Ask Amanda: Holiday Survival

You’d be amazed at the amount of otherwise disciplined, well-intentioned clients I have that completely lose it around this time of year.

I don’t know if it’s the change of weather (probably not, since I live in a place with zero seasons), the festive decorations hung all over town, or the general increase in parties and celebratory events, but somehow everyone feels like the holiday season is a free pass to skip workouts, eat until you’re pleasantly plump, and drink to unreasonable excess.

I’m not trying to sound like a Scrooge here – quite the opposite, actually, in that I am writing this entry to the tune of Christmas carols and with a Christmas tree within sight – but let it be said:

Christmas is one day.  Thanksgiving is one day.  There are literally thirty other days in between that don’t warrant a complete and utter farewell to fitness.

Buff Turkey

Is it possible to be stuffed AND swole?

The folks at Precision Nutrition hit the nail on the head by calling these days “eat what you want (EWYW) days.”  I’ve never like the term “cheat days” (sure, you can love your food, but jeez, you’re not married to it – you can have an order of fries and still be a good “partner” to your diet), and nor do they.  The EWYW days simply mean that you don’t have to meal prep, count a calorie, log a gram of protein, or stress over a sip or two.

You just eat like a normal human being, then go on living.

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Yeah, that’s for Black Friday.  Lean, mean shopping machine!

With my clients, I offer up three no-guilt EWYW days, and they are as follows: Christmas (or your other major annual cultural holiday, such as Chinese New Year or Rosh Hashanah or Deepavali, depending), Thanksgiving (again, should you be American or Canadian), and your own birthday.  Boom.  Three.  Enjoy yourself.

The point here is, any EWYW day is one day.  For some of us, it could even just be one meal (like the very ample Thanksgiving dinner I am looking forward to tonight).  It’s not an entire weekend, it’s not a whole season, and God forbid it turns into a year or two (no one needs to wake up in 2019 with an extra 10 pounds around the middle….but trust me, I’ve seen it happen).

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Not a bad guide – but I’d still eat my green bean casserole! 😉

Here are some easy dos and donts for your EWYW day:

  • DO enjoy an adequate serving (or two!) of the foods you truly enjoy
  • DON’T load up on crappy, low-quality foods that will only make you feel overstuffed (do you really love those marshmallow-topped yams and canned cranberry sauce, or are they just traditional filler on the plate?)
  • DO eat slowly – the food will still be there, so take a few breaths between forkfuls to actually savour the EWYW foods you love so much
  • DON’T count, log, track, or otherwise think about your food as any more than it is – a delicious way to celebrate with family, fill your tummy, and make you happy
  • DO have a tipple if you choose to celebrate with alcohol, but DON’T swallow a bunch of booze on top of a bunch of food unless you’re really looking for a double-whammy hangover-and-food-coma the next day
  • DON’T leave any room for guilt – on a true EWYW day, it’s a non-issue!
  • DO make time for exercise on EWYW day (Turkey Trot, anyone?) or the day after to do a bit of damage control and help the extra food pass on through

Again, guys – the holidays are indeed a time for lots of celebration and togetherness – but it doesn’t have to be only about coming together over food.  Get out for a holiday charity run, volunteer your time at a place or for a cause that needs extra help this time of year, or spend time writing cards or letters to friends and family far away.

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That kind of holiday cheer is always served up low-carb and with extra helpings. 😉

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Ask Amanda: Harried Holidays

Perhaps it’s more symptomatic in the U.S. than anywhere else in the world – we do up the sugar-fueled trick-or-treating for Halloween in October, binge-eat like patriots on Thanksgiving (and days after) in November, and ramp up a December so full of holiday parties and celebrations that, come January, we can barely drag our bloated carcasses onto the scale, much less face the gym.

Ugh.  It’s a vicious cycle, peeps – but a predictable one, and one you can break.

An #AskAmanda fan (and real-life kickass client!) of mine inquired last week about how to stay on track when the holiday season threatens to break our wills, and I thought long and hard about whether to reveal the following fact (deep breath):

Nearly every winter, I lose weight.

