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Holiday Self-Care Strategies from Chicago’s Wellness Influencers

Go ahead and eat the cookies, already.

From left: Elisabeth Akinwale, Stephanie Rountree, and Seobia Rivers   Photos: (Akinwale) Courtesy of Elisabeth Akinwale; (Rountree) Courtesy of Stephanie Rountree; (Rivers) Courtesy of Seobia Rivers

Take note if you’re feeling stressed, overwhelmed, or thrown off your healthy habits this season — even Chicago’s fitness and nutrition gurus take a breather this time of year. Here’s how they stay nourished, fit, and happy amidst the hustle and bustle, and what they recommend to their clients and followers.

Erin Bahadur

Mental health advocate, personal trainer, blogger at Erin’s Inside Job
“The biggest thing for me is to remember that this is a season like any other season. Yes, there’s more change in routine, but I work on enjoying the moments as they come because those are the things we will remember when looking back on the holiday season. I also ignore or mute social media posts that tell me not to enjoy food or that I need to exercise more to enjoy the holidays. Learn to set boundaries when you need to, communicate well with loved ones, and pay attention to what you need during this time.”

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

The holiday season can be hard for so many reasons. Let’s not make it harder by the way we talk to ourselves. From November to the end of the year, those who struggle with food and body image put even more pressure on themselves to restrict or exercise to avoid gaining weight. ⠀ Jayne from @recoveryloveandcare reached out to tell me about her campaign #passingonpositivity and it couldn’t have come at a better time. It’s an attempt to change the narrative about diet culture and how we talk to ourselves. It’s being kind. It’s learning to love ourselves so that the children in our lives learn to do the same. ⠀ It’s hard. I get it. I’ve been there in every possible example of “let’s hate ourselves and find a different way to do it.” The more we are compassionate with ourselves, the easier it becomes to be compassionate with others. I know these words won’t change someone overnight, but if you’re struggling with this, know it’s possible to get out. I’ll continue to tell you until one day you hear it. It’s not about how you look. It’s about who you are.

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Chris Mosier

Hall of fame triathlete, All-American duathlete, and coach at EDGE Athlete Lounge
“This time of year, it’s essential that I get my training for the day done in the morning. With family visits, nighttime parties, and the general chaos around the holidays, this is the best way for me to stay on track. My body and my mind always feel better when I move. Also: Holiday crowds, last-minute shopping, traffic, and other stressors are so much worse when I’m hungry. I’ve gotten in the habit of traveling with a protein shake or healthy snack in my bag to avoid getting hangry and help me keep my holiday joy.”

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Next game, next practice, next time you have the chance, give it your all - imagine how awesome you could be if you stopped thinking about what others think of your efforts or about what you might lose and started thinking about what you could possibly gain…. . #imagedescription a photo of Chris Mosier from the chest up. He stands wearing a black Chicago Marathon quarter zip and a slight smile. In the background is a blurred orange sign that says “just do it.” . #transathlete #teamusa #duathlete #triaghlete #runner #runnersofinstagram #runnersofig #justdosomething #training #racing #raceday #attitude #pma #nike #justdoit #nodaysoff #nobaddays

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Elisabeth Akinwale

Trainer, writer, and co-founder, 13th FLOW
“The holiday season can be hectic, and it’s easy get off track with wellness practices. I recommend keeping things as simple as possible by focusing on the basics. Keep a water bottle with you as you run errands and balance festive food and drink with plenty of water. Give yourself some grace with workouts but realize doing a little something is better than doing nothing. Pausing for a few mindful breaths when you notice you’re stressed or feeling stretched thin is a strategy you can employ anywhere, anytime. Take a deep breath, expanding down into your belly. Hold for two counts, then exhale slowly.”

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Free yourself from the never ending cycle of looking for the next thing to do. You know what? LOTS of different approaches to movement & nutrition can improve health and make you feel good. Choose something. Find something that resonates with you and stick with it. Do something like you mean it. ____________________________ The more a person buys in to what they’re doing, the more they create a cycle of success: decision ->commitment ->consistent action->results. Real talk, this is something to consider if you find yourself constantly looking for the next thing, and the next thing, and the next thing; the people who have never really made a commitment or stuck with something are the same people who have the most questions. People often ask what to do, don’t follow it, then ask again later what they should do. When people make a decision, follow a program, use it as an opportunity to explore themselves, the questions and confusion begin to fall away. ___________________________ A couple of things to consider: what is it that you’re trying to achieve, and why? Dig deeper, because when you have clarity it’s much easier to take action and make a commitment. No one can do the work for you.

