s going to sit down at the table and not eat or push my food around. I like food and I like being social and celebrating the holidays with my friends and family. I try to make the majority of my choices good, especially where it’s a buffet style. If 80 percent of my plate is healthier food options, maybe leaner proteins, then it’s not a big deal if I want to have some mashed potatoes to go with it or dessert.
Q: How do you stay disciplined?
A: I try to have a plan and I try to keep a calendar. I go week by week because it can be really overwhelming from Halloween until New Year’s to have a plan that’s that big. And each week I’ll look [at it]. I think as long as you’re exercising and taking care of your fitness, you’re going to feel better, you’re less likely to make really poor food choices.
Q: What about drinks? Even those — egg nog, hot chocolate with marshmallows — are heavier at the holidays.
A: I avoid all of that. I never liked that stuff. If I go to Starbucks, I go with an Americano over a latte. And a secret to that if you really like the milk, get a little bit of steamed milk in it. It’s a lot less than what you get with a latte. It’s the same idea as a latte but without all the calories. If you have to have the pumpkin spice latte, have half the pumps. They put six or eight pumps in a drink. Just do half. You’ll still taste it.
You have to watch your alcohol intake. I’ve found as I get older, it’s kind of a vicious cycle. You go to an event and you have a few drinks and then you start eating more because you’re relaxed and maybe you overindulge and you need more sleep and you miss that morning workout and then you feel bad about that and you’re also feeling a little tired so you start comfort eating.
Q: What are you most tempted by?
A: I love cheese. If I go to a party and there’s a cheese platter, I’m not going to stand next to the cheese platter and have a conversation because I’ll mindlessly eat brie. You’ve got to take it off the platter and have portion control and self-control. During Thanksgiving, I love the stuffing. I love carbs. I’ve never been a huge sweets person, but once I start snacking on the sweets, I keep doing it for some reason. So unless it’s something that I really love, I avoid the dessert.
Personal training manager at Vida Fitness at the Yards
Q: What does a typical day’s menu look like for you?
A: For my morning, I do a protein smoothie with agave and cashew butter. About two and a half hours later, I’ll eat an egg white omelet with spinach, salt and pepper, and maybe a slice or two of avocado. Lunch is brown rice with stir-fried chicken and vegetables. The fourth meal will either be a protein shake after a workout with some cashew butter or some almond butter. Dinner is fish with roasted vegetables or a raw slaw, like a carrot slaw, so not everything is cooked. Before I go to bed, I have a protein shake.
Q: And what about during the holidays?
A: I definitely enjoy my sweet treats and big meals. Trying to keep the first two meals of the day on Thanksgiving as closely related to my normal meal really helps. It kind of forces you not to eat as much when everybody sits down for this big meal.
During the holidays I get maybe four meals in. Maybe I don’t get my workout in on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, so you reduce your meals because you’re not burning that many calories.
Q: What foods tempt you the most?
A: My boyfriend makes this amazing sweet potato pie. It’s my weakness. It’s definitely something I’ve indulged in over the past few years — with the marshmallows on it, of course. There’s nothing like it. I’m Indian so we don’t really have many flavors like that. My sister-in-law makes this derby pie that is delicious. It’s like a massive chocolate chip pie.
Q: What’s your go-to exercise to counteract any indulging?
A: I think the best way to get back into anything is a body weight workout. If you’ve indulged and you’ve eaten all those pies and you’ve eaten all those meals, you can do your body weight squats, your push-ups, sit-ups and then you can start adding a little bit of plyometrics to it so you get your heart rate up.
Group cycling instructor at George Mason University
(Yep, yours truly has been teaching cycling classes for almost nine years.)
Typical menu: Breakfast is a granny smith apple with sunflower seed butter or peanut butter and coffee with soy milk creamer. I cobble lunch together with whatever is around — often a baked sweet potato, Greek yogurt with raw walnut pieces or some vegetable soup. Snacks are usually a filling fruit, such as bananas, or a protein bar if I am headed to teach a class. Dinners vary widely, but a staple in my house is veggie-infused pasta with turkey meat sauce. I have a small dessert immediately after dinner every day.
Holiday adaptations: I try to stick to the same light breakfasts and lunches because I know dinner is going to be heavy on the buttery, sugary dishes. I skip the bread and gravy and choose white meat turkey breast at Thanksgiving. I’m Jewish so I don’t have to worry about a big Christmas dinner, but I have to watch my intake of latkes, fried potato pancakes, during Hanukkah. Sweets are my weakness, but because I am careful with the rest of my meal, I don’t worry about having a little extra dessert.
Fitness level: I don’t skimp on eating so I don’t skimp on working out either. I run five times a week and lift weights. I recently began doing yoga again, too.
My inspiration: My kids. I try to model smart choices and an active lifestyle all year, not just during the holidays, but I want them to know it’s OK to treat yourself, too.
About the Author
Stephanie Kanowitz is a contributing writer for The Washington Diplomat.