By Zach Schepis
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
It’s the turn of the New Year, and familiar rushes of adrenaline and testosterone are flooding gym floors everywhere with renewed vigor. Indoor-dwelling hermits leave the comfort of their cozy apartments and brave the weather to kick-off 2014 proper with improved fitness regiments. The idle become restless for newfound strength and a yearning for healthier living. It’s a surge that happens every year like clockwork.
“The past two weeks alone there have been more people on a day-to-day basis than entire stretches in November and December,” says Nicole Hough, a manager at Equinox Gym on 74th Street in Manhattan.
New Year’s resolutions and bold resolves will continue to inspire countless individuals to embark on new diets and workout routines, but how many of them will be doing it in a manner that is truly healthy?
Carrie Gabriel is a dietician based out of Santa Monica with a simple yet effective philosophy: taking matters into your own hands through gradual and realistic goal setting. Her website banner aptly reads, “Taking Nutrition One Step at a Time.” After earning an MS in Nutritional Science from CSU-Los Angeles in 2009, she began her nutrition career working at St. Johns Hospital in Santa Monica. Gabriel has had years of experience counseling patients both clinically and with her private practice, where she offers a variety of ways to help people bring their “healthier” self-ideals closer to fruition.
“I think it’s always good when you’re trying to find your motivation and have a plan, there’s nothing wrong with New Year’s as a means to start those goals,” Gabriel tells BTR. “It’s just that sometimes goals become a little absurd.”
Pitfalls can await on all sides for those too rash and eager to pursue a new lifestyle without taking an adequate amount of time to adjust first. According to Gabriel, patience and a realistic consideration of one’s objectives are the first steps towards creating a better self-sustaining flow.
“Sometimes people don’t always have a plan,” Gabriel tells BTR. “If you were to go on a road trip, you wouldn’t speed off into nowhere. No matter when you want to start, you’ll want to arrange some changes that you want to implement and fit them into your schedule. Don’t say ‘I want to lose 50 pounds in a month’ – that’s a very absurd goal.”
Evidently the idea of extreme weight loss still remains a realistic goal for many – albeit in a marketplace swamped with dishonesty. Earlier this month the Federal Trade Commission charged four different weight-loss companies with falsely advertising their products. Efforts to crack down on such fraudulent claims have been dubbed “Operation Failed Resolution” by the FTC, and currently there are only three weight-loss drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration still on the market.
“Nowadays there are so many cleanses and crash diets available to people of all ages,” says Gabriel. “The mistake is young people, and really just people in general, don’t want to do it the right way. They don’t want to eat well and get plenty of exercise. They want the quicker fix; they want to cleanse, they want a pill, but using a lot of these products or doing these diets does wreak havoc on our metabolism. It does take a toll on us when we get older.”
She believes that through exercising our sense of moderation we can actualize our potential for a gradual, more realized personal change and growth. This rate, however, will vary from one person to the next. “I’m of the school of thought that some healthy food is always better than none at all,” explains Gabriel. “You might be having a salad every day and end up having a not so healthy meal, but at least you got those fruits and vegetables. It’s always a good start to developing essential healthy habits.”
In order to enact large-scale social change against forces as widespread as obesity, one must first begin on the personal level. “Power to the people,” Gabriel tells BTR. “It’s about combating these bigger issues. Do whatever works for you – as long as you are getting out there.”
Luckily for us, Gabriel has taken the time to share some tips on starting healthy new routines that aren’t too overbearing for the uninitiated.
Don’t Neglect the Golden Meal
Let’s face it, we all know breakfast should be the staple of our daily diet. It’s where we get the energy necessary to carry us on into our physical and mental labors. Yet for some reason many of us neglect it, whether it’s because of work, sleep, or because we claim that there just isn’t enough time. It can be almost impossible to lead a healthier lifestyle when the first step towards that realization is ignored.
“Start having breakfast every single day,” Gabriel advises. “That’s an essential to any diet.”
Substitutes Can Work
Like those who seek to quit smoking, having an alternative to fall back on can be a great way to make the transition smoother. If you’re having your midnight snack and usually reach for a cookie, but substitute fruit instead, it can bring dramatic changes without sacrificing delectability.
“It’s the sweet tooth thing,” says Gabriel. “But whatever you end up deciding on for your healthy alternative, always keep it at your disposal.”
So what about all of the lanky lean people who can eat almost anything with no visible consequences? What health advice is there for those who have been “blessed” with high metabolisms?
“That’s a tough one,” Gabriel tells BTR. “I know people way into their 40s and 50s who haven’t experienced the metabolic slowdown yet. Even if you can do that, however, you still have to think about your insides. Plenty of people indulge and end up getting sick (or god forbid cancer) that way. It’s not a free health pass just because you can’t gain weight.”
Workout Stretching: Post or Pre?
Stretch first? Stretch later?
“In my opinion, it really depends on what you’re doing. I stretch after when I’m more limber. Some people say before and after. Find your sweet spot and whatever works for you.”
Moderation, Moderation, Moderation
Herein lies the heart of Gabriel’s advice for healthier living. Patience can unlock all the doors with time.
“So perhaps you’ll start with a very do-able approach: say, ‘maybe I should start having one apple a day…’ now that’s a good start. Be specific; make sure your demands are attainable and reasonable.”
To contact Carrie Gabriel for an appointment, recipes, or more information write her at firstname.lastname@example.org. To hear the interview in its entirety listen to BTR’s very own Third Eye Weekly.