How to have a stress free Thanksgiving

10 Ways to Have a Stress-Free Turkey Day by Sandy Sfikas, RD, LDN

 1.  Don’t show up hungry to a gathering. It makes no sense to starve just to stuff. Eat a small healthy snack before leaving home to avoid overindulging at the party. Consider a handful of almonds and a piece of low-fat cheese.

 2.  Budget your treats. Make a decision whether you want a cocktail or two, or a slice of pie. You shouldn’t take a break from budgeting your calories on Thanksgiving. Plan ahead and choose wisely.

 3.  Stay hydrated with plenty of water, seltzer, and soda water (sugar-free). Many people mistake dehydration for hunger. In addition, water helps us feel full. Also, alcohol and coffee can dehydrate your body, so keep hydrated by sipping water and sugar-free beverages.

 4.  Don’t hang around the food table. Find a spot away from the food table and you’ll find that “out of sight, out of mind” really is true when it comes to food.

 5.  Eat Slowly. Since it takes 20 minutes for your brain to register that you’re full, slow down and enjoy your meal. According to experts, putting down your fork between bites and eating mindfully is a sure-fire way to enjoy your meal and be satisfied with less food.

6.  Bring a healthy side dish. You may not know what’s in the other holiday goodies, but by bringing your own dish, you’ll rest assured that you’re filling up on something nutritious.

7.  Get enough sleep. When we’re tired, our hunger and fullness signals don’t work properly. We may crave more carbohydrates and tend to over eat unknowingly. Get at least 7 hours of sleep during the holidays.

8.  Follow the 80/20 rule. Eat until you feel about 80% full, then wait 20 minutes for your body to register that you are full. Eating until we are 100% (or more) full causes overeating by 20% or more.

9.  Try the plate method: Fill your plate with ½ vegetables, ¼ starch, and ¼ lean meat. If it doesn’t fit on your plate, skip it!

10.  Get in some activity: Find the time to get in at least 20 minutes of exercise. Most gyms are open on Thanksgiving, so carve out some time to get the blood moving. Or, take a walk with friends and family and enjoy their company on the holiday.

Sandy Sfikas is a registered and licensed dietitian in Chicago. She’s also a nutrition editor, writer, and blogger. She’s worked in clinical settings as well as fitness facilities. “Change is uncomfortable and if you’re not ready to make changes, I can’t force you. My clients do all the work, and I’m there to facilitate the process. I provide the tools and encouragement to overcome weight loss hurdles. Sometimes a complete lifestyle change is needed, and other times a few tweaks to their current diet can make all the difference.” To contact Sandy, send her an email at



Woke up sore from yet another awesome CrossFit workout that kicked me yesterday!  Have you tried it yet?

What is CrossFit?

CrossFit is defined as constantly varied, functional movements, executed at high intensity.  In short, it is an intense workout that is reminiscent of a high school sports practice.  Crossfit coaches not only create a new workout each day,and  lead the group through a warm up,but they also supervise the group, making sure no one gets injured.  The workout of the day Healthy In Chicago experienced was 10 pull ups, 100 jump ropes and 10 burpees; repeated 5 times.  Sounds easy right? Wrong! During the workout, it does not feel easy, it is not supposed to.  Your muscles burn, you are sweating, your heart is pumping, but for those who CrossFit, it is all worth it.  After your workout is complete, there is a sense of accomplishment and pride among the group and individually.  The best news? According to the coach, a CrossFit workout can be comparable to 2 days of regular workouts.  How? The whole Crossfit workout is only around 20 minutes and that included a warm up, but because of the intensity one can do more (achieve health benefits) in those 20 minutes than can be done working out 40 minutes on the elliptical for 2 days.

 CrossFit also prides themselves is that they aren’t just a workout or just a gym.  They strive to build and maintain a community.  Fellow participants become your coach, cheerleader and friend while together you sweat it out and push your limits.  Yes, it can be competitive especially if you are a competitive person because each person is  racing against the clock for time.  But, once someone was done with the routine, instead of sitting and cooling down, group members were cheering on the rest of the group-encouraging them to finish. 

