Let me tell you about the girl who always put everyone else first.
One year ago, Jennifer blew me away with her story. Married at 18, she and her husband have built a beautiful life together. At 27, with three great kids and a very supportive husband, she lost 70 pounds on Paleo. She told me, “I was a mom at 19. It’s been about everyone else my whole life. This time, it’s about me.”
Jump forward a full calendar year, and it’s so great to see where that mentality has taken her. Going Paleo was probably the first thing she’s done for herself, and herself alone, in a decade. Now she’s found a healthy balance with the occasional indulgence, she goes on double-digit mile runs on the weekends, and she just finished school.
Keep reading to see where Jennifer is now.
It’s been over a year since we last talked! What’s happened since then?
Honestly, it’s been amazing. So many people reached out to me after that article came out—from my high school choir director, to people I’ve never met. My network has grown so much. It’s been such a positive experience to connect with people and help them.
People ask me for recipes, and my usual response is, “I don’t know how I made this…I just threw stuff in a pan!” My husband helped me create a YouTube channel to share different tips. I record different tutorials, like a how-to video for mayo. I try to post to Instagram as much as I can, but recently school has taken over my life.
I know many people who have lost weight on Paleo—I’m just not sure how many have stuck with it. Sometimes someone will message me and say, “Hey, I’m just looking to lose ten pounds,” and my only response is, “Ok you don’t really get what this is about. This is not a quick fix.”
I have been at the same weight for an entire year. I have reached my goal weight, and this is where my body wants to be. I put jeans on this winter and thought, “OMG! I can wear the same clothes throughout the whole year!” If this had been another diet—if it was not Paleo—I would have thought, “Well, I won’t fit into any of these clothes next year.”
The last time we talked, you would make two meals for your family—Paleo for you, and non-Paleo for everyone else. Is that still the case?
My husband wants to do Paleo, but it’s so hard getting him to eat vegetables. I tell him all the time, “You can’t eat just nuts and meat! You have to have fruits and vegetables!” He did Paleo for awhile and lost 30 pounds. Honestly, he did great. I didn’t know he could control himself! Slowly, it crept up on him because he didn’t mentally prepare himself for the pressures of the holidays.
One year ago, you never cheated. You had nightmares about cheating! Have you been able to find a balance?
I’m hard on myself with everything, and I’ve had to loosen the reins on myself. This summer, my husband and I “went out for pizza.” Meaning, I sat there and drank water. My husband said, “Are you telling me that never again will you have pizza with your family?”
I’ve learned to loosen the reins and trust myself. Before, I thought, “If you eat one piece of pizza, you’re done. You’ll go back to the way you were.” But that’s not who I am anymore! It’s been great getting to know this side of me. It’s such a part of my life now, I don’t even think about it. It’s just there.
I don’t have cheat days. I have cheat items. Part of me is disappointed, because it felt so good to say I never cheated. However, it’s been a new kind of victory, to be confident knowing I won’t fall back into old habits. For example, the other night my husband and I went out to dinner together. I ordered a chicken salad, and when it arrived it had beans on it. In the past, I would have picked off every single bean. Instead, I thought, “I never go out to eat. I’m just going to enjoy it.”
What made you want to find that balance? What made you want to ‘loosen the reins’?
Honestly, I started feeling a little guilty, because so many memories involve food. My grandma is getting older, and she makes the most amazing banana cream pie. One time when I was visiting her I thought, “You know, there’s probably only so many banana cream pies I will probably have in my life.” Once in awhile I will deviate from Paleo, and almost always it’s for the memories.
I never think to myself, “I’m giving in.” It’s more, “Ok. You are going to visit your gram, and she will probably have pie. Do you want it, or do you not want it?” Before I would have had a piece of pie, then another piece of pie, followed by yet another piece of pie. I still feel horrible afterward. Yet sometimes, I just want to sit with my gram and share her pie with her.
What about, shall we say, celebratory beverages? If I recall, you had one glass of wine total last year.
I’ve never been a drinker, but I do drink red wine on occasion. It doesn’t make me sick anymore.
