This week we have the pleasure of hearing from Jennipher Walters. In her own words:
“Jenn has several fitness credentials under her belt: She is an ACE-certified personal trainer, health coach, and advanced health and fitness specialist, and an AFAA-certified group exercise instructor. Jenn has a journalism degree from the University of Missouri and an MA in health journalism from the University of Minnesota. She has also written for numerous online publications including Shape magazine, Yahoo! Shine, SparkPeople, AOL’s Paw Nation and Diets in Review. In her free time, Jenn can be found challenging her husband to a wicked game of MarioKart on the Wii, chomping on kale, updating her 1960s-decorated home in Kansas City, Mo., doing CrossFit and running with her pup.”
The Slim Is Simple.org Non-Profit Nutrition Education Effort
Jonathan: Hey, everyone. Jonathan Bailor back with another bonus Smarter Science of Slim podcast. Today’s show is going to be a lively and awesome one because we have joining us none other than the CEO and co-founder of one of my favorite fitness websites, which is FitBottomedGirls.com. She is also the CEO and co-founder of the related websites, FitBottomedMamas.com and FitBottomedEats.com, and if that wasn’t enough, she’s actually coming out with a book right around the same time my next book is coming out, which is January 2014, which is called The Fit Bottomed Girls Anti-Diet. Hopefully with all of that, you can understand why Jennipher Walters is on our show. Jennipher, welcome!
Jennipher: Thank you for having me! I’m so excited, Jonathan.
Jonathan: Well, Jennipher, it’s a pleasure to have you on the show. I appreciate not only your work, but the support you’ve shown for the Smarter Science of Slim. I feel like we may have been separated at birth because I’m reading here on your website that you want women to realize that an active lifestyle and good health aren’t about counting calories or the number on the scale, but rather being active, eating healthfully, and having a positive attitude and outlook. Amen, sister.
Jennipher: Amen. For sure. That is what I’m super-passionate about.
Jonathan: So you launched FitBottomedGirls.com. Is it fair to say that is your more key website?
Jennipher: Yeah, that’s our main website. For sure.
Jonathan: FitBottomedGirls.com. You launched that in May of ’08, so you’ve been around for an eternity in internet time.
Jennipher: Yeah, five years!
Jonathan: It’s a crowded space. What led you to start FitBottomedGirls?
Jennipher: Yeah. I will say five years ago, it wasn’t nearly as crowded, which was nice at the time. I feel like we just got in right before things got really crazy. I’m a certified personal trainer in group exercise and all kinds of alphabet soup in the fitness world. I started teaching classes and having personal trainer clients when I was in college and I got really wrapped into this idea that if I was a fitness professional, I needed to look a certain way and so I put a lot of pressure on myself to be a certain size, and I over-exercised, and I restricted my diet, and then I ended up yoyo-dieting because I was so obsessive about counting calories and everything.
Here I was, as a fitness professional, my low 20s, telling everybody to do pretty much the opposite of what I was actually doing and I was fairly unhappy with what I looked like and I didn’t have a lot of self-confidence because I was putting all of my self-confidence in this number on the scale and I thought, in a lot of ways, “Oh my gosh! If I just reached this magical ideal weight number, I’m going to be happy, I’m going to feel great.” In the meantime, I may not be able to get down there, being able to eat actually healthy foods in a regular way. I didn’t have any self-confidence and I was always kind of putting off my happiness until this magical weight happened.
I feel like a lot of women do that. Whether or not they’re fitness professionals, clearly we kind of think that if we weighed a certain amount, that our lives are going to be perfect. That’s not secretly the case. Oh my gosh! We spend all this time torturing ourselves and putting all of our self-worth into a number on the scale.
Before I got married, this went on for years – over-exercising, under-eating, and all that kind of stuff, and feeling like I had no self-control and no willpower because I was under-eating so much. I know you know about this because you’re all about the science of food and calories and such, but I would restrict myself so much that then my hunger cues were completely off and I thought it was a reflection that I didn’t have any willpower or control and really I was just eating in a very poor way.
