One of the BEST things you can ever do for yourself

Facebook Live video Jennifer Ledford - One of the hardest and best things I've ever done - Blog Post

One of the hardest and best things I’ve ever done for myself and my clients is to challenge a huge portion of the marketing sold to us by the fitness and diet industry.

The notion that, in order for you to be happy, you need to look like a fitness model is pure nonsense and has created endless turmoil in people’s lives.  When we force our bodies to become a size they were not designed to be, it is not only next to impossible to maintain, the process can steal your joy.

You are uniquely designed and I believe that God wants you to enjoy your life. He doesn’t make mistakes and that is exactly what I remind myself of when I’m tempted to go down the slippery slope of criticizing my body and/or comparing myself to others.

Watch the video below. In it, I share how you can free yourself once and for all from the pressures of the fitness and diet industry.  It is entirely possible to lose weight and maintain it for life.  What that looks like on the scale and in clothing will be different for everyone because no two bodies that are alike.

This video, by the way, was originally posted Live on my Facebook page and it’s such an important topic I did not want you to miss it so I am sharing it here on my blog and had it transcribed too (see below) so that it may be of help to anyone who sees it.

If you know this video or post could help someone else, please share it with them. This is a message that’s worth passing on!

Shared with Love,
Jennifer Ledford

One of the BEST things you can ever do for yourself

Hey there, it’s Jennifer here. I’m getting to have lunch pretty soon and I wanted to talk to you real quick before I started in on that, on eating lunch. One of the things I want to talk to you guys about today is one of the hardest things – and BEST things – I’ve ever done for my own self image and for my own body. And, that is to focus 100% on exercising and doing the things that are good for my body and keeping my body strong but not exercising necessarily for the purpose of weight loss. Exercising to help maintain my weight but not for the purpose of weight loss but for the purpose of keeping my body healthy and strong and eating food for the purpose of health.

Eating food to sustain my body. Eating foods that I know are good for me. And, keeping my diet diverse so that every cell in my body is being activated. So, that’s eating lots of whole grains, lots of fruits and vegetables but making sure that I’m eating foods that are delicious and good. And then, also, having fun. Making sure that I’m having fun in moderation. That I’m enjoying things I like. I like wine, I like champagne, I like to go out to dinner, I like to go to parties. And, just making sure that I’m having that fun as well.

Make the right decision for you

So, once I decided that I was going to exercise, I was going to eat well and I was going to have fun, then I decided whatever the scale said, it’s what it says. Let the chips fall where they fall. I am not going to be a slave to a lifestyle that I don’t want to have. I’m not going to force my body to do something that’s unnatural for it. I’m going to have fun and take care of my body but I’m not going to strive to look like someone in a magazine because it’s not the lifestyle that I want to live.

Now, if somebody does want to have that lifestyle and they’re not hurting their body to do it and it’s serving them well, that’s fine. That’s totally your business. But, what I want to say is find your own set point, find what works for you. Allow your body to be its natural body type and allow yourself to have a lifestyle that you enjoy. It doesn’t mean you just let yourself go and you just binge on cookies… that’s not what I’m taking about. I’m talking about creating a balance in your life that you enjoy. And then, not getting caught up on what the scale says .

Allow food to be your friend. Allow yourself to have fun. Exercise the way you want to exercise in the way it serves your body. And if that means that you don’t fit the mold of what the magazines and the fitness industry is saying is healthy, then, well, whatever! Your doctor is going to let you know if you need to make any changes. Unfortunately, the fitness industry has turned it into a runway for fitness models and not all of us want to live that way. And some of us shouldn’t do that to our bodies because it would not – it wouldn’t be good for you. And I found that out the hard way – it wasn’t good for me.

Finding out who you are

So, one of the hardest things I ever did was I had to find out who I was. I had to find out what I wanted. I had to find out what my natural set point was. And sometimes that goes up higher than I want it to be and then I have to make some adjustments. But, just letting – just committing to a healthy lifestyle. Having a good time, moderation, and finding out what your real set point is, that can be a little scary because you might find out that it’s not exactly what gets paraded around in the magazines and that’s okay with me!