To me, this is not a fad or diet. This is how I choose to live. The day I wake up and I’m not Paleo anymore—well, I just don’t see that happening. Each morning I wake up and I eat my eggs or Paleo English muffins. I‘ve learned my past habits don’t exist anymore.
What else has have you been up to since we last talked?
I’ve really picked up running. I didn’t know I could ever love running, for the sake of running! I started running last year, ran all through the winter, and ultimately reached goals I never thought I could reach.
I got into the habit when I took my son to soccer practice, which is two hours long. There is a mile-long track circling the field, and I thought, “Well, I can just sit here for two hours…or I can go run around that track.” I would run for an hour just to see how far I could go. I worked my way up to ten miles during those practices. Whenever there was eight minutes left I’d think, “Ok! Let’s see if I can finish this last mile.” At one point, I never thought I could run a 10k. Now, a 10k is a normal Tuesday!
I never thought running would be something I pursued. Now when I run, that’s my time. That’s when I get my music bumpin’. Being a mom is a 24 hour gig, but I can take away one hour and focus on me. When I didn’t take time for me in the past, that’s when I lost myself. That me time is too important to give up, both mentally and physically. My kids love seeing me come home sweaty and out of breath. They’re so impressed by it.
You just feel really good when you run. I love being able to escape for a bit—away from schoolwork, away from my to-do list, kids and worries—I just pound my music and time my breathing. It’s just what I need, and I find it so rewarding.
That’s awesome, I’m so happy for you! Have you picked up any activities besides running?
My New Year’s resolution was to try yoga. I’ve tried it on the Wii! I keep being reassured that everyone has to start somewhere. Next time you interview me, I promise—I’ll be totally into it!
I know you’ve dealt with naysayers in the past. Have you experienced anything like this recently?
To be honest with you, I’ve received a lot of criticism. When I was running, my weight hadn’t gone down, but I did look different. I received a lot of negativity because people thought I wasn’t eating. My husband said, “You obviously haven’t eaten with her, because she eats more than I do.”
I’ve looked like this for a year, and it’s so nice. Before, I got attention because I lost weight. Now I receive attention because I’ve kept the weight off. People see it’s not a fad diet.
How has this experience impacted other areas of your life—your career, long term goals, et cetera?
During your first interview with me, I said I was the biggest one in my first occupational therapy class. My professor has seen me at my largest, and now he’s seen me at my smallest. He’s a runner too, and one time I asked him for advice on running shoes. He asked me, “Well, how much do you run? Two-three times a week?” It felt so good to respond with, “I run thirty miles a week.”
A few years ago, I would have had a panic attack to move in front of people. I got emotional in my last class, because I could move patients without any hesitation. I was so energetic and happy because I knew I could do it! It was such a rewarding feeling.
You’ve just finished school for occupational therapy, so clearly you’re going into the health and wellness field. What are your plans going forward?
I would love to add a nutritional element to my education, or work with people with eating disorders. I would love that.
I have a fear of being judged—it’s an insecurity of mine. The more you grow, the more you learn the negative and positive qualities you possess. I know I’m outgoing, passionate, and love talking to people. People don’t think you can lose weight without restricting what you eat. I’ve never counted a calorie (which amazes me). I would love to get that out there. Being hungry is no way to live.
What advice would you like to leave people with?
My biggest piece of advice is to make healthy eating a habit. People aren’t giving up taste with Paleo—they’re giving up convenience. When people slip up, it’s due to a lack of being prepared, or trying to diet. When you’re detoxifying from bad food, your body will naturally say, “I want carbs. I want sugar.”
You need to recognize what you struggle with, and address those triggers:
- If you struggle with time constraints, prep your food. Take Sunday to chop vegetables and cut up fruit.
- If you have a sweet tooth, allow yourself one mug cake per week.
- If you can’t find a breakfast-on-the-go option, then don’t make breakfast on the go. Wake up early, and make yourself a good breakfast!
I know it’s hard. It just comes down to discovering yourself, one habit at a time. There is so much room for growth. Food is something I have conquered and moved on from. And I never thought that would happen.
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