Feeling Fit Stress and the Holidays Taking Control for Better Health The holidays are a joyous time filled with family, friends, food and fun. Still, many of us feel as if we’re being pulled in numerous directions with so much to do, and very lit- tle time to do it, sending our bodies into a state of constant stress. In the realm of fitness and body transformation, stress is nothing we can overlook or brush aside. Sarah Ingmanson Battaglia, owner of Star’s Locker fitness studios provides sound advice for alleviating stress and the food cravings that often accompany it. Her insight can help you maintain positive and healthy goals, despite the hustle and bustle of the season. Is all stress created equal? It’s important to understand that not all stress is the same. Perpetual low-grade stress – think nagging to-do list or annoying coworkers – is actually much worse than occasional high-level stress like we may experience in desperate emergencies or trau- ma. Our bodies are designed for the latter, shutting down to some degree as the body triggers the fight-or-flight response. Unfortunately, it is perpetual low-grade stress that most people are operating under day-in and day-out. This includes trying to be all things to all people, but even a diet that’s too restrictive can be a source of low-grade stress, causing you to hold onto weight despite low calorie intake. Why does stress make us fat? The mid-section is where we hold the stress-hormone cortisol. Under constant, low- grade stress, cortisol levels elevate and, if not addressed, particularly in the female body, hormonal imbalances and adrenal fatigue are unfortunate outcomes, with belly fat as an unavoidable side-effect. Elevated cortisol causes a variety of issues, including carbohy- drate cravings, hypertension, and even diabetes. This is the way our body tells us we’re not dealing with what’s making us stressed. You may be telling yourself and the world, "Everything's ok, see, I've got this!", but our bodies are beautifully made and never lie. Can fitness be a source of stress? In exactly the same way life induces stress, sometimes placing yourself into a persistent "fight or flight" mode by dieting too hard or by over exercising causes the very stress you’re trying to avoid. Your body will work for you if you transform properly – that being exercising and eating for long term results instead of a quick-fix. If you go at it too hard, the body will absolutely plateau, rebound-plus, and, in many ways, "act up" in the form of fatigue, cravings, injury, and other forms of self-sabotage. What is the best way to handle stress? 36 I recommend tackling stress through awareness, self-love, intention, and a re-balancing of action and recovery. In the studio, you'll hear me and all of the instructors speak in these terms. Many people think this type of attitude only shows up in a yoga class. I believe any and every endeavor should evoke a little "spirit" and address the mind-body connection. The body responds much faster and with greater sustainability when the mind is engaged first. December/January 2018 SPONSORED CONTENT I don't want any of my clients' fitness routines or eating regimens to become a source of stress; I want just the opposite. What about cravings associated with stress? Carb cravings are often categorized as "sugar addiction" and my advice is to get a better addiction! Addictions are built primarily on habits and we are creatures of habit. I could say I have an "egg white addiction", which is just as strong as (or perhaps stronger than) your sugar addiction. What we consume on a given day often becomes what we consume every day. Through my transfor- mation programs, I help clients break bad habits without suc- cumbing to an unbalanced approach. I craft customized meal plans for my in-studio transformation clients and my long-distance clients (a.k.a. Distant Stars). By delivering structure, I take away the guesswork and help change "sticky" habits. With a healthy, sound meal plan, my clients feel more energized and experience fewer cravings. They are also amazed at how much better they feel as they watch their mid-section tightening. With an emphasis on macronutrient and lifestyle balance, I work to keep their crav- ings at bay while instilling better nutrition habits. My objective is not to help clients drop weight quickly; I want to help them achieve a look for the long-term, while steering clear of metabolic damage and stress during the holidays and all year long. Sarah has been teaching fitness in the Valley since 2007. She has her MBA from Wharton, MA from the Lauder Institute, and BA (Summa Cum Laude) from Tufts. This former execu- tive director at Morgan Stanley, pro- fessional figure skater, and Fulbright Scholar, is an award-winning fitness competitor, instructor, and author. Sarah talks the talk and walks the walk of empowered fitness. For more information, visit starslocker.com, call (725) 222-0548, or stop by 11251 S. Eastern Ave., Ste. 180, Henderson.