For author, fitness and nutrition expert and reality television star Christmas Abbott, health and fitness is certainly about certain foods and workout choices. But it’s more about organizing your life to give yourself the best chance at health.
Christmas Abbott works hard at fitness through the week – not least because she enjoys good food and a well-made cocktail. And there’s plenty of opportunity for the latter in her life thanks to her partner and fellow former Big Brother competitor, Fort Lauderdale-based restaurateur Memphis Garrett. (She’s got several favorite cocktails at his latest local venture, Victoria Park cocktails and shared plates lounge No Man’s Land.) But before the healthy recipes and workouts that allow for some weekend indulging, it’s about something even more basic for Abbott – relieving stress and creating the opportunity to be healthy through planning and organization.
And honestly, hasn’t everybody been there? The day’s schedule has gone out the window, as has the plan to hit the gym after work, and the easiest lunch is a fast-food burrito. It’s frustrating, and if we’re worried about our health, it creates even more stress because we know we’re not doing what we want to.
“If you actually take a step back, we create stress in our minds and we stress out because we’re trying to control our food and our bodies,” Abbott says. That compounds the stress, creating a vicious cycle. “We get fixated and we go down this rabbit hole of negative negative negative.”
Of course, it’s one thing to make plans and strategies to get healthy and avoid the negative; it’s another to actually make it happen. Abbott believes you have to find things you enjoy – if you hate jogging at 6 a.m., find other healthy things to do instead of forcing yourself to be a 6 a.m. jogger. Center joy.
“When you’re in it … it should be fun; if you’re not enjoying it, you’re probably not getting the most out of it,” Abbott says. “If you love what you’re doing, if you’re having fun with what you’re doing, that’s going to be what works.” Likewise, she suggests using structure and scheduling not as stressors, but as tools for alleviating stress. Map out your day beforehand so when you’re in the middle of it, you’re not trying to fit things in on the fly.
“That allows me to thrive,” she says. “You have this process of routine that gives you comfort. It roots security in your process.
“You have to be intentional about what you plan, what you want to get out of that day.”
And, listen. Abbott has a young son. Her schedule isn’t always minute-by-minute perfect. She blocks broad times – some days are morning workout days, some are afternoon workout days – but if the workout block begins at 9 a.m. and she’s not working out at 9:01, it’s not the end of the world. Scheduling should be a broad stroke, not a minute-by-minute accounting. Give yourself grace, she says. Allow yourself to be late.
“Don’t get down to, like, ‘At 7:23 I’m going to do this.’ Just simple blocks.”
Sometimes it’s external forces forcing a reschedule, while other times it’s respecting yourself. Your body will tell you when it’s being overworked.
“Somebody I have to listen to is my body – we’re just going to play on the playground, I need a break,” Abbott says. “Or sometimes we’re going to do a double workout.”
In terms of diet, her rule is simple – it’s much easier to simply not keep something in the house than it is to have that favorite junk-food snack and hope you have enough willpower during before-bed TV time.
“I love a good meal and if there is a bag of chocolate truffles in the cupboard, I will eat the whole thing,” she says. “If you don’t buy it, you don’t consume it.
“If you’re going to do something radical, clean out your cupboards. If you don’t want to eat it, if you don’t want it to call out to you at night when you’re watching TV, don’t buy it.”
As with scheduling, it’s about planning beforehand so that the problem is already dealt with when you’re in the middle of your day.
Beyond that, Abbott’s happy to talk about specific workouts, nutrition plans and the details of a healthy lifestyle. But she believes people need to start with that bigger picture. “People think it’s all about the workout; that’s like saying the car is only about the tires and the paint job,” she says.
It’s connection with friends, meditation, balance. Because she has those things, she also allows herself pleasures like the occasional big meal. That second glass of good wine. A fancy cocktail at No Man’s Land. “I don’t have to beat myself up about that; my soul is happy,” she says.
Routine creates calm and consistency. Motivation and inspiration fade quickly, she says. “What I rely on is discipline.”
“People think it’s all about boiled chicken and more crunches,” she says. “It’s because we’re more disciplined in our daily routine. It’s kind of mind-blowingly simple. Make a schedule, stick to it. And that? That’s real health.”
Fitness entrepreneur Hannah Eden’s goals are simple: to help people reach their fitness and health goals all while she runs a successful business. Recently shutting down her brick and mortar Fort Lauderdale gym led her to clarity behind her business model and new state of mind.