Before I got married in 2007, I thought to myself, “Oh my gosh! This is going to be so terrible for me because I’m going to walk down the aisle and the only thing I’m going to be able to think about is ‘What do I look like?’ ‘What do I weigh?’ ‘What size is my dress?’ ‘Does everyone notice that I have arm fat?’” I was so obsessive about it, so I decided – right after I got engaged – that’s not how my wedding day is going to be. I’m not going to be thinking about that; I’m going to be thinking about the love of my life and getting married and what that means and all my friends and family being around me.
I met with a registered dietician who was into intuitive eating and she said something to me that was pretty life-changing. I think – obviously this message is for women – but I think it also kind of applies to guys in a little way. She said, “Wow! Can you imagine what all the women in the world would have done and would have accomplished if they weren’t obsessed with how many calories they ate, how many calories they burned at the gym?” For me, that was my personal ‘huh’ moment, where I was like, “Oh my gosh! I’ve been such an asshole!” I’ve been spending all this time obsessed about what I look like when there are clearly larger issues and things to do in the world. For me, that was my personal moment. I remember I was like, “Okay.” So I started doing a lot of more intuitive eating, more no restrictions on eating, and that really just changed my life. I stopped over-exercising. I started getting in touch with what really made me happy. I really started to build my self-confidence. It completely changed my life. It totally changed my life!
I became super-passionate about the message and after I got married in 2007 then we started FitBottomedGirls in 2008 and it was in the beginning of 2008, I was in a job and I wanted to do more and I wanted to make a difference and I didn’t want to work in a cubicle and I was like, “I’m going to get this message out to women across the world. How can I do that?” They’re not getting this message in the mainstream media that they are more than the number on the scale and that there is more to life than what you weigh and that a healthy lifestyle doesn’t have to be about deprivation or restriction, but it can be about adding, really often, things to your life and it can be a platform for you to feel better about yourself, not put off all of your happiness until you look a certain way.
I mentioned this to my best friend – my really good friend at the time that I was working with. I was like, “Hey! I think I want to start a blog or a website. I want to get this message out.” She was like, “Oh, yeah. I want to do something with more meaning and value, too.” So I got her to be 100% game-on ready for it because I was like, “I’m going to do it. I don’t just want to kind of do it. I’m going to be all in.” Kind of obsessive. A new obsession for me. A healthier obsession. We started FitBottomedGirls in 2008 and the rest of it has just fallen into place.
Jonathan: So much glorious sentiment in what you just said, Jen. Like you mentioned in your epiphany moment, which is such a wonderful story, where this idea that we are here for such grander purposes and are capable of so much more than being locked in this calorie-counting cell and chained to our scale. It’s a very suppressive and shrinking mindset. What you talked about – where health is about building. What can you build? What can you create? What can you bring to life? When you think in those terms, starving oneself and just beating calories out of your body starts to look almost silly, doesn’t it?
Jennipher: Yeah, silly. It looks like a waste of time. It’s just sad. I look back on that time and I’m like, “Man! I could’ve been doing all kinds of different things but instead, I was so one-track-minded onto something.” Yeah, totally!
Jonathan: Especially when the irony – maybe is the right word – is you can be a fit bottomed girl or a fit bottomed guy by eating a lot of delicious food and just living an active lifestyle. Not only can you, but the science is quite clear; that’s the more effective way to do it!
Jennipher: Yeah, yeah. It’s not about the crash diet. The crash diet’s never going to work. We always talk about ‘all good things in moderation’. You make something off-limits; that means you want it, so you have to kind of play with yourself. Life should be about a celebration of everything, being your best, and then also loving yourself enough to make decisions that make you feel better because you feel like you’re worthy of feeling good.
I feel like a lot of people, they eat the fast food and they don’t do the workouts and everything because there are other issues there that they don’t feel as good about themselves. They should. They don’t feel like they’re worthy of being taken care of and so I’m always like, “No, you are worth taking care of. You are taking the extra time, spending the extra money. You’re worth the effort!” That doesn’t mean you have to do workouts and eat foods that you don’t like. Clearly, start by eating healthy foods that you enjoy. If you don’t like kale, don’t eat kale. But hey, strawberries are pretty delicious, most of us can agree. Try that!