I have never been more happy and more free in my life.  So, I recommend that you move for fun, eat for health and enjoy your life! Life is way too short to spend it trying to fit into something that a very small handful of people tell us we should look like.

Have a great day! I’m looking forward to talking to you again soon and just go have some fun and eat well and enjoy it. Enjoy life! Talk to you soon. Bye-bye!

This video originally appeared on my Facebook page here. See more Live videos there and see healthy lifestyle and exercise videos here in my Health & Fitness Video Vault.

A Fitness Pro’s Perspective On Sports Illustrated Featuring A Plus Size Model

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Sports Illustrated has taken the words “bodies come in all shapes and sizes” to heart this season and featured the beautiful plus size model (who I don’t even consider plus size) Ashley Graham on the cover of their 2016 swimsuit edition.

Traditionally, swimsuits in this country tend to be modeled by very slim women.  Even the suits that are targeted towards more curvy women are often times displayed on very slender models.  Featuring Ashley on the cover of Sports Illustrated is a refreshing breakthrough in an industry that tends to only highlight one body type.  Ashley’s appearance celebrates a group of women who I believe have not been properly represented or acknowledged by the fashion industry for years!

It’s really important to avoid comparing yourself to others and I recommend you focus on being your own personal best at all times.  However, it can take an incredible amount of inner strength for women and men to continue seeing daily images of mostly airbrushed models and still hold on to their own self esteem.  That is what makes this edition of Sports Illustrated so important and why I’m so excited about it.  Ashley is more than a woman with great curves rocking a swimsuit.  I believe Ashley’s photo shoot will literally help set some people free.  Instead of people dieting and torturing themselves to conform to one look, my hope is that she will inspire the public to focus on being healthy, strong, and comfortable in their own skin.

While many people like myself are applauding Sports Illustrated and incredibly proud of Ashley, there have been some critics.  What I find sad is that one of her critics was Cheryl Tiegs, a fellow model.  Cheryl stated that she is concerned that plus size models are sending an unhealthy message to the public.  I never like to assume what is in another person’s heart and I don’t think Cheryl meant to be unkind.  However, it is very wrong to assume that just because a person wears a certain size clothing they are unhealthy.  That is between the individual and their physician.

Over the years I’ve trained people of all sizes and I’ve learned that it is never a good idea to judge someone’s health by their size.  I’ve had the opportunity to perform numerous health assessments and review enough doctor’s reports to learn that there are larger people in great health.  I personally know curvy women that run marathons, have flat stomachs, and look amazing in skin tight clothing.  Sure, there are people that need to lose weight for health reasons (some of it serious) and I help coach them throughout their weight loss journey.

However, I’ve also seen a lot of damage done to people’s bodies due to yo-yo dieting and overtraining in their attempt to achieve a certain size.  Eating disorders are very real and they are usually camouflaged under the guise of “eating healthy.”

When I read an interview about a supermodel crying herself to sleep because she went to bed hungry or I hear a male model admit to dehydrating his body to look “ripped” for a photo shoot, I begin to question “what are we calling healthy?”  It is disheartening to hear a spokesperson from the fashion industry which is  widely known for its unhealthy behavior and body image issues criticize larger models all in the name of public health.  I find it a flimsy excuse for judging others.

Ashley Graham is not petite.  However, I highly doubt she is unhealthy.  Actually, she looks VERY healthy to me.  She works out harder than I do and I’m guessing she maintains a healthy diet.  The most healthy part about her is her attitude and the fact that she’s so confident in her own skin she’s not willing to starve herself to fit someone else’s idea of what she should look like.  She has such a healthy level of self-esteem that she was able to say no to harming herself for the purpose of fortune and fame which is something I wish more models were willing to do.

