Imagine yourself in front a group of people who will drop and give you 20 burpees when you say, "Go!" That's some real power right there. That type of power is harnessed with exercise, expertise and experience, which is what Jennifer Nagel has. The 37-year-old out of East Lansing, Michigan teaches several classes a week, but it wasn't until recently that she stopped feeling like a fraud.
"I was supposed to be setting an example for my class and I didn't feel like I looked the part," Jennifer admitted. "I could do all of the moves, I could lead my class with gusto, but I didn't look fit at all. I wasn't taking care of myself, so I felt like a walking contradiction."
By the end of 2014, she weighed 173 pounds at 5 feet 4 inches. During this time, her now-husband, Paul, proposed to her. She got to thinking about the wedding and, like most brides, knew she wanted to drop a few pounds and tone up.
She was banking on her knowledge as a fitness instructor to lead her through all the right moves, and even tried a couple meal plans. Nothing was working like she imagined it should. Jennifer turned to BodyBuilding.com for better insight, opening the door to her first fitness competition.
Losing weight can be an extremely intimidating journey. For Jennifer, she didn't have to go it alone. Her fiancè, Paul, jumped right in and decided to do it with her.
Initially, she aimed for a 20- to 25-pound loss, and she was able to drop 15 pounds on her own. She backed off the cardio after that and turned to the weight rack. As a full-time mom of four, she needed a little more assistance in the meal department, so she set her sights on a nutritionist.
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"I wanted faster results and frankly, I didn't have the time between my kids, new husband and full-time job to spend researching fitness and nutrition and experimenting," Jennifer explained. She opted for an online coach instead of meeting with someone in person, which was a perfect fit for her busy life.
"I believe that a lot of online coaches are legit, but that doesn't mean that all coaches are right for you," she cautioned. "It's a relationship, and you should make sure that your coach is the right fit for you. I searched online and narrowed down my options to three people, then I interviewed them. The person that I ultimately hired really understood my goals, my challenges, and stressed that he felt my health was first. He also believed on eating healthy whole foods versus shakes and processed foods, which was important to me."
Dealing with weight fluctuations her entire life, Jennifer knew she had to do something different this time. From the extra pounds she gained in college, then lost; the extra weight she put on during pregnancy, then lost; the emotional weight she gained during her divorce, then lost, to the the "happy" weight she put on meeting Paul, not to mention the pounds she added after being sidelined from a car accident. It kept coming back.
Today, you can find her up and at it by 6 a.m. in the gym. Throughout the day, she'll eat five small meals, which she and her husband prep together. In fact, they meal prep twice a week for the entire family — kids included! She still teaches a couple times a week, but her main focus is on training for her figure competition. Even when she has to travel for work, she has never missed a workout.
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"Paul and I meal prep together and go to the gym together when our schedules allow," she says. "He's the first one to remind me of my goals when I get a little tired or emotional. Now we are both in great shape, and it's great to have a fit husband who understands my goals. I look forward to maintaining this lifestyle with him."
Together, they lost more than 100 pounds. Before she started her journey, she felt "frustrated, unsure, average," but now feels confident, disciplined and successful. Jennifer is less than 10 weeks away from her first figure competition. Like most women who go through this journey, they discover it's not just about losing weight, but changing your lifestyle.
"STOP listening to all of the lies about weight training making you 'big and bulky,'" Jennifer advises. "I've always lifted weights, but my coach shifted me to primarily using weights and cutting WAY back on cardio and boy did the weight fall off! My body became super lean and trim. Right now I weigh about 138 pounds and am a size 2. A few years ago I weighed 138 pounds, was a size 6. This just illustrates how building muscle made me much smaller and more compact. And I lifted HEAVY weights. You've got to challenge your body to see results. Muscle looks GREAT on women ... I get compliments on my arms, abs and legs all the time!"
Click here to see other moms' weight loss journeys, and click here to check out Skinny Mom's 21-Day Shred plan!