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Eating tips from Charlotte-area trainers 

In today's world of crash diets, larger-than-life weight loss TV shows, and hundreds of self-help books on health and wellness, it is very easy for the average person to be confused when it comes to losing weight healthily and happily. The truth is that there is no one definitive answer. We are all built differently, and we all respond to various foods and exercises differently. And yet, there are some tried and true pieces of advice that can apply to everyone, whether one is just wishing to shed a few pounds or change their life completely by attempting to lose several pounds over a period of time. In honor of our "Health & Fitness" edition, Creative Loafing has gathered some essential tips on healthy eating from some of Charlotte's most prominent personal trainers and fitness instructors.

Sonya Dalton-McRoberts, owner of Sonya's Fitness Inc. (sonyasfitnessinc.com): "Just like a car — if you try to run on empty, you won't get very far. The key is to get just enough fuel to maximize your efficiency during your workout without going overboard. More importantly, never skip meals or let yourself get hungry. Hunger triggers the body's starvation response and brings your fat-burning metabolism to a halt."

Emily Thomas, owner of Thomas Personal Training, (www.thomaspersonaltraining.com): "People tend to think that one's metabolism is genetically predetermined — that you're either cursed or you're blessed. And that's simply not true. ... Develop the habit of planning your meals — and practice the art of eating 'clean.'"

Shannon Wightman Gerard (shannonwg@gmail.com), a private fitness instructor and choreographer: "I tend to tell any client to err on the side of moderation when it comes to their food intake. It's unrealistic to think that walking into a gym or voicing a New Year's resolution is going to immediately take away cravings or change habits that have developed over time. If you just can't live without something crunchy, try raw veggies like carrots, celery, or zucchini. And one must always remember, no lifestyle change on the food front is going to yield the ultimate results anyone wants to see without incorporating a 'get-up-off-your-butt-and-move' plan as well!"

Bobby DeMuro, a personal trainer and owner of the mobile personal training firm FusionSouth (www.fusionsouth.com): "Cut out calorie-laden drinks." DeMuro says that the most important adjustment to make is dropping the sodas, the sugar-added juices, and even the alcohol; instead, choose water. "It's calorie-free, it costs next to nothing, and it promotes weight loss and helps to efficiently maintain the body's metabolism."

Alvaro Matta (www.alvaromatta.com), a personal trainer, yogi, and health counselor — and the owner of Semper Fidelis Health and Wellness: "We are not only fed by food but by other factors in our lives. Healthy relationships, a fulfilling career, regular physical activity and a spiritual practice are essential forms of nourishment. When these 'primary foods' are balanced, what you eat becomes secondary."

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