Yes, you read that right.  I decrease in mass during the holiday season.  I tend to start off January at my year-long lowest weight, typically peaking somewhere around my birthday (June, don’t ask me why, maybe because I hate summer?), and then downhilling past the October/November hump and ending up at a nice clean and lean place come December.

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So how does this happen?

First of all, I am a big rules person.  Those of you who know me IRL know that I am a giant fan of deadlines, limits, boundaries, and accountability (especially when it comes to fitness and health).  When the holidays start pushing into my world with their nonstop flow of parties, happy hours, and general disruption of schedules, I push back – with a consistent plan that keeps me centered and focused.  Some examples:

  • At the risk of beating a dead horse, I only allow myself to eat within an 8-hour window, then I fast the remaining 16.  Got a holiday party at 9pm?  Either push your eating window (2-10pm, for example) or finish up your eating well before, and toast a glass of champagne – but skip the canapes.  Easy peasy.
  • Not so ready for the strict window?  Try this: set a carbs deadline instead (I suggest either 2pm or 4pm, depending on how strict you wanna play it).  Rather than confining all your food to a specific time limit, simply give yourself an end game for the white stuff (refined sugar, flour, bread, pasta and rice) and hold yourself to it. Egg rolls after 4p?  Pass.  But let the good times roll on that chicken satay!

nocarbs

  • You can also focus on playing the swap game – pick and choose your battles, so to speak.  Got a company holiday party catered by your favorite restaurant?  Plan for it by “trading” your dinner for a spin around the appetizer buffet instead.  Got a boozy cookie-baking party with the gals?  Choose one – the sugar or the swill – and allow yourself a little indulgence without going overboard.  Life is all about choices, and when you feel in control of your own, you’re less likely to make the wrong ones.

Second, I make my own workouts even more of a priority – and a stress reliever! – when the end-of-year schedules start to pack up.  I experience so many client cancellations in the month of December  I want to tear my hair out – and most of them are for reasons like last-minute shopping, back-to-back events at school or work, or prepping for holiday travel.  As I say so often to clients and classes alike – “when you want to do something, you’ll find time – when you don’t, you’ll find excuses.”  So just cut the crap and:

  • Schedule your workouts into your calendar.  Make your most important meetings the ones that maintain your personal health, energy, and spirit – what could be more crucial when the holiday rush threatens to drain you of all of that?  If you want to get super real about it, assess yourself a strict “cancellation fee” if you do skip – making a contribution to a worthy political cause (cough, cough) or putting five bucks in a gift fund for your mother-in-law.  Money talks, and eventually, you’ll listen.
  • Seek out exercise classes that you want to go to.  GuavaPass and other services like this are great for this time of year because they allow you to break up the monotony without (financial) commitment – and who wouldn’t feel less stressed doing a workout like trampoline gymnastics, boxing, or aerial yoga?  When the workout is exciting, new, and fun, you can view it as pleasure – rather than the boring ol’ routine of picking up dumbbells in a sweaty gym.
  • Make working out together a social engagement.  One of my favorite memories in my entire exercise history was when a bunch of girlfriends and I “sweated to the Oldies” at Richard Simmons’ SLIMMONS studio in Beverly Hills.  He wore a sequined tank top and a tiny Santa hat; we wore neon 1980s workout gear and danced like no one was watching.  Afterward we got dinner and drinks and it was an absolutely perfect holiday get-together – better than any parties I’d been to that year.

slimmons

My final tip is this: drop the guilt.  It’s the holiday season, a time to celebrate what makes you happy, be with friends and family, and enjoy the decorations, festivity, and magic that truly only comes once a year.  Focus on what’s really important this time of year – gratitude, compassion, and kindness – and no matter what, you’ll lose the “weight” of negativity and frustration that tends to build up during a long, hard year.

What are your favorite stay-healthy holiday tips?

12 Days of Fit-Mas: A Gift Guide

Wondering what fit people really want for the holidays?

Well, if you’re me, you want simple, high-quality functional items that you can use/wear/enjoy every day.  

I scoured the internet to find my favorite practical gifts for the fitness buff in your life this holiday season – and I hope you can find something just right!

