Denise Austin’s optimism is infectious. Combined with her simple, accessible approach to fitness, it’s no wonder she’s sold more than 24 million videos and amassed a devoted following through books, DVDs and TV shows like ESPN’s Getting Fit and Lifetime’s Fit & Lite.
“My daughters’ college friends tell me they used to work out with me and their moms,” Austin, now 58, says with a laugh. “That inspires me to keep going.”
This year, the icon took her role one step further, inviting fans into her home via the subscription-based online 360° Plan to demonstrate how she personally makes exercise a part of her daily routine, how she stays motivated and what she cooks for herself and her family, husband Jeff, a sports attorney, and daughters Kelly, 25, and Katie, 22. The 10-week program, available at deniseaustin.com, uses videos (shot at her home in Manhattan Beach, Calif.) and online meal-planning tools.
“I understand the changes that happen to your body after you hit 40,” she says. “I know what women want and I’ve done all the homework for them.”
With the holidays in full swing, we tapped Austin—who has served two terms on the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition—for her best advice on surviving the temptations of the season, setting health goals and, of course, staying sunny year after year.
Every day during the holidays, I try to wake up 10 minutes earlier and squeeze in a 10-minute exercise routine just to get the blood circulating and to boost my metabolism. I do stretching and toning moves or I turn on music and dance.
At a party or buffet, I try not to stand by where the food is. If I see food, I eat it! And you don’t realize how quickly you can pack away 1,000 calories when you’re chatting with other guests.
I drink a big glass of water before the evening begins. At the party, I’ll have a glass of wine, and then more water. I make it a point to stay hydrated because I want to be able to sleep that night and feel good the next day.
I’m a true believer in a good, healthy breakfast. Breakfast starts your day off right. We eat eggs, which is a good way to get quick protein, then add spinach, tomatoes, chives and parsley.
I make “skinny” mashed potatoes with chicken stock and a touch of butter instead of heavy cream. I also make mashed cauliflower with olive oil and Parmesan cheese—everyone loves it.
After big holiday meals, I make everyone in my family walk for 10 minutes. I’m big on 10 minutes because everyone can do it!
I do a lot of stretching this time of year. It gives me more energy, particularly in the evening. Even just simple stretches help eliminate any tension in your back and shoulders, especially if you’ve been holiday shopping or carrying a lot of groceries.
New Year’s is a perfect time for a fresh start. I believe everyone needs to set goals, but they should be small and very realistic. Instead of saying, “I want to lose 50 pounds,” think about what habits you’re going to change to get there. Creating a plan that’s feasible for your schedule is so important.
Convenience is a big factor in keeping your positive habits going. I’m not over-crazed about fitness. Thirty minutes a day most days is not that much, and you’ll reap all the wonderful benefits. Get fit, healthy and happy for you and your family and get the energy to do what you love to do.
It’s good to introduce new foods to your family. I roast chickpeas and put different spices on them. They’re crunchy and you get the salty taste, but they’re packed with protein and fiber, which is key.
My daughter, Katie, is following in my footsteps. We have had a wonderful mother-daughter relationship our whole life and now it’s gone to a whole new level. We’ve been on the TODAY show together and done magazine interviews. Watching my daughter just go for it makes me cry—she’s so energetic and passionate about helping young girls have better self-esteem. It makes me feel good as a mom that I’ve created two very dedicated and hardworking girls.
We’re going on a family trip to Thailand for Christmas and New Year’s. We’ve never done it so we said, “You know what, we want to travel with our kids while we can and while they still want to.”
I want people to concentrate on relaxation next year. Everywhere I go, people tell me, “I’m so uptight, I have so much to do.” They’re so overwhelmed that they forget what life’s all about. Especially women who are over 40 whose kids are starting to grow up—I want them to understand they need to take care of themselves. There are little changes we can make to stay young even while we’re aging.
Good health stems from having a positive attitude. You have a choice, so why be a negative person? I truly love life. I am healthy, my children are healthy and happy, and I love what I do because I know I am helping people.