Wilmette, Community

New year, new you? 4 local health, fitness pros offer up wellbeing tips to start 2024

With the new year upon the North Shore, many are rethinking their fitness and wellness routines.The Record North Shore consulted with several local experts, learning about sustainable ways to stay healthy and fit, all year long.  

Krystal Verstraete: Wilmette mother of two and owner/founder of Krystal’s Body Shop, 1225 Green Bay Road, American Council on Exercise certified

Please tell us about your fitness background. Do you have a mantra or wellness philosophy?

I have trained for a race, a match, a game my entire life. As an athlete and former elementary school teacher, I grew an interest in teaching busy parents how to become stronger and more knowledgeable about nutrition. Likewise, I wanted to focus on the mental part of fitness, inspiring others to have a growth mindset. So I became certified through the American Council on Exercise, growing my passion into something bigger in every way imaginable. 

My fitness mantra is, “If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you.” My philosophy is centered on creating a safe environment where my clients can feel comfortable learning about their bodies. I want them to focus on their performance without the discomfort of having strangers nearby. Krystal’s Body Shop should be a place where people can forget about life for a while and focus only on themselves.

What is your best advice to someone looking to get in shape/become healthier in the new year? 

Start small! You don’t have to be extreme; you just have to be consistent. Pick one small habit you want to change and practice it every day. When you’re ready, add the next habit, and so on.

Any tips on nutrition? What are keys to dietary success? What are common pitfalls?

The key to dietary success is to not be extreme! Don’t eliminate any food groups; we need them all. Don’t cut calories too low for too long or label foods as good or bad. Remember, the number on the scale does not determine your worth.

The most important thing you can do for your body from a nutritional standpoint (especially for women) is to prioritize protein, aiming for at least 100 grams per day. I’d actually recommend 1 gram/body weight, but you can work your way to that. Also, aim to get at least 25-30 grams of fiber per day. I think starting with these two goals would change so many lives. Slowly start eating more whole foods, fruits and vegetables and eliminate ultra-processed foods (for the most part). I would also recommend reducing alcohol consumption.

Leah Bostrom: Wilmette mother of three and owner/founder of Chia Leah, 3217 Lake Ave. Unit 4C, Wilmette

 Please tell us about your fitness background. Do you have a mantra or philosophy?  

Between managing my own depression and learning how to work with my kids’ food allergies, I grew a deep curiosity for learning how to live a more healthy lifestyle through nutrition. In 2015 I became certified as a health coach, never imagining that Chia Leah would exist. Initially, I was simply trying to take care of my family.

I found, however, that I loved teaching others how to make practical and healthier choices. I spent years creating recipes for my clients, soon discovering a hole in the market for small-batch, wholesome snacks. One thing followed another and soon my snacks turned into creating healthy meals, an increase in coaching requests and then cutting the ribbon on my own storefront in Wilmette. I’m so grateful to our community for embracing our mission at Chia Leah — which is to share and fuel a healthy lifestyle. 

My best nutrition tip is to let go of past expectations or latest trends and listen to what your body needs right now. Instead of focusing on weight, shift the mindset to gaining more energy through one simple change such as a balanced breakfast, or finishing eating two hours before bedtime to ensure more restorative sleep. When we focus on specific changes instead of vague goals, we can make real strides. I also encourage people to be curious about the powers of food and harness that power through adding in more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds. 

What is the biggest hindrance to success when it comes to wellness? 

One of the biggest hindrances is making too many changes, too quickly and then giving up because the task is too overwhelming. The January all-or-nothing pressure is not sustainable or practical. Instead, focus on just one healthy change or upgrade and be consistent with it. This can be as simple as drinking three sips of water each morning before a cup of coffee or committing to adding a half cup of greens to your diet per day. Of course, since I am Chia Leah, I have to plug that one tablespoon of the super food, chia seeds, provides heart healthy fiber, antioxidants, protein and healthy fats. Add a tablespoon today.