A post shared by Elisabeth Akinwale (@eakinwale) on

Kendra Peterson

Chef, food allergy expert, and owner of Drizzle Kitchen
“The most important practices for me to stay healthy and well during the holidays are a minimum of seven hours of sleep, non-negotiable. [I drink] plenty of warm water with lemon to keep up with my hydration and vitamin C, and I eat as many vegetables as I can between holiday parties and client cooking. I also try and take my French bulldog for a long walk every other day, get to yoga when I can — even if it’s just once per week — and finally, I end every day writing in a gratitude journal to calm my anxious mind and remind me of everything I should appreciate.”

Bret Gornik

Personal trainer and co-founder, Live Better Co.
“I eat and train to fuel my body and mind to reach new heights and accomplish challenging goals. At all times of the year, I know what I put in is what I get out. When you reframe your nutrition and training to result in achieving a higher purpose you are always on, no matter the season.”

Rae Reichlin

Personal trainer, founder of Ladies Who Lift
“Over the holidays if you are traveling, or just super busy, don’t be hard on yourself about not getting to the gym as frequently or for as long as you usually might. Lend yourself to all the most active jobs that need to be done. Does the dog need to be walked? You’ll do it! Do the kids need to be looked after or played with? That’s all you! Grocery run? You again. Staying on your feet and getting steps in is a great way to stay active without even trying, and in this way, you’ll be spending time with your loved ones or helping to make the show run more smoothly, all at the same time.”

Seobia Rivers

Personal trainer and fitness instructor, artist, fitness director at Healthy Hood Chicago
“Don’t let any health nut manipulate you into thinking you can’t enjoy yourself over the holidays. Free yourself from extreme restrictions and enjoy yourself, mindfully. This is your life, so you must decide what healthy habits bend or break over the holidays.”

Allie Blair Vandergrift

Equinox Tier III Personal Trainer at Gold Coast
“My number-one tip for the holiday is to create a plan and find a family member or friend to hold you accountable. My second piece of advice that I tell all of my clients: Enjoy and cherish time with your families, because one day of eating will not take away the hard work from the entire year. One salad doesn’t make you healthy, and one Christmas feast doesn’t make you unhealthy. Try sticking to your usual eating routine for the majority of the holiday season, but don’t beat yourself up over a fun night at family dinner or at the annual Christmas party.”

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Vegan (low carb) Sugar Cookies‼️. . Fun fact: Nick’s favorite cookies are the sugar cookies with icing and sprinkles on top. I’m more of a chocolate girl myself, but I decided to switch things up and invest in some sprinkles. Grain-Free Vegan Sugar Cookie Recipe. ➡️Dry ingredients: . • 1 1/2c @bobsredmill almond flour • 1/4c coconut flour . • 1/3c @lakanto monk fruit sweetener . • 1/2tsp baking soda • 1/2tsp sea salt . ————————————————————— ➡️Wet ingredients. • 2 flax egg (2T of ground flaxmeal+ 6T of water; refrigerate for 10min to thicken) • 1/4c coconut oil (melted) . • 2T maple syrup . • 2tsp vanilla extract . • Rainbow sprinkles. ————————————————————— Instructions: (Makes 14-16). 1️⃣ Prep your flax egg and pre-heat the oven to 350°F first; you will thank me later . 2️⃣ Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl first, then add the wet ingredients (minus sprinkles) into that bowl to make the batter. 3️⃣ Roll into 14-16 balls and place on a baking tray lined with parchment paper. 4️⃣ Flatten with your thumb or a spoon, then press sprinkles into the top on the dough disks (*because there is no egg, the cookies will not grow/expand, so flatten as much as you want) 5️⃣Bake for 10min @ 350°

A post shared by Allie Blair • NASM CPT (@abv_fitlife) on

Stephanie Rountree

CrossTown Fitness’s community director, fitness coach
“One of my biggest tips on surviving the holidays is to physically sign myself up for a workout class, then try and bring a workout buddy along. If I am signed up for a workout, it keeps me accountable. No matter how tired or busy I may be, I know I can’t and shouldn’t cancel. I tend to work so much harder in a group workout — with a motivating trainer, intense movements, and much less rest time — rather than my own workout, where I procrastinate, take lots of ‘rest breaks,’ and have too many distractions. Having a workout buddy also prevents me from missing a planned workout and makes the experience that much more fun.”

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Crunch time 💥 . . . . 📸 @camrongood

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