When Fort Lauderdale Magazine catches up with fitness entrepreneur Hannah Eden, it takes a couple tries before a good phone connection can be established. That’s because Eden and her partner are on the road in Montana, a place known more for its majestic vistas than for its ample cellphone coverage.
These are interesting, busy times for Eden. She oversees a handful of fitness-related businesses through her website, hannahedenfitness.com. There are various online workout programs, as well as nutrition programs. There’s a workout app as well as apparel and e-books, which she sells through an online shop. She has a fitness blog and a fitness podcast.
What she does not have anymore is a brick-and-mortar gym in Fort Lauderdale. That closed during the pandemic – hence the freedom to run a fitness empire from, say, the highways of Montana.
For Eden, shutting the gym and taking to the road offered interesting challenges. At the start of the trip, she says, she lost her fitness mojo, something that had never happened before. She was in an RV, maybe out in the middle of nowhere, dealing with the new problems of the road and workouts weren’t always at the top of her priorities list. She had to refocus and reprioritize – and in the end, she thinks that helped her understand some of the people who might come to her website or her app for the first time. She understood with new clarity the struggle to get motivated and focused on fitness.
“As much of it was a downer for me … it was a really cool experience to get back in touch with that,” she says.
Shifting the fitness business to online-only wasn’t as hard.
“Luckily we were online already; we had launched our app prior to Covid happening,” she says.
She finds the fitness world’s increasing focus on online spaces a positive development. Apps, streaming media subscription fitness services and other related technologies offer “convenience, comfort and confidence,” Eden says.
“A lot of people are more willing to try and more willing to fail in their own environment. It removes barriers of entry; it expands awareness and reach.
“That was the initial thought process. And then when Covid hit, so many people were able to recognize that they didn’t need a brick-and-mortar facility to stay active.”
Eden feels that she can still reach people without seeing them in a gym. “We’ve been able to keep a lot of authenticity within the relationships we’ve found,” she says.
That said, coaching into a camera is great when you remember you’re able to reach millions around the world. But you also have to make sure you’re not stagnant.
Eden’s an early riser who’s usually out of bed before 6 a.m. For her personal fitness and well-being, she finds that road life works well.
“My workouts are a private space to me,” she says. “I never look to my personal workout as a social space. I don’t care if I’m training alone at 1 in the morning or if I’m in a group of people.”
With physical health comes mental health. In the podcast, Eden discusses the three “buckets” in our lives – relationships, business and personal goals, including fitness. Life on the road and business on the internet has in many ways been great for the buckets. Until she got out on the road, Eden never quite realized how much worry she had when running a gym. “Your heart’s never really turned off and your head isn’t either,” she says.
Would she ever go back to brick-and-mortar? She won’t say never. But like so many people, these last couple strange years have made her rethink what’s possible in terms of work and life spaces. Health and fitness, she believes, can come from the online space. Including her corner of the online space.
For personal trainer and gym owner Renato Silva, his core belief is that there is no shortcut when it comes to obtaining your ideal body. To achieve results, he uses the science of fitness and makes it his mission to break old-school myths in the process.
At G21 Fitness, where owner Renato Silva also works as a personal trainer, they see many different kinds of people. Silva has trained high-level international athletes. He’s also trained people who are completely new to working out. Whoever he’s working with, he believes in several simple rules: know your information, and be consistent.
“It doesn’t have to be creative if you do the basics,” he says. Three solid workouts a week. A balanced diet. The basics aren’t hard. But you need to know the information. And that means looking to the science.
“We apply the science of fitness,” he says, “and we always get the results.”
He suggests beginning with tests and even bloodwork to figure out exactly what you need, as there is no hard-and-fast rule for everybody. He can’t just say: here’s the rule for how many carbs you should have in a given week, here’s the rule for sugar, etc., because everybody’s body composition is different.
Sugar? Carbs? “It’s all about how your body reacts to each,” he says. “There’s no ‘We all do the same.’”
When it comes to working out, he preaches consistency and, as we get older, repetition over heavier weight.
“Your body doesn’t know what you’re doing if you keep changing exercise,” he says. He also tries to break people of the idea that some gymgoers, particularly men, sometimes have that more weight always equals better.
“My mentality for fitness is the older we get, the more susceptible for injury your body becomes.” He does more reps more often with less weight.
“The process is longer, but at least you know it’s safer,” he says. “I’m 44 years old and I’ve never hurt myself.
