Healthy Living: Jen's Story

>> Wednesday, September 1, 2010


Jen writes:

Hi, Ashley and Stephen! I recently discovered your blog through Ashley's blog (Edible Perspective) and love your content, style, and recipes!!! (THANKS, JEN! WE'RE GLAD YOU FOUND US!) As a fairly new runner, I have especially loved the running info. I look forward to your posts every day! I wanted to share my healthy living story with you, so here goes!

I am a self-proclaimed foodie. For as long as I can remember, I have loved being in the kitchen, trying new recipes, watching cooking shows, and eating. I was never sporty or athletic whatsoever, but maintained an average weight throughout my high school years by having a generally busy lifestyle. When I went off to college, the weight began to creep on with a steady cafeteria diet of chicken patties, fries, pizza, and salad (iceberg, cheese, and ranch!). I not only gained the freshman 15 in the first year, but for every year after as well. In the months following my college graduation and gaining another 10-15 pounds through indulging in my own cooking and baking, I finally decided that I had to make a change in December 2008.

At this point, my weight was around 210 pounds. My self-esteem was non-existent, I never exercised, my activity level in general was low, and I just felt terrible physically, mentally, and emotionally.


I started by making very small changes in my diet and lifestyle. I ate more fruits and vegetables, cut down my fat intake, and ate the typical diet foods. I started doing a 12 minute aerobics video everyday. Slowly, but surely, I started seeing a change in the number on the scale. I bought Wii-fit, which still labeled me as obese, so my new goal was to get my BMI in the category of overweight instead of obese. I used my Wii-fit everyday, but I realized that I needed a higher level of activity to meet my goals. Still not athletic and uncoordinated, I decided to go out on a limb and try attending a group fitness class.

I attended my first Zumba (a Latin and International rhythms fitness class) class in May 2009 and was hooked. I started attending class as many times a week as I could and it seemed like the weight started melting off. My motivation increased even more and I began to research healthy eating. I also started eating clean, whole, real foods and eliminated white sugar, white flour, artificial sweeteners, and processed foods from my diet. With the addition of Zumba and cleaning up my diet I noticed a HUGE change in my energy levels and I began to thrive! Around this time everyone else began noticing huge changes in me as well.

In the fall of 2009, still on my weight loss journey, I decided I wanted to incorporate some new exercise in my routine. I began running a little bit at a time and really enjoyed the time it gave me to just think and clear my mind. Although it was difficult, I stuck with it and remember thinking that it felt like a huge accomplishment when I could run 4 miles in a row without stopping. I also started incorporating some of Jillian Michaels' circuit training DVDs into my routine.

With this small amount of weight training, I noticed my body begin to change and tone. I felt strong for the first time in my life. In November 2009 I became a certified Zumba instructor, something I never dreamed of doing a year prior. So much for not being athletic!!!! Around this time I also discovered food/healthy living blogs which was also life-changing for me. Although I am not a blogger myself, it was so refreshing to hear other people's stories so similar to mine. The recipes, tips, and stories I have found on blogs have been invaluable to my new lifestyle.


In early 2010, a year after beginning the changes in my life, I had lost 70 pounds. However, it wasn't really what I lost that was important, it was everything I had gained. I gained self-esteem, motivation, health, a new zest for life, the belief that I can do anything, and a new wardrobe to boot:)

Today I continue to thrive with my new healthy lifestyle and feel better than ever. I eat a mainly vegetarian diet, occasionally still eating fish and eggs. I love experimenting with new foods and seasonal fruits/vegetables, whole grains, and things like tofu and tempeh (which I had never even heard of a year ago!) are now staples in my diet. In June 2010, I completed my first race ever, a 5K, finishing in 2nd place in my age group! I completed my first 10K on August 1, 2010, and am training for my first half marathon which will take place on September 12th. I still go to Zumba multiple times a week and love it as much as ever! Lastly, I am still a foodie. I am just a foodie who is much more aware of what she puts in her body. In fact, I feel like the food I eat now is the best food I have ever eaten in my life!

Thank you for reading my story!

(Before pictures are from April 2009 and After picture is from June 2010.)

Jen Liston

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