Don’t get in a rut this holiday season. Stick to your health goals.
By Lindsay Field Penticuff
It’s something that often haunts us come New Year’s Day each year, and something many of us struggle with — losing the weight we’ve gained during the holiday season. But it doesn’t have to be hard, and Crystal Duke, a certified fitness instructor and health coach, as well as owner and founder of CLifeFit in Marietta, says it’s about finding balance when it comes to your eating and exercise habits in November and December.
“Enjoy this season and all that it has to offer. Just be mindful that the key to successfully managing your weight over holidays, like everything else in life, is to use ‘balance,’” she says.
Coach Crystal, who has been a fitness instructor for five years and created CLifeFit two years ago (she recently relocated to Cobb County from Chicago), works alongside her brother, Doran Duke, MD, a board-certified internal medicine doctor and obesity medical specialist. The CLifeFit gym is located inside ARCD Weight Loss Management off Roswell Road in Marietta, where Dr. Duke is CEO. She works mainly with women, and her mission is to help them create sustainable behavioral patterns centered around their health to improve quality of life. ARCD and CLifeFit collaborate together using the most advanced diagnostic tests to assess body composition and metabolic rates to accurately map out an action plan for long-term weight loss.
The story behind CLifeFit
Coach Crystal fell into the health and fitness profession after working 20 years as a speech-language pathologist.
“Many of the adult patients I treated had suffered from cardiovascular and neurological diseases, with underlining comorbidities of hypertension, diabetes, hyperlipidemia (high cholesterol) and obesity,” she says. “Over time, I learned that if these comorbidities had been properly managed early on with medical intervention and lifestyle changes, many of my patients’ medical outcomes would have been different.”
She also experienced this firsthand with her mother. Despite years of encouraging her to eat a more balanced diet, Duke’s mom was always resistant. And although she claimed she worked out, Coach Crystal never really saw any real improvements in her mother’s health or energy level. “I accompanied her to the gym one day and discovered that even though my mom was familiar with the place, she appeared very uncomfortable and unsure of herself in the space,” adds Coach Crystal.
This is something she’s learned many women relate to. “That day, my mom and I agreed to embark on a journey together to improve her overall health,” Coach Crystal says. “Over time, my mom made small, lasting changes and gained a renewed sense of self-confidence that ultimately transformed her body, mind, and overall lifestyle.”
In turn, Coach Crystal gained new perspectives and a deeper level of empathy for people who, like her mother, just needed someone to come alongside them to help provide education, support, guidance and a little tough love in this area of their life.
And out of this experience, she launched CLifeFit, which is unique in that she pairs fitness training with health coaching. “My greatest joy is helping women develop self-efficacy in the areas of their body awareness, strength in terms of what they are able to do physically in the gym and, more importantly, their ability to conquer fears and overcome obstacles in their weight loss journey that they’ve struggled with for years,” Coach Crystal says. “I really want to equip people with tools that they can always go back and refer to once they leave my program.”
She also wants women to understand that they aren’t alone in their struggles to gain or lose weight. “I always tell people, ‘We’re looking for progress not perfection on this journey, and you’re going to have highs and lows.’ But when you have those lows, you don’t have to stay there, and when you have those highs, glean all the goodness that comes out of it so that you’ll press repeat to do it again,” she says.
Healthy habits during the holidays
Approximately 80 percent of weight gain or weight loss is determined by what we eat, leaving about 20 percent based on our exercise habits.
“What most people don’t understand is that the more excess fat and adipose tissue we have in our bodies, it facilitates so many other potential complications in our bodies,” Coach Crystal says. “And one of the things that is really disheartening is that when our body gains weight in the way of fat, it recalibrates our bodies to think that if you went from 150 pounds to 170 pounds, that 170-pound weight is now the new norm.”
So, when someone attempts to lose that extra 20 pounds after the holidays, their body will often fight even harder to hold onto the 20 pounds because that’s the new “norm.”
“Often, women are not only fighting hormones and metabolism changes, but they have also changed what their body deems as its normal weight when we have these ‘yo-yos’ in our weight,” Coach Crystal adds. “Our bodies are always looking for a homeostasis norm, and it will always try to resist any change in that once it sets its new parameters. It’s frustrating for a lot of people!”
Coach Crystal knows it can be difficult to maintain healthy eating habits and stay on track to exercise regularly during the holiday season, so she shared five tips to help you avoid the holiday health blues:
Minimize stress. Realistically, we can’t eliminate all stress over the holidays, but we can try to avoid unnecessary levels of it. Stress will increase our appetites for sweet, fatty and salty foods, which then spike our blood sugar and ultimately increase fat storage. Try your best to pace yourself, practice saying the word “no,” and remember you can only be stretched so far or do so much within a 24-hour period.
Eat before you go. Food is one of the top things we look forward to during the holidays. Try to eat a healthy snack before going to an event where you know delicious food will be served. This way, you will be less inclined to overindulge and can avoid the dreaded morning-after mirror conversation, which normally begins with the statement, “What was I thinking?”
Use a smaller dish. While standing in a buffet line, I have witnessed some plates that defy all levels of space and gravity, but in theory the size of the dish you choose can provide healthy perimeters for portion control. When dining out, request half your food be plated and the other half placed in a to-go box for later. Note: Later does not mean eating your leftovers an hour after you get home from the restaurant.
Create an environment for success. If I pass by my favorite holiday cookies several times a day, the likelihood of me consuming one or many of them over a 24-hour period is quite high. Don’t set yourself up for unnecessary temptations that can get you off track. Over the holidays, consider adopting the adage, “Out of sight, out of mind.” Be sure to work smarter, not harder.
Strive for progress not perfection. Remember one bad meal, or for that matter one bad day, will not derail you. If you happen to fall off the wagon, forgive yourself, recommit to your goals and move forward.
And if you step on the scale on January 1 and you’ve gained weight, don’t beat yourself up about it. “Find a doctor, nutritionist, psychologist, health coach and/or fitness trainer who can assist you in reclaiming your health and reaching your goals,” Coach Crystal concludes. “My mottos are, ‘It is never too late, don’t wait,’ and ‘Yes, you are worth it.’”
In the community:
CLifeFit and ARCD Weight Loss Management is partnering with the Cobb County Recreation Centers to provide fitness and educational programs in 2023.
Just for readers: If you mention this article when you call, you qualify for a free weight loss or fitness consultation with Crystal Duke, Certified Fitness Instructor and Health Coach, and Owner and Founder of CLifeFit, as well as a free weight loss consultation with Dr. Doran Duke.