The same thing with workouts. Don’t beat yourself up in the gym unless you like to do that. Some of us do like to do that. If you like to go for a walk, then go for a walk! Then, be proud of yourself that you’re doing something good for yourself!
Jonathan: Jen, how do you most effectively communicate this message? As you said, the mainstream media is not telling us this. It’s telling us the exact opposite. It’s telling us, “Just look at how much weight the biggest loser contestants lose! Clearly, that is effective!”
Jennipher: Yeah. What we try to really do is just – and sometimes I kind of feel like we beat people over the head with our message because if you read any post on one of our sites, you’re probably going to get one of our key messages that say things like ‘All good things in moderation’ and ‘Fit bottoms come in all shapes and sizes’. Those are kind of our clichés almost – that we’re always saying. But we review a lot of products to do a lot of workout playlists of a bunch of different stuff. We write about our own successes and failures and just try to be really honest about our experiences to hopefully inspire other people, but whatever we’re doing, we always write it in an encouraging tone that help people. “You know what? You’re already often the way you are!” “Yeah, we all have things we want to work on, we all have things we want to change, and we all have things we want to improve on, and we all should want to improve and be better. That’s all part of it. But that doesn’t mean that you’re lacking somehow right now. You, as you are right now, are beautiful and glorious!” So, we’re always just trying to be really motivational. “Whatever you can do, hey, awesome!” “You’re here!” “What can we do together?” That sort of thing.
Jonathan: Jen, have you found, maybe even in your personal life, where….? I’ve certainly had this experience and I can only imagine that it’s magnified for females, given the societal pressures placed upon them. Intuitively, we get this. We get that you let your light shine. We get that starvation isn’t healthy. We get that the number on the scale is really not indicative of anything except gravity’s relationship with our body. However, it’s Sunday night. We’re getting ready for the week. We have some time to ourselves, maybe, and the mind starts to wander. You know, we’re lying in bed and the mind starts to wander. How do you beat down those more emotionally-driven? We get the signs. We get it logically, but from an emotional perspective, it’s a bit more challenging. How do we combat that?
Jennipher: Yeah. A lot of the women that I work with definitely have…. I know you already know this, but your thoughts are almost like grooves, you know? When you get in a groove and you start having a thought and you kind of repeat to have that thought, so maybe your head-speak is a lot more trash talk than self-love and that’s what you’ve just been doing! You know what I mean? You’ve been doing that for years and years and maybe you haven’t even been conscious of it and so I always try to…. The girls that we work with – I’m always just like, “Yeah. Just start being aware of what thoughts you are having and then don’t be afraid to just be like, “Hey! That’s not very nice!” Like, “You can’t talk to me that way!” “I’m not going to have that thought!”
Then, a really easy switch that I always do is, if you ever start having the trash talk in your head, and you can’t seem to break it sometimes because it is in that groove, is to always just push your thinking so you’re thinking about things that you’re grateful for. So, say, you don’t like the size of your thighs or you wish you could do a heavier deadlift or whatever and, for some reason, you’re beating yourself up about it. Take a few minutes out, either mentally, or get a piece of paper and just write down the things that you’re grateful for in your life that your body can do, that your mind can do – the roof above you, the access to food that you have, even your trouble eating – just the ability that you have so many choices, that this is even a problem. So many people are starving!
You always flip the negative in a positive way. “So, you think your legs are too big?” “Well, they can probably do lots of really awesome things that other people’s legs can’t do!” You know? Always just try to focus more on the positives; is always better. Then, the more you can do that, the more you can kind of get your thoughts into a more positive groove and so you can set yourself up for success for the long term because thoughts have a tendency to turn into emotions, which turn into how we make behaviors, which then turn into patterns and core beliefs about ourselves, so I would like to take it all directly back to the original thought.
Jonathan: Jen, that’s such a profound tool you mentioned in there, which is this isolation and identification of the thought and then a refutation of it. It reminds me of Dr Martin Seligman’s work in just the ‘positive psychology’ arena or learning optimism, which is, if you imagine that you are out walking down the street and someone says to you the thing you just said to yourself, you probably wouldn’t just let that go. You’d be like, “Not only are you wrong, but here are some reasons you’re wrong.” Literally, do the same thing with yourself. If you have to, write down the thing you just thought. Now imagine that this person at work you don’t like said that to you, what would you say in response to them? Literally, go through that exercise.