 To be honest, I was nervous to try out CrossFit because of the intensity of the workout and the fear of being so sore I couldn’t move the following days.  BUT,  I am pleased to report, not only was I a little sore the next day, I can say with confidence that the feeling you will have after completing a  CrossFit  workout makes it very worth it (plus who doesn’t love a 20 minute workout instead of an hour?)  CrossFit is for anyone from beginners to former collegiate athletes because you are training against yourself. The coaches are trained in helping you do modifications of the movements that fit your skill level.  Some people like and need the group atmosphere to push them to not take short cuts when exercising.    For others, this kind of workout may not be appealing at all.  We each have our own preferences to how we like to exercise.  It doesn’t matter how you do it, more that you do your best and get yourself to the gym, dance or yoga class, soccer game, or whatever it is you like to do to make and keep yourself healthy.

Interested in trying out CrossFit?

There are many locations in the city and most offer a free private introduction to the program.

Is Cold Weather Running Bad for You?

The nip is in the air. Starbucks is serving their pumpkin spice lattes.  What does that mean?  Fall is here and the temperatures are dropping. 

As Chicagoan’s, many of us take our workouts outside during the warm months, not only to enjoy the weather but also to save on cash.   Now that it is getting cooler, most of us are thinking just how cold will we let it go before we move indoors.  Or do we brave it and run outside all year round?

So is their scientific proof that we should run inside when the thermometer dips past a certain temperature?

According to Runner’s World, it is not possible to have your lungs freeze while running outside.  Good news, right?  There have been no studies that show that running in temperatures below -40 degrees Celsius can be fatal to your internal organs.   You can experience painful breathing if you breathe in direct air under -40 Degrees, so it is suggested you filter your breathing through a scarf, or neck warmer.   However, you can cause harm to your extremities when not dressed appropriately for the weather.  Think fingers, ears, toes, frostbite on your face and more. 

Bottom line, if you are willing enough to brave it, running year round isn’t bad for you (unless for medical purposes, or if you have certain medical conditions).  Run away, just make sure you dress warmly for the weather.

Where to Buy Cold Weather Workout Gear in Chicago

4 minutes of exercise-Tabata

In search of a new workout class, I had the opportunity to try Tabata at Equinox with Julie for the first time about a month ago.  After warnings from co-workers about how it was a “ta-brutal” experience,  I went into class with high expectations of a hard workout and low expectations of actually enjoying it.   True it was one of the hardest classes I have ever taken, but false in that I didn’t enjoy it.

What is Tabata?

Tabata is a form of exercise training that is 4 minutes of intense interval training/circuit training, repeated.  It was developed by Izumi Tabata at the National Institute of Fitness and Sports in Tokyo, Japan. The institute did a study on comparing the effects of moderate intensity endurance (aerobics) and high endurance intermittent training (tabata training intervals).  The conclusion of the research was that just four minutes of Tabata interval training could do more to boost aerobic and anaerobic capacity than an hour of endurance

What to expect in a Tabata class

Warm up, 20 seconds of maximum intensity exercise, followed by 10 seconds of rest, repeated without pause 8 times for a total of four minutes.

Warm up (jumping jacks)

Squat jumps


Burpees with arm extension

Push ups on bosu ball

Mountain climbers

Hard right?  Fun? Yes!  It was reminiscence of old high school soccer practices, but in a good way.  Julie challenged everyone in class to count how many squat jumps they do in 20 seconds then beat that number next round.  The class pushes you to be competitive, with not only the person next to you, but yourself!  The best part of this workout, it is only 30 minutes then you are done.  Youare left feeling tired, yet energized, and encouraged that you just successfully pushed yourself that hard.

Why take Tabata?

Killer workout, increased overall health, strength and calories burned (even at rest!).

Where can you find Tabata in Chicago?

Burn fat and lifts-Have you tried it yet?

This morning, I had the privilege of starting off my day with a  Barre Bee Fit class and let me tell you, I am already feeling it! 

Barre Bee Fit is the newest barre-based workout studios to hit Chicago and Healthy In Chicago welcomes this new addition.  Why?  Because not only is the workout phenomenal, the atmosphere and energy in the studio is amazing.  Are you a person who gets nervous about trying something new?  Haven’t worked out in a while?  Feel insecure because you may not have the hottest workout attire?  None of this matters at Barre Bee Fit.  The instructors are welcoming, personable and the classes small, so you don’t feel intimated by what you are doing or where you are. 

Jillian, part founder and fab instructor, started class today with a cardio warm up and then progressed to strengthen training.  However, this was a different kind of strength training.  According to Jillian, using small isometric movements, each individual muscle group is targeted and worked to the point of overload.  With intermitted cardio bursts, to burn more calories, Jillian took us through more isometric movements as well as barre and yoga stretches ending the class with core work.  We did feel the burn for the full hour!

