How to keep eating and exercise on track during ‘the most wonderful time of the year’

Battling holiday temptations

Camas Mayor Scott Higgins (left) and Washougal Mayor Sean Guard prepare for their initial weigh-in during the start of the Camas and Washougal on a Diet Challenge in May. The mayors are facing off in a year-long competition to see who can lose the most weight and earn bragging rights, as well as a healthier lifestyle.

Healthy holidays

The following 10 tips are quick and easy ways to keep on track during the holidays

1 ~ Park farther away from the store while shopping instead of spending 10 minutes searching for a spot.

2 ~ Take the stairs instead of elevators or escalators at the mall, restaurants, etc.

3 ~ Walk whenever possible, to the store, appointments, or work if nearby.

4 ~ Do simple exercises (crunches, pushups, planks, squats) during commercials or while watching holiday movies.

5 ~ Drink a glass or two of water before diving into the food at holiday parties.

6 ~ Allow yourself to have a few of your favorite holiday desserts or alcoholic beverages. That way, you are less likely to binge because of feeling deprived.

7 ~ Allow 30 minutes after finishing a meal or appetizer plate before starting in on the next.

8 ~ Take a brisk walk after your holiday meal before eating dessert.

9 ~ Don’t feel obligated to attend every party. Pick the ones that are most important to you and skip the others.

10 ~ Have a healthy snack, such as hummus and carrots, yogurt and granola, or all-natural peanut butter and toast before attending parties. You’ll be less likely to binge on unhealthy food.


Camas Mayor Scott Higgins incorporates walking into his daily routine in order to get regular exercise.


Washougal Mayor Sean Guard takes his turn on the slide during a Father’s Day obstacle course, part of the Camas and Washougal on a Diet challenge. Keeping workouts fun and varied are two keys to maintaining an exercise regimen.

‘Tis the season for family gatherings, parties, holiday movies and cookie exchanges. Unfortunately, it’s also the season for weight gain.It is said that the average American gains 8 to 10 pounds between Thanksgiving and the New Year. These pounds tend to be “the gift that keeps on giving,” and at best, can mean buying larger sized clothes and at worst, contribute to health issues such as high blood pressure, heart disease and obesity.

So how do you stay on track with eating and exercise during this busy time of year?

By setting realistic goals, according to local health and fitness coaches Ashley Clinton and Michelle Clark.

“Time is a lot of more crowded during the holidays,” Clinton said. “If you tell yourself you’re going to make it to the gym six days a week and you don’t end up doing it, many people will feel guilty and figure what is the point of going at all. Just make a reasonable commitment you can stick to, such as three days a week.”

She also recommends signing up for a holiday-themed fun run or walk.

“There are a lot of those this time of year,” Clinton said. “You can sign up with a group of friends, and it keeps you motivated.”

Clark added that scheduling in a workout, like any other appointment, helps people to keep on track.

“Think ahead and plan your schedule for success,” Clark said. “You must be sure you still get your workouts in. During the holiday season, we all find ourselves busy and sluggish while trying to enjoy family time. Healthy eating and exercise is a great way to avoid the normal sluggish feeling that comes with the holidays.”

In addition to working with private clients, Clark and Clinton are also the featured trainers for the Camas and Washougal on a Diet efforts. The year-long challenge, which began in May, pits Mayor Sean Guard of Washougal against Mayor Scott Higgins of Camas in a contest to see who can lose the most weight. Clinton is Higgins’ trainer, while Clark serves as Guard’s.

Higgins said that he started off strong in the challenge, but has struggled the last few months finding balance.

“At my best, I’ve lost 30 pounds and at my worst, I’m down 20,” he said. “I have really been struggling with keeping up my motivation and finding time to exercise. I think I’ll finish the year strong though. Ashley tries to keep me on track by texting me regularly about continuing to do my workouts. My biggest problem is that I get so busy, the day gets away from me. That’s been the hardest thing.”

However, Higgins is finding his motivation again, and is committed to staying on track during the holidays by walking and enjoying holiday treats in moderation.

“The times I’ve been most successful losing weight, I’ve done the really restrictive calorie plans, but I don’t keep it up,” he said. “This has been a re-education for me. The plan for the holiday season is, ‘Let’s get going again.’”

Clinton said that Higgins wants to become healthier, but struggles with old habits.

“It’s a mental game,” she said. “He needs to figure out the balance and do it the right way for long-term change. He really is struggling with motivation right now and could really use encouragement and positive reinforcement and reminders from people in the community that he is leading by example.”

Guard, who has lost 27 pounds so far, thinks he has found that balance.

“I don’t worry about it too much,” he said. “My goal is to win the challenge by making small changes that are easy.”

For example, instead of chowing down on chips and salsa after work, Guard munches on fresh veggies and fruits. He has also given up handcrafted ales for light beer.

When asked what advice he would give to those who want to lose weight, Guard emphasized keeping it simple.

“Do whatever is going to be easiest for you,” he said. “Find the things you like to eat, then find five things that aren’t your friend at all, trim those down. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Park a little farther away at the store.”

When asked what advice they give to those attending holiday parties laden with food, Clinton and Clark both urge moderation.

“Food is the worst part,” joked Clinton. “It’s everywhere around you. If you’re seriously training to maintain or even lose weight, set very specific limitations. With holiday meals, make sure you don’t skip meals beforehand. It can be tempting for people to starve themselves before and then they end up eating way more than they should. And allow yourself to have your favorite holiday dessert or glass of wine. Just keep it limited.”

Clark recommends bringing a healthy snack to holiday gatherings.

“I know it sounds simple, but I always bring a fruit/veggie tray for holidays and parties,” she said. “Those are times when we all tend to snack and if you have something healthy and easy, most people will choose that to snack on.”