Tips and Tricks to Navigate the Holidays

Many of us worry about the typical 1-5 lbs of fat that is gained during the holiday season. However, the holiday season is really only four days: Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years. When thought about in that context it would be okay to enjoy a piece or two of candy on Halloween, treats made from a secret family recipe on Thanksgiving and Christmas, as well as a few cocktails on New Year’s Eve. Having small portions of our favorite indulgences on those four days spread over two months would not be a big deal.

However, those days have become a reason to stuff ourselves with giant-sized portions of every single dish that is brought. On top of that, the season is usually filled with additional get-togethers that take up the time that we might be able to workout as well as fill our bodies with empty calories. These little parties add up: your work party, your significant other’s work party, the big family cookie exchange, the candy exchange with your crafting club (or insert other hobby group), your friend’s birthday is three days before Christmas so he has an annual birthday/ Christmas bash, etc…So what are we to do?

-Plan ahead- Plan out your holiday schedule. Know when you’re going to go to a party and try to know what the specialty is at the venue. Pick whether you want to eat or drink your calories. If it’s a restaurant, know what healthy choices they have as well as what your indulgence is going to be. If your buddy makes a mean Christmas cocktail at his annual Christmas bash then pick that as your indulgence. If a restaurant is the venue for your work party and they have your favorite appetizer, go with that. Mostly, I’d recommend that you not drink your calories because alcohol lowers your inhibitions as well as increases the likelihood that you will overindulge on goodies. In other words you’ll be more likely to get the munchies and make more trips to the buffet.

-Get moving – Don’t let the busy holiday schedule stop you from working out. Even a quick 20 min workout to get your blood moving is better than nothing. You can’t out exercise a bad diet but you can try to lessen the effects of the treats by increasing your calorie output. Also, see if your host has an Xbox or Wii that will get everyone moving during the party as well as provide an extra workout for your abs as you spend the whole night laughing at their antics. Are you having movie night with the family? Try some quick body weight exercises: 15 squats, 15 push-ups, 15 reverse crunches, 15 alternating front lunges (15 each side), 15 bench dips (use the edge of a coffee table or couch), 15 jumping jacks, 15 Russian twists (15 each side). Do these exercises in a circuit and see how many sets you can complete during a commercial break. Rest during the show and repeat during the next commercial break. See if you can get through more sets during each commercial break until you’ve gone through 3 or 4 breaks. You can have competitions with your family members as to who can compete the most sets during a certain break.

-Don’t leave the house hungry- Eat as clean as possible on the days that don’t have special events. Then the day of a party make sure to have a healthy breakfast and several small meals before the event is supposed to start. Have a good healthy meal before you leave the house so you’re not tempted to fill up on high fat and sugary hors d’ourves or other treats. When you get to the party, get some veggies and a few bites of your host’s signature dish and leave the table.

-Work the room– Take advantage of the time to catch up with family and friends that you may only see a few times a year. If you do find yourself at an uncomfortable work gathering where everyone is drinking the time away, then find someone you can get along with, maybe a coworker or a coworker’s spouse. You can also use this time to get to know a new coworker. I find that this is my big hang up. I’m used to being the quiet one that hides in the corner and fills my time by eating everything on the buffet. This year if I have to go to an event where I don’t know many people, I’m going to try to work the room and make new friends using FOR (Family, Occupation, and Recreation). If you get someone talking about themselves, their family, their hobbies, and what they like about their jobs (and really listen), you can easily make a new friend and pass the time. Even cranky Uncle Frank that is always complaining about the economy, politics, and how bad his favorite sports team is doing will stop complaining and light up when you ask him about his new grand-baby.

-Water and sleep – Make sure to stay very hydrated this season. Water is one liquid that you don’t want to skimp on. Dehydration can lead to excess snacking because many people mistake thirst for hunger. Sleep is also paramount. Get at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep. Lack of sleep has been shown to lead to binge eating. Sleep is also important for fat burning and recovery.

-Slow down – You’ve waited all year for Grandma’s pecan pie, don’t inhale it. Take small bites and chew your food thoroughly; truly enjoy the treats of the season and savor every bite. That will also help you know when you’re full. Listen to your body and step away from the table before you start to feel uncomfortable. No one likes that feeling after you eat so much you think you’re going to be sick. The slow-small-meal concept will also help for those of you who have to go to mom’s house for a 2:00 lunch and your in-laws for 6:00 dinner.

-ENJOY YOURSELF- It only comes around once a year. Enjoy the food and savor the time with friends and family. Be thankful and remember the reason for the season.