Jennipher: Yes. Yes, it is powerful because if you’re not talking to yourself as your best friend…. You need to be your own best friend. That’s the name of the game. You’ve got to be on your own team here.
Jonathan: We hear this word all the time – and you’ve said it a couple of times – and that’s the word ‘moderation’. For example, we don’t say ‘smoke in moderation’, but we actually used to, believe it or not. My father was in the Vietnam War and he mentioned that when they had their MREs or their meals that they had out in the field, each breakfast, lunch, and dinner came with two cigarettes because at that time, given the way the government and big business were involved in the tobacco industry, cigarettes were part of a balanced meal and smoking two cigarettes was moderate and it was in moderation. Obviously, that’s not something we would consider ‘moderate’ or ‘in moderation’. Nowadays, we would say the recommendation on smoking is to not smoke at all. What is your thought on the difference between ‘everything in moderation’ and we actually don’t think everything in moderation? For example, we don’t think you should smoke in moderation. What are your thoughts?
Jennipher: Wow! I just learned something new. That was really cool! For people who have a past with yoyo-dieting and restrictive eating – like myself, like I’ve had – then ‘all good things in moderation’ is key when it comes to food, because an ‘all-or-nothing’ approach is like setting yourself up for failure. I will say, though, that once you kind of are used to everything in moderation – maybe that’s an 80:20 way of eating, where you’re 80% healthy – really healthy most of the time, 20% kind of like extra stuff that you’re craving. I think once you can kind of graduate from that, you no longer have that ‘all-or-nothing’ approach where you feel like, “Oh my gosh! I’ll never have another snicker doodle again, so I clearly have to eat this entire pan of snicker doodles right now because I’m going to make up for the next four months that I’m not going to have snicker doodles.” Which sounds insane when you say it, but that’s what we all have done. I think that once if you can get through that ‘all-or-nothing’ approach in your head where you realize, “Okay. I can trust myself enough to make my own decisions and that if I really want the snicker doodle, I can have the snicker doodle.” Then, I think, we can begin to play with our diet in terms of ‘This is just what I eat every day’ and not in a crash-diet type of way. Then you just start to play with what foods really work for you.
Like I was saying earlier, I think everyone should kind of treat their life as an experiment and what I’ve been doing for the last two years is treating what I eat as kind of an experiment – what makes me feel good, what makes me not feel good. I feel really good when I have a mix of protein and healthy fats and lots of vegetables in my diet and eat really clean. When I don’t eat clean – when I do have the really strong craving for a snicker doodle and I have a snicker doodle at 3 p.m. with nothing else with it, I feel pretty crappy after it. So much so that I’m like, “That’s not worth it.” I think when you get into that head space, once you can come a little bit farther in a healthy evolution and realize that it’s not worth it for me. What’s really worth it, for me, is to eat in a way that makes me feel good and gives me energy. There are things now that I don’t eat, like I don’t eat that much sugar, but could I have done that ten years ago? Could I just cut out sugar from my diet? No! I would’ve been a head case. Well, I was a head case. I would be more of a head case! I would not eat it for a while and then I would binge on sugar! But now, that’s not the case because I’m in a much different head space. It’s out of more love and what I want for myself, out of “Oh my God! I can’t have that. I want to have that, but I can’t.”
Jonathan: Jen, I love how you explain that because this is an area where I have – since emerging from my research and getting more into the real world and talking with people such as yourself – my thoughts had evolved. When I came out of the research, I was very much…. Put it this way, my approach to moderation was exclusively as follows: I love chocolate. Love it! I have no intention on giving it up at all! However, I don’t eat chocolate bars. I find ways to eat cocoa that is delicious and not deadly. So, for example, I might use stevia or I might use xylitol and I would just replace that or I would use coconut or almond flour and I would make these chocolate-based desserts which, to be very clear, do not taste the same as if you were to make that using refined white flour and all kinds of other garbage, but it gets me about, let’s say, 80% of the way there and I can eat a lot of it.