Why do this class?  According to Barre Bee Fit’s owners, Barre Bee Fit’s systematic approach burns fat and lifts and lengthens the body to yield quick noticeable results that we all want to see.  It can change the way your body functions and looks.  It is also very reasonably priced.  For just $125 a month, you get unlimited classes.  If you go 3 times a week, that is only $10 a class!  They also offer student and industry discounts, or pay as you go!  The studio itself is very clean.  Jillian, a self-professed germ freak, and her team of insructors (shout out to Michelle!)makes sure mats and equipment are wiped down between each class.   Parking is free if go you in the morning and it is conveniently located for anyone to go before or after work.  They also cap their class sizes so you actually have your own space to practice!  The only down we saw is that the studio doesn’t have showers.  However even with its intensity, we didn’t sweat much, and they keep it very cold in the workout room.

Bottom line:  Barre Bee Fit is Healthy In Chicago approved and recommended.  Not only is it a great workout, but the studio and instructors are unpretentious, personable and knowledgable.  A big plus, the classes are affordable!

Healthy In Chicago readers-Try a class!  Enter promo code 435 when you register and workout for FREE.

You are also invited to Barre Bee Fit’s launch party tomorrow at English from 6-9pm. 

$10 donation gets you 2 free drinks and another FREE class at Barre Bee Fit.  Even better, your donation goes to the Bright Pink charity.

To read more about Barre Bee Fit click here.

You are invited-Barre Bee Fit Studio Opening! FREE Class

Healthy In Chicago readers are invited to the Barre Bee Fit new studio opening!

What is Barre Bee Fit?

If you have been to a class at the Bar Method, Dailey Method, or Exhale Core Fusion—it is very similar.  The difference is that Barre Bee Fit is focused on being more fun and laid back.  You may have read about this workout in US Weekly.  Kelly Ripa, Drew Barrymore, and Denise Richards have made it very popular in NYC and LA!  It is a 60 minute total body workout that combines yoga, pilates, cardio and the barre technique.   Another great difference is that it’s so much more affordable than any other studio.

Visit Barre Bee Fit on Monday, June 28th (or any day next week) and take a class for FREE!  SEe what all the BUZZ is about!

Register online for your free class here

Healthy In Chicago readers are also invited to Barre Bee Fit’s Grand Opening Party July 15th at English!

When NOT to Exercise

Yes, you read it right…there are real reasons to skip a day or two of working out.  Sometimes, exercising can make injuries worse, you sicker and overall hurt your body instead of help. 

Excuses to NOT exercise when you have;

  • a cold: moderate exercise is ok if you have a cold just make sure you use plenty of hand sanitizer and wipe down the machines after you use them so you don’t make others sick.  If you are feeling achy and crummy when you have a cold, it is ok to skip the gym.
  • a fever:  if you have a fever, your body is already fighting an infection.  Exercising when you have a fever can lead to dehydration.  Lastly, when you have a fever, your heart rate is already increased thus making your workout less effective.  Stay home and rest!
  •  a recent concussion: do not exercise until a doctor tell you it is okay.   Another head injury before the first is healed can be life threatening.
  • a recent asthma attack:  if it was from a respiratory infection (cold, etc) wait until the infection is cleared up.  If you are asthmatic and your doctor has cleared you for exercise, you can workout again after an attack.  Start slowly,  and stick to low-moderate exercises .  Always keep your inhaled on hand if you have one.
  • you are too tired: if you are always fatigued (very tired to the point of not functioning) don’t workout and go see a doctor.  This may be a symptom of a health condition.
  • an old injury is bothering you: if you have pain during activity, go see your doctor.  You may have injured your body again- rest. 
  • you have sudden, sharp pains: stop working out and see your doctor.  Working out more can make the injury worse.   Soreness is ok, but extreme pain is not.
  • you are really sore: you can still workout when you are sore.  Light-moderate workouts may make your muscles feel better.  However,  if you have severe soreness, it is ok to skip a workout and let your muscles rest and repair.
  • you have back pain: rest a few days and see if the pain goes away. Avoid exercises that cause your back to hurt more.  If the pain is persistent, go see your doctor.
  • you are pregnant: you can workout while you are pregnant but you must avoid contact sports and activities, and exercises that strain your back and belly. 

Bottom line: Listen to your own body.  If something doesn’t feel right, don’t push it, rest and relax, there is always tomorrow (just don’t make it a habit of pshing off your workout).

Sources: WebMD, MayoClinic