Questions? Comments? Please ask.

Thank you,

Mistakes and Eating Right

Lots of people have commented to me how lucky I am to like vegetables and fish because it makes it easier to eat right. It’s also been assumed by many that I was blessed with above average willpower. This is so not the case, and really annoying. I mean really, who craves chicken breast, tuna, or tilapia and a leafy green salad instead of the cheeseburger and fries that make up the Standard American Diet (SAD)? It’s not that easy for anyone. You have to really, really want to and then just be consistent day in and day out in order for it to work. Gradually your tastes will change and it will get easier.

I hear the stories of many competitors, fitness models, and everyday people who eat clean now and many of them say that once they discovered clean eating they “never looked back.” Maybe it was just that easy for them, maybe the “light bulb moment” happened right away for them, but I don’t think that’s realistic. I think that does a disservice to their journey and struggles with making a true lifestyle change. It definitely isn’t helpful for people who are just getting started and struggling with fitting healthy eating and/ or exercise into their current busy lives.

The light bulb moment definitely did not happen right up front for me. My journey has been a long one when it comes to choosing to eat healthy. It’s like everything within me wanted to rebel. I had lots of healthy energy boosting foods in front of me, but I was looking back all the time at the cheeseburger, pizza, french fries, and yummy baked goodies that I couldn’t have. When I was in training for my two competitions this year, I felt in constant danger of falling headfirst into anything with excess fat and refined sugar.

When I travelled a lot for my old job, I would choose to stay at the Residence Inn most of the time because I like to have the kitchen and full size fridge so when I was gone for two weeks at a time, I could cook my own food and store it easily. Plus if I only had my healthy food in the pantry I couldn’t make any mistakes. Even in those places there was temptation because they had a free dinner (albeit a very cheap and unhealthy dinner) and drinks every weeknight. It’s hard to turn down free food!

However, sometimes there wasn’t one of those around and I stayed in a hotel that had room service, a bar in the lobby, and offered me a complementary appetizer or dessert ticket upon check-in. That free ticket as well as the room service menu beckoned me during moments of weakness or times of stress. Yes, I gave in to a free dessert at hotel just 6-weeks before my first show. Ugh!

Now that I am a personal trainer and stay-at-home mom, I am home all the time. I still let my kids have a few treats so they don’t completely rebel against eating clean, which means I have to dig past the treats in the pantry to get to my good stuff.

There’s no way to escape any kind of temptation, no matter what. I was even tempted while driving to my second show in Dallas at the end of the summer after taking my kids to see their grandparents in KC. I had my food packed, but my kids were still hungry. They wanted pizza and had been very good in support of my very strict week-of-show diet. So I stopped and got them pizza. The leftovers sat in the front seat by me the whole rest of the drive smelling amazing, but my goal was the first thing in my mind. I didn’t so much as lick my fingers after I gave my kids their pizza.

My journey toward eating healthy has not been easy. In fact, a little over a year ago, I read an article by the late Robert Kennedy. He talked about his dog and how it’s well fed and well loved, but still managed to get out of the yard and find some porcupine road kill. The dog just devoured it, even though the spines stuck in its mouth, throat, and all the way down to the stomach. He and his wife, the amazing Tosca Reno, had to take the dog to the vet and were seriously worried that the dog would not make it because of the damage that the spines do to the internal organs. The dog did make it, but it made him think that even though we as humans are so much smarter than dogs, we still are susceptible to falling into temptation and eating things that do us harm (even though it’s not the immediate danger of the porcupine spines, it’s a much slower form of poison).

When I first read that article I thought, “Ouch! I’m definitely smarter than a dog!” But then I thought, that is SO me. I knew how good eating healthy felt, forget the external effects of having a great body, but I still had a hard time making the right choices. I would still choose immediate gratification over the long term healthy effects.

My awesome coach Kim Jefferson and the wonderful Cathy Savage were always telling me that I needed to judge the food I eat by how it would help me accomplish my goals. It took me a long time to actually get that. The food we eat truly fuels us every day whether our goal is to look good in a bikini and heels on stage or just to keep up with our kids or grandkids after a long day at work. I’m not talking about just calorie for calorie fuel, but how the nutrients and actual make-up of the food interacts with our own body and brain chemistry. When we eat a bunch of fake foods our body does not work right. We don’t feel well, we don’t have energy to go about our lives, we don’t sleep well, the list could go on and on.

