Eating healthy, staying fit for the holidays possible

STOCKBRIDGE — The holidays are usually a time when many people like to indulge in pastries, cakes, candies, and good ol’ family dinners. Some may even think to themselves, I’ll just whip out the elastic waistband pants, eat till my heart is content, and for my New Year’s resolution I’ll start my diet.

However, Clayton County professional fitness trainer and nutritionist Jeffrey “Box” Long said that’s the wrong mentality to have.

“The holidays [are not] the time to slack off,” said Long, a muscular U.S. Army veteran. “Just because it’s the holidays doesn’t mean you can eat whatever you want and not think you will not end up 6 feet under.”

According to media reports, Americans gain up to 1.8 pounds each year during the holidays.

Long owns Body Talk Fitness, a 24-hour gym in Stockbridge. He has competed in several professional bodybuilding competitions around the world. He also carries more than 20 years of experience in professional sport development, health and fitness.

Long said people should stay away from sugars and processed foods. Because they are usually high in sodium, they can cause high blood pressure and other health risks.

Hampton resident Vickie Tolson, a chef at Fayetteville-based City Cafe Bakery, agrees. She has been a professional chef for more than 20 years and has been training under Long for more than a decade.

“Everything we eat, especially when comes to foods that are high in sugars and starches, should be eaten in moderation,” she said. “That’s key.”

She is a petite professional fitness model who competes in several fitness contests around the country. Therefore, diet and fitness are top priorities for her.

Her sentiment is that people generally tend to lose focus on their health around Thanksgiving and Christmas, because of the constant holiday celebrations and family get-togethers. That can make it hard to keep from overindulging and packing on the extra holiday pounds.

“You can indulge a little bit to satisfy your sweet tooth, but you don’t have to overindulge where it goes over into gluttony,” said Tolson.

She said there are several healthy alternatives, regarding holiday foods. For example, she said, instead of baking with sugar, a good supplement would be honey, Splenda, or a Stevia blend.

“This will help reduce the amount of calories in your foods,” she said.

Tolson said people who are already health-conscious — and dieting — can satisfy a sweet tooth with fruit, cottage cheese, and honey.

“It’s lighter, less fattening and low in sugar,” she said.

If that doesn’t sound tantalizing, Tolson added, a small shake with a little protein, will also do the trick.

Long suggests wheat or whole grain pasta, fresh vegetables, protein and low-fat meals. He added health-conscious individuals should try to avoid sugar at all costs. He strongly emphasized for African-Americans to watch their sugar intake during the holidays.

“Traditionally, African-Americans cook with a lot of salt, sugar and butter,” he said. “These are ingredients that can cause diabetes.”

According to the U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, African-Americans are twice as likely to be diagnosed with diabetes as Hispanics or Caucasians.

“You have to watch the foods you are buying in the grocery stores — they tend to be high in starch that can raise your glycemic levels,” said Long.

The glycemic levels measure how quickly blood sugar rises after eating a particular food, said Long.

In addition to watching food, making exercise a daily routine is also a key component to staying healthy during the holidays, said Long. He said 30 minutes of cardio three times a week will keep one from packing on those extra holiday pounds.

“This could be walking, running, swimming, cycling, or anything active,” he said.

Tolson said she works out at least three times a week with Long.

“I know people travel a lot during the holidays, but you have to find some way to stay active,” she said. “But it is the holidays so try to enjoy yourself and eat those sweets in moderation.”