Guilty Pleasures of the SparkPeople Coaches

Think that working as a fitness or nutrition expert is about being perfect? Think again! SparkPeople recommends a balanced lifestyle that includes moderation when it comes to food and exercise. Our experts live this way too. Don't believe us? Read about the SparkPeople experts' guilty pleasures!

The Experts
Dean Anderson: Psychology and Fitness Expert
Chris Downie: Goal and Achievement Expert
Becky Hand: M.Ed., Licensed & Registered Dietitian
Tanya Jolliffe: Healthy Eating Expert
Jen Mueller: Certified Personal Trainer
Nicole Nichols: Certified Fitness Instructor

How many days per week do you rest from working out completely?
Dean: I don’t really have a schedule. If I don’t feel like doing anything, I don’t. It seems to work out to about one day off per week, on average.

Chris: Zero. I only do no physical activity if I'm really sick. BUT, I do highly recommend having light days where you do very mild activity. My program is based on doing simple things at home that are ingrained into my daily routine, like bouncing on a trampoline in the morning sun to wake up, or stretching at night under the stars to relax. Then, many days I'll also do full workouts, but some I won't.

Becky: I prefer to rest only 1-2 days, but sometimes up to 3 or even 4 days during those crazy weeks when too many activities are scheduled.

Tanya: Usually 2 days. If I have been good and fit all my workouts in during the week, I take the weekend to relax with family and friends.

Jen: I take at least one day of rest from all activity, and then if I need it, I'll have another 1-2 days per week where I do something lighter to give my body extra time to rest.

Nicole: Always 1 or 2 days. Sometimes more!

How often do you take a break from consistently exercising?
Dean: I don’t worry about exercise when I’m traveling or during special occasions. This year, I spent 5 days in Idaho for one kid’s wedding, and another week in California visiting my granddaughter—didn’t lift a finger the whole time.

Chris: Never. But when I am busy at work, I will have more light days where I just do enough to maintain my foundation and enough for regular stress relief.

Becky: Summer seems to be my downtime from my regular exercising routine—kids are home from school, various activities (sports, vacations, fair, trips) are scheduled—exercise just keeps getting pushed to the bottom of the list. My intensity and duration are often shorter.

Tanya: It depends on the year. Sometimes I rest for a few weeks throughout the year after races (half marathons, 10K's, mini-marathons); other times I rest a few months if I am really burned out and need to refocus.

Jen: I've never really taken a break completely. Usually I'll have periods of time where I don't do as much (in between training for different running events), but I'm pretty active on a regular basis.

Nicole: As a fitness instructor, I don't get a break from exercise as much as I'd like. Ideally, I take a week-long break from exercise 2-4 times per year just to rest.

What is  your least favorite form of exercise?
Dean: I’m not very fond of high intensity interval exercise (strength or cardio), but I do like how I feel afterwards, so I try to do one session of each weekly.

Chris: If I'm not doing them regularly, sprints are hard. But, I love them if I'm doing them consistently.

Becky: I refuse to go to a gym, so if it can’t be done at home, then I’m not going to participate. I’d rather be done with the exercise than spend 40 minutes on the road just getting to and from the gym.

Tanya: I HATE classes led by an instructor. From the first aerobics class I took in college I have disliked having someone tell me when and how to exercise. I like setting my own pace and schedule based on how I feel.

Jen: Weight training!

Nicole: Step aerobics

Do you ever skip the warm-up, cool down or stretches?
Dean: I probably would skip warm-ups pretty often, except that I walk to the gym, and count that as my warm-up. My cool down often consists of stopping at the water fountain on the way back to the locker room. And I do whatever stretching I do between sets, but I also do a little yoga at home several times per week.

Chris: Sometimes I'm so excited to play tennis that I'll skip the warm up.

Becky: I never warm up, cool down or stretch first. I may start out a little slower and end a little slower. As far as stretching, I try to focus about 20 minutes on this, 3 times/week (while watching some brain-dead TV show), it takes a long time to stretch out this 45 year old body…slow and easy is the best pace for me.

Tanya: I have never been very good with fitting all of them in at every workout so I frequently skip something.

Jen: I never skip them, but do cut them shorter than I should some days, especially if I'm in a hurry.

Nicole: As an instructor, I include all of these things when I teach. On my own however, I tend to skip the stretching, but never the warm-up or cool down.

What exercises do you tend to skip when you don't feel like working out?
Dean: I skip the Stairmaster and do a little reading on the stationary bike instead.

Chris: My regular 20-minute stationary bike ride can be easy to skip if my day is real busy.

Becky: When I’m tired and really don’t want to do my workout, I compromise and go for a long walk with the dog…and I always feel better when I return.

Tanya: Warming up and cooling down—I just go straight to raising the heart rate.

Jen: I'll skip the weight training just because I don't like it as much (I know, that's bad), or I'll just do a lighter day of cardio than I was planning for.

Nicole: If I had to choose between cardio and strength training, I'd pick cardio most of the time and skip the weights.

How often do you indulge in what others consider a "bad" food?
Dean: My bad food choices are pretty much a matter of eating too much of a good thing. It's been a couple years since I’ve heard a bacon double cheeseburger calling my name, but I find myself having a second serving of yogurt, frozen raspberries, or organic chocolate milk several evenings per week. But there was that entire Bloomin' Onion I ate all by myself the other day when my daughter took me out to lunch…

Chris: Regularly—at least a couple of times per week.