“Safety comes first and we try to challenge ourselves with whatever we can. We have so many ways to challenge you without going heavy on the weights if you’re a normal guy or girl looking for a lifestyle.
“A lot of people want the instant results – ‘give me now.’ Nothing happens ‘now’”.
Granted, there are ways to do things more quickly. Cut out all carbs? You’ll lose weight for a time. Really pile on heavy weight? You’ll build up muscle, if you don’t injure yourself. But for consistent, sustainable, long-term results, Silva counsels another way.
“There is no shortcut on fitness,” he says. “You have to be very clear – there is no shortcut. Shortcut brings you to disappointment later on.”
And that good, consistent, science-led routine and lifestyle also allows for pleasures. “I have my dessert, my ice cream,” he says. “A glass of wine with a meal? Not going to kill you. It’s all about finding out the numbers you can put in your body.” He suggests looking at it as a kind of game. That good merlot? Enjoy, and add another 10 minutes of cardio.
“We are humans – at the end of the day, you want to enjoy life.”
Radio DJ and influencer Amelia DeVita’s Instagram account, @ameliaonair, is filled with pictures of her rigorous workouts – and of her enjoying the finer things Fort Lauderdale and South Florida have to offer. The native of Brisbane, Australia likes to add variety to her workouts, and believes in working hard to earn the playing hard.
When Amelia DeVita’s personal trainer, Ashley Kanter, comes to her apartment for their weekly session, she tends to come with a few surprises. DeVita, whose sun-dappled Australian tones will be familiar to midday listeners of Big 105.9, needs the changes to routine.
“I like to mix it up because I get bored,” DeVita says.
On another two days, she goes to F45 Training in Pompano Beach for a more weights-focused workout. And on Saturday mornings, she does an hour of high-intensity interval training. “Just go keep your body guessing,” she says of the varied routine. “I used to be a yoga instructor, so I used to have a very different style of working out. I’ve kind of changed and mixed it up.”
In particular, she now does less cardio, more weights. She wasn’t sure about that in the beginning, but she loves it now.
“At the beginning I was worried; I didn’t want to look bulky,” she says. “I expressed that to my trainer; unless you’re getting really heavy weights you’re not going to get bulky. I think that’s what women worry about – ‘if I lift too much, I’m going to look like that guy in the gym making all the noises.’”
When it comes to food, she’s equally fond of variety. “My trainer laughs at me, but in everything I do I need variety,” she says. “I actually have four different meal services.” She’ll use one for one week, then pause it and use another the following week. “I love them all,” she says. “I just don’t want to eat the same thing every day.” One bodybuilder friend has chicken with sriracha along with broccoli and cheese every night; that is not for her.
A former vegan, she now considers herself a “flexitarian” – she’ll eat meat, but doesn’t often. (Her boyfriend’s a meat-eater who sometimes enjoys a good steakhouse.) As her Insta indicates, she’s also partial to a good restaurant or a happy hour on the weekend.
Her love of good food and drink, and of the social aspect of sharing it with others, goes back to her childhood in Australia. Her father occasionally pops up on her social media explaining how to cook a favorite dish.
“He’s Italian-Australian; he’s always infused into our diets Italian foods,” she says. “From the time I was 16 he was putting a tumbler of red wine with my dinner and a shot of espresso into my breakfast cereal.” Her mom, dad and sisters would have a glass of red and some cheese, and talk about their day.
Now she lives on the other side of the globe from her family, but those values of good food and good company are still meaningful to her. They are not things to be sacrificed for a diet. Instead, she looks for balance.
“I’m trying to go with the strong and healthy attitude when it comes to fitness these days,” she says. “If I eat something and it makes me feel sluggish and unwell, I hate that feeling. I try to eat as clean as I can because I feel good; that’s the main motivation.”
Likewise, she went about two years without working out at all.
“I was tired; I got sick a lot,” she says. “I didn’t feel good about myself, I didn’t feel confident. I lost a lot of weight, but I didn’t look good; I looked gaunt and sick.”
Today, she rarely knows exactly what she weighs. She steps on a scale occasionally, but not often.
“I would drive myself crazy if I did that,” she says. “It’s important for me to eat healthy; as long as I’m eating healthy and I’m moving my body, that’s fine.
“If I look in the mirror and I look good, I’m happy. And if my insides feel good, I’m happy. Life ebbs and flows; you can’t be perfect all the time. I think some people put too much pressure on themselves. You can’t beat yourself up.”