I still occasionally have foods that don’t fit with my goals. I find that I do that out of habit not out of real desire, cravings, or hunger. I mean, you’re supposed to just walk up to the hors d’oeuvres table and randomly stuff junk into your face, right? I’ve done it for so long sometimes I just don’t realize I’m doing it. Anyway, when I do have the occasional junk food, I find that I don’t enjoy it as much as I used to. It just doesn’t taste as good as it used to. I guess my taste buds really have changed. So I guess now you really can call me lucky. 😉

Taking that first step is not easy, it’s even harder to continue when all you can think about is the junk food that everyone around you is eating. It’s not easy, but it’s worth it. Please keep at it and continue on. Don’t beat yourself up for mistakes. We’re all human. It’s a process.

Questions? Comments? Please ask.



Now that I’ve learned the importance of nutrition in my own body, I really want to make sure that I’m giving my kids the best nutrition possible. Obesity is not just an epidemic of adults; many kids are suffering from obesity and all of the sicknesses that go along with it. It’s now estimated that our children’s generation is going to have a shorter lifespan than our own, which is so sad considering the great advances we have made in our lifetime. I really hope to inspire others so that our children will not have to suffer long-term consequences for our mistakes.

Because I just recently got into eating healthy, I made lots of nutrition mistakes with my kids when they were younger. I always assumed that whatever was on the grocery store shelves and at the fast food joint was okay to eat. I tried to get my kids to eat veggies and they did for the most part so I figured whatever else they ate was okay. I didn’t really check labels for anything other than calorie and fat counts. Now I check the ingredients first. If the list of ingredients is long and I have no idea what any of them are, I just put it down and find something else. I also try to keep the sugars below 5 grams per serving, but serving size can vary so you have to pay attention to that too.

It’s still a bit of a constant battle to get them to change their food preferences. Devin is starting to come around, she has finally stopped asking why we can’t eat at McDonald’s anymore. However, she’s not always enthusiastic about the food that I put in front of her.

Wyatt is not as picky about taste, but is very sensitive to food texture so getting him to eat is also a battle. He’s still pretty small for his age, so I’ve really had to fight to make sure I’m getting good nutrients into his little body to make him grow. So far the only vegetables that I can get him to eat are baby food ones. He’ll eat several servings of the peas and green beans in baby food form that he wouldn’t touch whole. I also make him a protein pudding in the morning using some Isagenix protein powder, some natural peanut butter, and some additional minerals. He won’t drink it as a shake, but the pudding works.

 When I first started dieting and training for my first fitness competition, I constantly found myself walking a fine line with Devin. Wyatt doesn’t really seem to care too much about what’s going on, but Devin is always asking questions. At first she thought that it was a competition about who could be the thinnest. I know that’s a rabbit hole I don’t want to go down so I told her it’s about who’s the fittest. All the competitors eat healthy food and workout really hard so they can look very fit on the day of their competition. She seems to understand that. However, sometimes she says things like she’s worried about getting fat. I know that as she gets older she’s going to face body image issues, but I want to make sure that I’m doing all I can to minimize that.

Anyway, I had a small victory after Halloween. We went to a friend’s Halloween party and then on a trick-or-treating hayride afterward. I let the kids eat some junk food while we were at the party and on the hayride (cookies, cupcakes, chips, and few pieces of candy). When we got home, I let them pick out a few pieces that they wanted to keep and then we put the rest out for the “Great Pumpkin.” I told Devin that the “Great Pumpkin” is a new initiative to help kids get healthy and avoid cavities. He comes along after Halloween to get the extra candy so kids (or their parents) don’t eat it. At first she was a little skeptical, but she is mostly on board with being healthy so she happily picked out the ones she wanted. Wyatt went along with it too and told Charley, after he picked out his favorites, that “big punka take cannee away,” and he said it matter-of-factly not sadly.

I’ve slowly been able to transition the kids to eating healthy food. They now just have whole wheat bread, but it can’t be too crusty or have whole grains in the bread. Devin calls the whole grains nuts, “It has too many nuts in it mommy.” I’ve also been transitioning them to whole grain waffles in the morning. I mixed a batch of regular waffles with a batch of whole grain ones and they really like them.  Then I freeze them to toast in the mornings. They also like eggs and/or sausage for breakfast with their waffles. Instead of getting them regular pork sausage or even some of the turkey sausage that is available with lots of fillers and preservatives that I can’t pronounce, I found the Applegate Naturals brand of chicken and apple sausage. However, it costs about $5.50 for a box of 10 links so I’m in the process of experimenting to make my own links that I can reheat for the kids for breakfast before school that don’t cost so much.

Making sure kids get the best nutrition is hard sometimes, but I believe it’s a battle worth fighting.

Questions? Comments? Please ask.