Chiropractor Joseph Ethen D.C.: Northbrook father of three and owner of Elite Wellness Wilmette, 825 Green Bay Road Suite 100, and Lakefront Chiropractic, 662 Vernon Ave., Glencoe

Please tell us about your fitness background. Do you have a mantra or philosophy?  

I’m an exercise physiologist, former certified athletic trainer, chiropractor and acupuncturist. We have two locations, one in Glencoe and one in Wilmette. We see patients ranging in age from newborn to 100+ years old. Our focus is on chiropractic care, physical therapy, acupuncture, dry needling, cupping, gua sha, decompression, pulsed electromagnetic treatment, shock wave therapy, compression recover system treatment and vibration balance training. 

First and foremost, If you do not know what you are doing, get help from a personal trainer or exercise specialist/physiologist. Otherwise, start slowly. Use lighter weights and intensities to ease yourself into a fitness routine. Know your limits. If it hurts, don’t do it! There are a million exercise programs out there. Truth be told, not everyone is made to respond to the same thing. Find something that works for you to start, and then expand your horizons later

What are some fitness myths and pitfalls? What are the real keys to overall health and wellness?

No pain no gain. Although this may work for athletes or seasoned vets, someone just starting out will have greater success if they avoid the proverbial soreness from beginning a new program. Another myth is to listen to a trainer or coach trying to push you into something you are not comfortable doing. Injuries result from this approach, so trust your gut. There’s a difference between being motivated and supported and being pushed over the limits. As I said before, everyone is built differently. Although it is good to be pushed later on when you are more accustomed and more fit, to do that at the beginning is just obnoxious and dangerous; a “newbie” should never be put in compromising positions.

Rachel Laude: Wilmette mother of three and National Academy of Sports Medicine personal trainer at SALT, 410 Green Bay Road, Kenilworth, and ReDefined, 1211 Washington Ave., Wilmette

Tell us about your fitness background. Do you have a fitness mantra or philosophy? 

I am a personal trainer and group fitness instructor on the North Shore. I train clients both individually and in small groups at Redefined Fitness in Wilmette. I also teach Barre classes at SALT fitness in Kenilworth. My mantra when it comes to health and wellness is that we cannot grow by standing still and staying in the same place. Growth comes from pushing ourselves outside of our comfort zones. Even our muscles grow stronger by challenging them and breaking them down a bit. Strength training creates tiny micro tears in muscle fibers, allowing them to grow bigger and stronger as they repair. It’s a great analogy for all aspects of life. We have to get uncomfortable in order to grow. 

What are some fitness myths and pitfalls? What are the real keys to overall health and wellness?

I’m not a big fan of new year’s resolutions and don’t subscribe to any “new year, new you” messaging. I teach my clients that they are amazing as they are and that they don’t need to reinvent themselves to make positive changes in health. Over the years, it has become more apparent to me that goal setting is more successful in achieving real results. Be specific and make sure your goals are manageable for your lifestyle and schedule. From there, come up with a plan for how you will make them happen. Start small and work your way toward bigger goals. 

Be sure to find a form of fitness you enjoy as you are more likely to stick with it. Consistency is the key and results take time so remain patient and stay the course. Remind yourself that you are improving your health and longevity. There will be setbacks, but do not give up altogether. If you fall off track, remember you’re human. Take a deep breath and start again

Any tips on nutrition? What are keys to dietary success? What are common pitfalls?

When it comes to nutrition, it doesn’t have to be complicated or extreme to clean things up. Stay hydrated. Aim to eat as many whole foods as you can, rather than filling up on overly processed foods. Make sure you are getting plenty of protein and healthy fats as they will keep you satiated longer. Plan ahead. For example, prepacking snacks and lunches will help you avoid making poor choices later. 

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Alexa Burnell

Alexa Burnell is a Wilmette resident who has been covering the North Shore for the past seven years, previously for The Wilmette Beacon and its sister newspapers.

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