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Tracy Anderson on Preventing Holiday Weight Creep

It’s ever the tenuous line: How to relinquish some self-control over the holidays, without giving too much power to the elastic waist-banded pants brigade in the closet. It’s tough stuff, with long spreads of appetizers, a lot of booze, and the siren song of a warm bed on a cold morning when you’re supposed to be at the gym. So we asked Tracy Anderson for some tips on keeping gut creep in check, and exactly how much you can let yourself slide without a steep hill to re-tread. Plus, she gave us the arm work-out above, which means you don’t have to leave your living room at all. (Speaking of working out at home, her streaming program is a pretty epic solution for travel-filled holidays and frigid days when heading to a gym doesn’t appeal.)

A Q&A with Tracy Anderson

Q

What’s the best way to stay motivated when the days get shorter, and the holiday parties get more frequent?

A

First, accept that we are all pretty susceptible to the food, joy, and comfort party that is the holidays. Delighting in all the memory-making moments is important, but when you are being asked to participate in these moments by indulging in plates made with love but filled with food, that doesn’t mean you stop participating in your workouts. In fact, this is when they become even more important. The best way to stay motivated is with knowledge and understanding, not smoke and mirrors. I say this all the time, but it’s worth saying again: You wouldn’t just stop and take a break from brushing your teeth. You never need a break from connecting to your physical self. To balance all of the extra hustle and bustle of the holidays, try changing the length of your workouts. Whether it be 30 minutes or 90 minutes, it is the quality and experience of your workout that truly matters.

The stretches of time when we are able to eat super lean and clean as a rule are of course more valuable to our physical selves. During this particularly challenging stretch of the year, however, it can help to make holiday treats (both savory and sweet) in healthier ways, but it’s okay to dive into feeding the emotional self during these times, too. When you don’t participate in these moments for fear of slipping up, that can actually cause stress—and that isn’t good for us either. So, have your cake and eat it, too, by making sure those quality workouts are not compromised during the holidays. My class on the day after Thanksgiving was jam-packed. Showing up for your health is exactly what a self-loving person should do and any loving family member or friend will understand and want that for you, too.

Q

Are there any short-term shortcuts? Is it possible to let yourself off the hook a little bit without completely letting yourself go?

A

We always have options. If it’s a big festive meal day and you only have 30 minutes to spare, then make it the best 30 minutes of sweaty cardio you can do. If you have an hour on a super foodie day, then do 10 minutes of arms followed by 50 minutes of cardio. If it is a day that is just busy, but you are still able to make good food choices, then if you have 30 minutes, do a sweaty beginner muscular structure streaming class, and if you have an hour, go for the advanced option. My favorite schedule is an hour of muscular structure and 30 minutes of cardio.

Another tip is to have one meal be the “experience” of that day. If it’s going to be dinner, then start the day by throwing a handful of frozen bananas, a handful of frozen mangos, a teaspoon of walnut oil, a handful of baby kale, water, and a scoop of my wellness powder in a Vitamix for breakfast. For lunch, have a very simple piece of grilled whitefish with lemon. For dinner, show up and let it go!

Q

At a minimum, what’s required in the gym without losing a lot of ground?

A

30 completely focused minutes with a super solid sequence.

Q

In terms of diet, any tips for navigating holiday parties? Anything that’s particularly deadly?

A

Nothing you could eat at a few holiday parties is deadly, besides drinking too much, eating something you are truly allergic to, or going home with the wrong person. Enjoying warm apple pie with ice cream or even a casserole made purely from canned and boxed ingredients just once or twice can’t kill you. Not eating something your 80-year-old grandmother made could hurt you in ways that matter far more!

Q

What about holiday vacations—what do you recommend for staying on track when you’re on the road?

A

One of the reasons I love my streaming program is because you can have the digital content with you anywhere. You just need to sneak away for an hour of “me time” and you can actually enjoy chips and guacamole without losing touch with your physical self. You don’t own weight loss through quick fixes, but you do own the athlete inside you if you build and maintain. We are in constant motion. We have incredibly complex systems. Staying on top of our physical selves isn’t like building a car and then doing “tune-ups”—we don’t vacation from ourselves.

Q

You talk a lot about the mental and emotional pathways that are forged through exercise—is this even more important in the winter, when people tend to struggle more with depression?

A

I find this practice is always important, of course, but without the external energy that comes from the warmth of the summer months or the feeling of new life that comes with spring, it is especially important during the winter. I live in New York and January and February are some pretty bone-chilling months. Our bodies want nourishment, emotionally and physically. This is when we all have to really lean into our intellectual sides to help us out. The conversations we have with ourselves are the most vital to navigating our health. It’s cold and we are warm in bed. When the alarm sounds for our “workout” and not our “work,” this is when our smarter side really needs to support the rest of us in getting our bums up and out the door. A little secret I have been trying to tell people for as long as I can remember: YOU CANNOT GET BIKINI READY IN TWO WEEKS. So, all of those mornings during these winter months when your smarty-pants self wins out over your cozy emotional self—that’s who you need to thank come bikini season. When you connect to yourself physically in the right way, you bring it all home. I work out to music—not anyone barking at me—because my emotional self participates. I work out in heat because it helps my body run its systems, which are even more important in the winter. We are always “comfortable.” Our bodies have reserve battery pack response systems that, when called upon, help us operate and circulate and burn. They in turn call upon adrenaline and that pumps us up. I execute movements that have an all-inclusive process and that process requires your brain to be on point and to communicate. This kind of connectivity releases a bouquet of happy hormones and actions in your body—not to mention a sheer sense of accomplishment. All of these things fight weakness and can even clear out the roadblocks in our systems. Even if something has gone awry chemically, your body is forever changing. What you put in it and how you treat it can shift and change its chemistry. We are in control of our happiness in many ways, but we can’t leave any part of us out.

Q

Anything in particular on your holiday wishlist?

A

Tickets to Hamilton and a vacation with my kids with zero distractions!

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