I’ve found that there’s really two approaches to not going crazy – and there’s probably a third and a fourth – these are the two that I’ve come across: One is what I just described, which is you do swear off certain types of foods, but you don’t swear off tastes. You never swear off a taste; you just find different foods to accomplish that taste. The other approach is that you are able to, for example, eat one snicker doodle and it doesn’t make you want fifteen. That’s how I am! So if I do one of the real thing, that actually makes me less satisfied. If I’m going to eat it, I have to have the option ‘eat a lot of it’ or ‘I can’t eat it at all.’ But that’s me; that’s not everyone. I’ve met a lot of people who actually know “If I eat just one Starburst, I’m good! That’s what I needed.” What do you think?
Jennipher: Totally! Everybody’s different. It’s like that ‘one size fits all’ approach is not going to really work. It’s not one size fits all. It does not work. I will also say that just the pure act of being mindful when you do certain things is so key. This is one of the exercises we have in the book and something that I’ve done with the girls that I’ve worked with before and there are other people who do it, too – it’s not like it’s a super-unique thing. I love chocolate. I have easily a piece of chocolate every single day, but I will have a small piece of chocolate and I will literally take a full five minutes to eat that piece of chocolate. Yeah, and I’ll have that. It is like a meditative exercise where you’re smelling it and you’re looking at it and you’re being grateful and you’re really tasting it. I think if you can really slow down and savor it, then you’re more likely to be much satisfied with less and you’ll be surprised with how much less you can have and still be satisfied to meet that craving.
Yeah. I think the times that I know where if I’m really, really having a lot of cravings or if I’m unable to be satisfied with just a little bit for me personally, that’s when I know I need to kind of look back at some of my behaviors for the last day, maybe the last couple of days. Maybe I haven’t been eating enough. Maybe I have been eating too much sugar or my meals haven’t been quite as balanced with macronutrients or maybe I’ve been really stressed or haven’t been getting sleep or I just have had too much going on. Whenever I start to have issues, or maybe I’m just upset about something, and I’m not dealing with my emotions properly, whenever I start to have those, I know what my triggers are and when I have unhealthier eating behaviors, I know as soon as that happens, I’m like, “Okay. What’s going on? What is it?” I can usually kind of look back over the last couple of days and try to identify, “Okay, here’s the issue. I’m not eating enough healthy fats in my diet.” Or “I really need to go to that yoga class.” Or “I need to just take a day off.” Something.
Jonathan: What I heard you just say or part of what you just said was that ability to step out of that moment because oftentimes, we’d just look at our lives like ‘right now in this moment’. Right now, I have a sugar craving. That’s the problem. If I give in to the sugar craving, the problem was that I gave in to a sugar craving; when what I hear you saying is that the fact that you even had a sugar craving…so something happened preceding that. That is the cause, the craving is in effect and the effect isn’t really the problem; the cause is the problem. So you have to pop out of that moment in time, look back, and say, “What precipitated this and how do I fix that?”
Jennipher: Yeah. Sometimes, I don’t even get there. I may still go have the sugar. I may still eat it, but I think the difference is that when I’m done eating and it’s no longer what I would used to do – and I think so many people do – is then you’d just beat yourself up. “It’s the reason why you suck.” “It’s the reason why you don’t have willpower.” “It’s just another example of how you can’t do it, you can’t change, how you’re never going to reach whatever goal you want to reach.” So instead, you go, “Okay. Well, that happened. Alright, why did that happen?” Instead of going through all of the mental trash talk, you can just be like, “Okay, what happened?” Then give yourself forgiveness – the magic word. You give yourself forgiveness over whatever you did or didn’t do and then you go, “Okay, well why did that happen? How can I learn from that? Let’s move on.”
Jonathan: It’s always a very conscious process. Obviously, forgiving is necessary, but it’s forgiveness and then saying, “Here’s the action I’m going to take so that I don’t have to keep forgiving myself because ideally I am starting to live a life that helps me to not have these moments.” Is that fair?
Jennipher: Right! Definitely.
