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Season Two Dance Your Ass Off cast member Katie Fanok, 25, lost 90 pounds since her highest weight -- and is facing her first holiday season with her health as a focus. Here's how the dancer plans to keep her wellness momentum going.
FITNESS: "How did you become a contestant on the show?"
Katie Fanok: "My best friend from college, where I was a theater and dance major, told me that I had to audition. I showed up to try out and there were lines of people who were very talented and all needed to lose weight too. I really considered the tryouts as fun, never thinking that I would actually be chosen as a contestant for the show. It was so exciting when I made it through the cuts!"
"Besides dancing around all day as a contestant, how did you drop the pounds?"
KF: "Our nutritionist Rachel taught us how to track our eating in food logs. When you write down everything you eat, it's so surprising -- good or bad. And it's an affordable tool for everyone! Also, being separated from the Internet, phones, and other distractions during my eight weeks on the show was really helpful. After the show, I had to learn how to apply everything I learned in my regular life, which was quite different."
"What was the biggest lesson you learned while competing on the show?"
KF: "It's going to be hard and scary to do something you haven't done before. But it's okay to be scared."
"What first steps would you recommend for someone new to eating right and being active?"
KF: "Find a quick fix 'lifesaver meal.' This is a 100- to 300-calorie, healthy dish that you enjoy and can be included in your diet as a snack or a meal. My go-to is egg whites with salsa and Parmesan cheese. I can cook it in the microwave, add veggies if I need them that day, or toss it on a wrap to make it more substantial."
"When you have a packed schedule, what are some of your favorite ways to sneak in activity?"
KF: "I try to be active without thinking too much about it, like going for a hike, walk, or playing active Wii games. I wear an armband to track my calorie burn each day, so I can see how these small steps add up. One of the most fun ways I've found to burn calories is shopping! One afternoon I burned about 350 calories just trying on clothes and carrying bags. You don't always have to get to the gym."
"What's next for you?"
KF: "I'm now earning my certification to be a Jazzercise instructor, which I love. Fitness is all about finding what works for you. A gym felt too intense for me and I immediately connected with Jazzercise -- the music, routines, and people at the studio are all so much fun!"
"What are holiday meals like in your house? How do you plan to enjoy without sabotaging your success?"
KF: "It's important to set priorities and work in your favorite indulgences, because these meals only come around every so often. My family puts out a whole table filled with pies, cakes, and cobblers. I'm going to tell myself that I can have one slice of my favorite pie or a couple of glasses of wine with my meal -- not a few servings of each dessert and countless drinks."
"What is your top 'survival strategy' to get back on track after a large family meal?"
KF: "Indulgent holiday meals should only be one day, not four days filled with leftovers. I plan to stock up on snack bags and storage containers to send the leftovers home with guests. The day is really about being grateful and being with friends and family rather than just about food."
"What holiday dishes will you serve this year?"
KF: "I'm not a cook, but I definitely look to certain recipes as good swaps for the traditional ones. Instead of creamy spinach, I make a spicy, crunchy green bean recipe. And I use sweet potatoes in place of mashed potatoes. The whole idea is to make smart substitutions."
Originally published on FitnessMagazine.com, December 2010.