On the first day of Fit-Mas, my trainer gave to me…

a massive 64 ounce water “growler”

On the second day of Fit-Mas, my trainer gave to me…

two running gloves

On the third day of Fit-Mas, my trainer gave to me…

three resistance bands

On the fourth day of Fit-Mas, my trainer gave to me…

four monkey-face kettlebells

On the fifth day of Fit-Mas, my trainer gave to me…

five pairs of printed leggings

On the sixth day of Fit-Mas, my trainer gave to me…

six Crossfit dice

On the seventh day of Fit-Mas, my trainer gave to me…

seven pairs of rundies

On the eighth day of Fit-Mas, my trainer gave to me…

an 8-piece vacuum-seal food container set

On the ninth day of Fit-Mas, my trainer gave to me…

a nine-pocket hanging toiletry bag for the gym

On the tenth day of Fit-Mas, my trainer gave to me…

ten-toed socks

On the eleventh day of Fit-Mas, my trainer gave to me…

an eleven-dollar stackable protein shake bottle

On the twelfth day of Fit-Mas, my trainer gave to me…

twelve inspirational hair ties

What are you asking for from (fit) Santa?  What healthy gifts do you love to give?

Would Amanda Eat It?

Ah, the holidays.  You are faced with homemade and store-bought treats aplenty, goodies brought home from friends and family, and the occasional late-night slip into Santa’s cookie tray.  It happens.

But what about when your loyal, trusted Trader Joe’s throws a major curveball of deliciousness?

Enter Cookies N’ Cream Cookie Butter, the latest in a series of amazing butters by Mr. Joe (other varieties include original, cocoa swirl, and crunchy).  At first glance, you might think – “well, of course Amanda won’t eat this one” – but read on for my full assessment:

The good:

The bad:

  • it’s a sugar bomb.  But you knew that was coming.  17g per 2TB makes it even worse than eating actual frosting from a can (don’t believe me?  Here’s a frosting label for comparison.)
  • the first ingredient is sugar.  ‘Nuff said.  There’s more sugar than any other ingredient in this product.
  • there are 3.5 grams of saturated fat in a serving, which is about 20% of what you should get in an entire day.  Not great.

The verdict:

  • Ok, obviously I can’t get behind a product that is literally worse for you than eating processed frosting out of a can.  Let’s be real.  But what I can say is that as a sugar substitute in holiday baking (such as these Cookies & Cream Rice Krispie treats), it’s a nice “sometimes” treat when you really want to throw caution to the wind and indulge.

The alternative:

  • Worry not, butter lovers!  You can always make your own cookie butter at home, if it’s the cookie thing you’re seeking, and if it’s more the butter, check out this amazing list of homemade nut butter recipes (yes, even some with chocolate!).  Anytime you can decrease the number of ingredients and preservatives in a food simply by making it yourself, you are taking a step toward better health that starts in your own home.

What food products would you like to see featured on this blog?  Comment here or on FB!

Weekend Roundup

I know, I know – I’ve been an absolutely reprehensible blogger this week.  Can I claim wedding stress?  Holiday engagements?  Work ramping up before the break?  Well, whether I can claim those excuses or not, that’s where I’ve been – but now I’m back.

Let’s kick off the weekend with our friendly ol’ roundup – looking around the internets for what I am interested in – and think you’ll really like, too!

If there is a heaven, my dear Spartacus will be waiting for me there.  Even the pope says so.

LA might know sunshine, but NYC knows soup.  Here’s a dozen amazingly seasonal recipes.

If you haven’t picked up your ugly holiday sweater yet, this is your last chance.

I LOVE doing glitter makeup at the holidays, but I always worry about looking like a trashy disco ball.  This tutorial takes the guesswork out of it.

Gift guides are fun because they’re always over-the-top and ridiculous.  This one is for the stylish, high-end yogi in your life – or more likely, in your dreams.

Free online and TV-based personal training?  Yep, NBC is doing it.  And it looks awesome.

Y’all know I love the cheap thrills from Forever 21.  This week they’re so cheap they’re FREE.

What are you reading about and looking at this holiday season?  Leave a link!