Becky: I indulge in a “nice but not necessary food” about 3 times per week—always a small portion or by sharing a portion. My office companions, (dietitians) love to split a piece of pie—just a few bites of bliss!

Tanya: Depends on the week, but I usually have something chocolate, several times each week.

Jen: I love sweets and usually have something small on a daily basis. I think it's important to have the things you enjoy. I just try to eat them in moderation.

Nicole: I have something sweet (but small) almost every day. I figure that if you consciously eat healthy 80%-90% of the time, smaller splurges don't send you down a shame spiral.

What is your favorite sweet treat? How often do you REALLY eat it?
Dean: Chocolate, without a doubt. I eat it every day, usually more than once. I even make my breakfast cereal (oatmeal, Kashi, Cheerios) with chocolate soy milk.

Chris: Brownies—the gooier the better. I'll have them a couple times per month. The key is to not have them around very often or I'd eat them!

Becky: Chocolate!! 2-3 times a week. My favorite is dark chocolate-covered soy nuts.

Tanya: Chocolate or Double Stuff Oreo cookies with a tall glass of milk! I eat the chocolate weekly in small amounts. If Oreos are in the house I will eat them, so not bringing them home is my key to control.

Jen: Probably chocolate, and yes, I eat it almost every day in small amounts.

Nicole: Dark chocolate chips. I buy a bag of the good stuff (organic, dark, fair trade) every week or two and slowly eat it--usually a small handful each day.

What is your favorite savory, high-cal, high-fat food to enjoy?
Dean: That would have to be either a chocolate cheesecake or, in a pinch, Reese’s peanut butter cups.
Chris: This is bad. It's probably Taco Bell.

Becky: My homemade yeast rolls, straight out of the oven with real butter and fresh honey from the local farmer (or my mom’s blackberry jam)!

Tanya: Desserts with milk

Jen: Pizza

Nicole: Pizza. I try to make it healthier by adding veggies or making my own on a whole wheat crust. I also love Pad Thai and peanut sauces!

How do you really feel when you skip a workout or indulge in your favorite foods?
Dean: One incident doesn’t have much effect, but two in a row will make me feel nervous about “backsliding” and regaining weight. I don’t know if I want to lose the feeling because then it would be awfully easy to go back to the way things used to be.

Chris: As long as I don't go completely overboard, I feel fine. I think almost everything is okay in moderation, and I know there's room for indulgences.

Becky: I don’t get hung up on food indulgence because it's my view that all foods can fit—some are just “nice but not necessary”. However, not getting in the workout can really upset me because I use it to keep myself in balance and to release my anger, frustration, and stress. If this doesn’t happen my patience is less and I hate that.

Tanya: Guilty.

Jen: Sometimes I feel guilty, but then I try to look at the big picture. Overall, I know that I'm a healthy person and make good choices most of the time, and that's what is important. No one is perfect all the time, and there's no point in beating yourself up over being human and enjoying a rest day or that cookie that you've been craving.

Nicole: Satisfied and happy! If I eat healthy and exercise MOST days of the week, then I don't feel bad because I know I've done good things for my body. People put way too much emphasis on being perfect and avoiding "bad" foods. It's all about balance. I want to eat healthy and I enjoy it. But I don't want to give up the things that add experience and pleasure to my day-to-day life. If I miss a workout, oh well! Sometimes you just need a break.

Does everyone need to make a little more room for their "guilty pleasures"?
Dean: In the best of all possible worlds, it would never occur to anyone to feel guilty for enjoying a small treat or taking a break. You may need to think about whether a choice is good for your and consistent with your intentions, but if your focus is in the right place (staying healthy and functional, and enjoying life), then there is plenty of room for little treats. For me, at least, the kind of “toxic guilt” that turns simple pleasures into a bad thing is usually a sign that I’m either treating myself pretty badly—that I feel like I don’t deserve to experience pleasure—or that I’m falling into an all-or-nothing, perfectionist pattern again, blowing little things way out of proportion. That road leads only to trouble.

Chris: I think it depends on the person and where they are. Some people have a difficult time having "just a little" of something—especially early on in a healthy lifestyle change. But once healthy habits have been ingrained, it's easier for people to realize which indulgences are worth it. For example, even after making a healthy lifestyle change, chocolate will still taste great to most people and is fine in moderation. But, many people find after making this change that sugared sodas no longer taste good to them and they don't even find them to be a treat.

Becky: Make room!!! Just don’t dedicate a whole room for these pleasures. One small space is fine so it’s there when you truly need it.

Tanya: Yes! The biggest binges come when we have deprived ourselves of a little serving of a guilty pleasure. One 50-calorie Hershey Nugget each day does add 350 calories to your weekly total, but that little indulgence could prevent you from eating a 700-calorie chocolate dessert by helping you not feel deprived along the way.

Jen: I think one of the reasons most people "fail" at diets is because they think they need to dramatically change everything about their eating and exercise behaviors and learn to be perfect at making healthy choices. That's not realistic if you're looking at making a long term, lifestyle change. Everyone needs to enjoy the things they love now and then.

Nicole: If you want to, yes. I'm a big believer in intuitive eating, where you listen to what you body truly wants and honor it. For me, my body wants healthy foods most of the time and I know that when I crave something that's not-so-healthy, nothing else will satisfy that craving like the thing itself. By listening to your body most of the time, but keeping your health in mind when making choices, you'll prevent overeating and will never feel deprived. I think this can also be applied to fitness. Deep down, your body craves movement, but when you really feel overly tired, that's your body's way of telling you to give it a break.