How to stay healthy when you’re crazy busy (is there ever a good time for a juice cleanse?)

As anyone who attempted to lead a busy, relatively well-balanced life in 2015 would know, it’s near impossible to find the perfect time to start new healthy habits. A week without the temptation of drinks with friends or that croissant at the coffee shop? Non-existent. The sudden urge to get up an hour early and hit the gym? Never gonna happen. The above represents my predicament to a tee, which is why I reached out to nutritionist Elaine Brisebois to help me wade through the last few months (usually my busiest), encapsulating TIFF, fashion week, the Jewish High Holidays and countless press events and holiday parties. Oh, and two vacations (which, hey, while I’m not complaining, are not exactly the best fodder for good eating habits).

Knowing the cluckerf*ck of a schedule I had to work with, Brisebois devised a reasonable plan for doing my best when the road got rough. “Don’t wait to begin, just start right now from wherever you are,” she said. Okay, boss! Here are some of the tips I found most helpful:

Forget about “everything in moderation:”

Especially around the holidays, “everything in moderation” can translate to mean a bit of cake, a bit of wine, a bit more cake, a bit more wine… “I think some people use that phrase as an excuse to indulge in unhealthy foods and habits too frequently,” says Brisebois. “Think of each day as a whole,” she says. “Let’s say you know ahead of time that you’re going to be attending a party in the evening, it would be best to keep the rest of the day ‘business as usual’ knowing full well you’ll be indulging later.” Good advice for those who see a weekend brunch as just the start of a bad-eating spiral (a big brunch turns into a late dinner, multiple cocktails and then some). “Real progress is made when you can contain or ‘isolate’ these types of indulgences to just one day, or better yet, one meal without having to self-destruct or spiral downwards.”

Case in point, I held off on indulging during a recent dinner in Miami, knowing that the next night was going to include a huge party. During said party, I indulged in little ways (mainly champagne) while balancing the rest of the night with veggies and fish.

Sometimes it’s about what you are eating:

“If all you can do after a big night out is manage to get in some fruits and veggies, that’s okay.” Brisebois recommends blending the ingredients together for an easily digestible morning smoothie. My new morning smoothie is as follows: ½ banana, ½ cup berries, handful kale, 1 scoop whey protein, 1 tablespoon ground flax seed, 1 ½ cup water and ice.

Pack in the HIITs:

“What I love about high intensity interval training is that it’s perfect for people who are too busy or have no time to visit the gym or attend a class. You can get an effective workout in from the comfort of your own home, nearby park, or hotel room, and you don’t necessarily need any equipment,” says Brisebois. “There are various types of HIIT workouts to choose from so people are less likely to get bored with their workout. What’s best is that you can get the same, if not greater, results in half of the time of a longer duration low-intensity workout session.” Brisebois recommends packing at least 3 sweat sessions a week to really burn the calories. My favourite is “Fearless” by Sofia Boutella on Nike’s N+TC app, which is only 15 minutes. When I’ve got an hour, Barreworks’ bAAAre class is killer.

Indulging is important, sometimes:

“If you’re doing everything else right, and you enjoy having a glass of wine with dinner, then this might be the thing that keeps you sticking to your healthy regime long-term because you know you can enjoy a glass (or two) of wine now and then,” says Brisebois. “But remember, like anything else (i.e. dark chocolate) you can have too much of a good thing!”

Avoid peer pressure:

“You’re always going to be faced with social pressures, and there’s always going to be people who are uncomfortable with your new healthy habits,” says Brisebois. “In the beginning you may have to practice more self-restraint, but it gets easier over time to say no to certain things, especially as you start to feel and look better than you did before—which will motivate you to keep on going.”

Choose the best of the worst:

“Accept that you’re probably going to be faced with some less than ideal choices and just choose the best quality you can given the situation,” she says. “It might be helpful to set a few parameters for yourself ahead of time if you’re worried about getting out of control, such as limiting yourself to 1-2 glasses of wine, or only allowing yourself to indulge in one small dessert rather than sampling them all.” Skip the fried hors d’oeuvres in favour of the vegetable crudités, olives, bean-based dips, and quality cheeses. Fill your plate with plenty of salad and veggie-based dishes and opt for smaller portions of more calorie-dense foods. Limit carb-rich, and starchy foods and balance them out with quality proteins, such as seafood or lean meats.