A Tough Trainer’s Christmas Carol

[to the tune of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town]

You better work out

You better eat right

You better not slouch

And keep your core tight

This trainer ain’t messing around

She’s making a circuit

You’re doing it twice

She’s gonna find out

If you’ve been working out right

This trainer ain’t messing around

She sees you when you’re slacking

She frowns when you take breaks

She knows if you’ve been bad or good

So just squat, for goodness’ sake

Oh….

You better work out

You better eat right

You better not slouch

And keep your core tight

This trainer ain’t messing around

Are you staying on track with your diet and workouts out this holiday season?

Sunday Special: On My Radar

I swear my brain is programmed to desire shopping more during the holiday season.  We’ve been indoctrinated from a young age that the holidays are for gift-giving, and with Black Friday less than a week away, my urge to shop is rising.  And I’ve been giving in.

Case in point?  This weekend brought mini-splurges at the Bella + Canvas sample sale, a friend’s Chloe + Isabel show, and even Bed, Bath & Beyond (where I found this amazing hashtag light-up sign for the wedding!).  Sigh.  Who am I to fight the power of the season?

That said, I haven’t done an On My Radar post in a while, so here we go – a special holiday edition of OMR – perhaps more like a Dear Santa?  Enjoy!

Is there anything more calming than the scent of chamomile?  I was recently tipped off to an amazing eye makeup remover that smells of it, and I am now obsessed with slowly making every scent in my bathroom include some hint of chamomile (even better: with honey!) by the end of the year.  Come to find out – the Body Shop has a whole line of the stuff, in varying levels of intensity.  Just say ahhhh…..

I’ve gotten so used to my old, stinky, black gym backpack that I forget there are actual cute, stylish options out there.  This one is deceptively glam, with a Birkin-bag look and amazing functionality (yes, it actually holds a water bottle, gym clothes, and shoes in there!).  I have no idea how much shipping would be as this one’s only available across the pond, but dang, is it nice to look at.

I’ve been really hooked on this metallic teal eyeliner I’ve been wearing lately, and it’s got me thinking: what other colored eyeliners would really pop?  Cue the Dior Addict-It liquid eyeliner in hot pink – I am pretty sure I need it, whether I layer it with black (the subtle way) or lay it on thick across my eyelids (the Manda way, let’s be honest).  I found it once at Sephora but haven’t seen it again since, and I fear it will be discontinued before I actually get up the courage to bite the bullet.

Of course I love jewelry – my favorite mug (given to me by a dear friend) reads, “Accessories are Necessities” – and it’s true!  But what I don’t have is the perfect simple-yet-statement necklace that is versatile (gold-plate goes with everything!) but creative enough to actually make a statement – oh, and did I mention it’s cheap to boot?  This is a total find and would be adorable for any world traveler – or those with world traveling aspirations.

If any of you out there reading are my personal training clients, you know I love me some Bosu.  The Bosu (which for the rest of you is that weird half-ball thing you see floating around gym floors) comes in one color: blue.  That is, until recently.  They introduced a beautiful hot pink one (priced almost 50% higher than the original, natch) to raise money for breast cancer research and as soon as I saw it, I knew I had to have it.  Who wants a plain ol’ blue Bosu when you can have PINK?!?!  I mean, come on.

I just realized that pretty much everything I’ve posted here is either a beauty or fitness product (what does this tell you about my life?).  Let’s break the mold here with something really wild – home decor!  Ok, maybe not so wild.  And I just realized that I already have the map theme established with the necklace above – but whatever, I love maps.  And this Cost Plus 6-Canvas Map Set is such a cool way to display a map in your home without looking cheesy or overdone.  I can totally see it on the massive white expanse that is our living room wall.

And finally – the piece de resistance – even though I just bought two amazing pairs of sneakers from the Adidas outlet sale, I can’t get my mind off the sweet sweet kicks that are Nike Flyknit Free 3.0.  They just look so dang light and socklike, yet still functional and appropriate for both work and looking awesome on the street.  One day I will have you, my pretties (and hey – they’ve already marked down from $140 to $99, so anything can happen).

That’s my Christmas list in progress, guys, but I’d love to hear what you’re looking for this holiday season!

What’s on your Dear Santa list?  What can’t wait for Christmas – i.e. what’s on your Black Friday list?