Jonathan: I think often times, sometimes people just hear, “Well, if you just think more positively, everything takes care of itself.” That’s certainly not at all what you guys are talking about. You have to have a positive mindset, but then you also have to take action and be smart about it.
Jennipher: Yeah. You need to be realistic. I mean, obviously we’re not telling everyone, “Yeah, just be a positive Pollyanna all the time. Life is grand! Yeah, yeah, yeah.” That’s just part of life. That’s part of the adventure. You have to be positive, but you’ve also got to be real and then honor yourself and honor your emotions because if you do try to just always be up and always be up and never give yourself the time to kind of work through, just pull emotions and stuff, then you can also check our stuff. So, feel your feelings.
Jonathan: Feel your feelings and feel why and then look back at maybe why they happened and look more for those causes. I think we hear these lifestyle change phrases so often, Jen, that it’s just like saying ‘synergy’. It kind of means nothing, but what it actually means is oftentimes, the problem is not that you just ate some sugar. That is not the problem. That’s just something that happens. The problem might be something like you’re not getting enough sleep. You’re too stressed. You’re in a poisonous relationship. You don’t love yourself. There are all these more core lifestyle things, would you say?
Jennipher: Yes! For sure. We tend to think very one-track-minded when it comes to health and nutrition, when it comes to diet and exercise, that’s it’s only about nutrition, only about what you’re eating and it’s only about the workouts you’re doing, when it’s everything! Holistic is maybe a little buzz word, but very holistic. It really, really is very holistic.
Jonathan: Jen, I so appreciate it. Folks, if you haven’t checked out Jen’s websites, the first one to check out is FitBottomedGirls. It’s a wonderful site and it has just a wonderful tone of positivity, very open-minded, very encouraging. I’m certainly a fan and they’ve been wonderfully supportive of my work, so let’s be sure to reciprocate that. Also, check out FitBottomedMamas – if that applies to you – and also FitBottomedEats. Jen, I’m pretty excited to have you back here to talk about your upcoming book. Just so we can wet people’s whistle but not give it away, just tell us a little bit about the book.
Jennipher: Yeah! It’s a plan that pretty much tells you how to be a fit bottomed girl. Like, the ten different principles of how to be a fit bottomed girl and it’s a lot of diet and it’s a lot of nutrition and workouts, but it’s also a lot of self-love and confidence-boosting and how to [inaudible 28:14] the scale and ditch the diet drama, with quick little ten-minute fixes, there’s my marketing, that can kind of work into your life in a very natural organic way and allow you to make small changes that add up over time to really big results and how you feel every day. So, make you feel better.
Jonathan: What’s the title of the book?
Jennipher: It is The Fit Bottomed Girls Anti-Diet.
Jonathan: It is coming out when?
Jennipher: Actually, it’s coming out December 31, 2013, but January 2014.
Jonathan: I love it. You will come back on this show to tell us more about it?
Jennipher: For sure! I would love to!
Jonathan: Do you like how I did that little technique? Get people to answer your question – “Oh, yes! Of course!” That last one – I just stuck it in there.
Jennipher: Yes, yes, for sure, I would love to! Anytime.
Jonathan: Well, thank you so much, Jen. This has been an absolute delight. Folks, like I said, her name is Jennipher Walters. She is the CEO and co-founder of Fit Bottomed Girls, LLC. Three websites: FitBottomedGirls.com, FitBottomedMamas.com, FitBottomedEats.com. I don’t know, Jen, we might have to have a conversation about FitBottomedGuys.com someday, I don’t know. What’s going on?
Jennipher: I would love to start FitBottomedDudes. There’s such a need for a SANE type of approach for guys, I feel like, that’s not super hardcore. I just keep talking about this and talking about this. I just need to meet the right people, so maybe you’re the right person.
Jonathan: I love it, Jen. Well, thank you so much for the work you do and for joining us today. I really appreciate it.
Jennipher: Thank you for all that you do and thanks for having me on.
Jonathan: My pleasure. Folks, I hope you enjoyed today’s conversation as much as I did. Please remember this week and every week after – Eat smarter, exercise smarter, and live better. Talk with you soon.
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