Please understand, I’m not discounting the hard work of naturally thin models.  When we as a society make the statement “bodies come in all shapes and sizes” that includes thin women too and they should be equally celebrated for their God-given beauty and talents.  The idea behind embracing curvy women is for prejudice and judgement to stop.  Thin models should not have to experience judgement either.

To say that health is all about being a certain height and weight is to put people in a generic box.   The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that “positive health is associated with a capacity to enjoy life and to withstand challenges;  it is not merely the absence of disease.”  So far, Ashley fits the bill.

It’s important to eat well, exercise, and maintain a healthy weight.  It’s also important to remember that your number on the scale is personal.  You know when you feel your best and you’re not depriving yourself.  I think Ashley does too.  She’s a great example to us all.

Bring on the swimsuit weather!

With Love,
Jennifer Ledford

Just Say No To The Diet Trap!

Woman is Hungry Dieting - Lose weight without the diet trap - by personal trainer Jennifer Ledford

Today’s article comes from deep within my heart.

It’s a brand new year and for many people a new year means fresh new goals and/or resolutions.  If your goal is to lose weight, it can be really tempting to try the latest fad diet that the fitness or diet industry is promoting.  It’s a normal human response to be intrigued by all the marketing that these industries roll out in January… especially if you’ve gained a few pounds over the holidays.

Before you jump on board and commit to a new diet, it’s important you know that temporary, restrictive diets have a 95% failure rate and can do more harm than good.

Have you ever suffered through the physical and emotional torment of the latest fad diet simply to find yourself unsuccessful and frustrated?

Or, maybe you lost a bunch of weight only to gain it back again. Even worse, you gained back more than you lost.

You are not alone. As a personal trainer I have seen and even personally experienced so much physical and psychological damage from dieting, it makes me want to scream!

Some of the reasons diets fail you are:

They slow down your metabolism
They cause you to store fat, not burn it
They’re unsustainable for most people’s lifestyle
When you stop starving yourself and go back to a normal calorie-consumption, you WILL gain weight
Lack of energy due to being hungry
Some diets ask you to eliminate entire food groups and key nutrients
They can cause binge eating
They can cause stress which is known to cause belly fat due to hormonal changes in the body

Look, I get it. You want to get thinner and you want it now. Most of us do not want to wait the amount of time it takes to lose weight that statistically stays off for life. The diet industry is counting on that and the marketing is very convincing!

Losing weight and keeping it off for good without dieting starts with a change in mindset.  The mindset that you are going to switch to healthy eating.  Eating for health and dieting to lose weight do not always look the same.  Things like portion control, cutting back the foods and or liquids that you know are excessive,  avoiding overly processed foods, and meal planning are all considered healthy eating, not starvation diets or skipping meals entirely.

HERE ARE SIX TIPS THAT WILL HELP YOU LOSE WEIGHT WITHOUT DIETING

1) You need to eat.  It absolutely amazes me that there are still diets out on the market today that recommend dangerously low calorie meal plans when the science says otherwise.  Your body will get really good at storing what it doesn’t get enough of.  For example, if you eliminate fat from your diet, your body will not want to burn fat. It will want to store fat.  Sound nutritional research tells us that you need to eat fat in order to burn fat.  I am a firm believer that the low fat and low carb craze has contributed heavily to the obesity crisis in the United States.

Instead of restricting what you eat, you’ll find more success when you focus on a balanced diet that is centered around whole foods.   A balanced diet includes carbohydrates, proteins, fruits & vegetables, healthy fats, and water.  Any diet that cuts one of these important nutrients out should be avoided.

2) Exercise almost every day.  Do your best to exercise six days per week. Try an interval workout 2-3 times per week and alternate with more moderate activity on the rest of the days.

Choose a fun activity on your off day like a moderate hike, cross country skiing, swimming, or taking your kids or your dog to the park.

If exercising six days per week seems overwhelming, start with 20 minutes per day 2-3 days per week . You’ll still get better results than doing nothing at all.

3) Eat in.  This is the biggest tip I can give you.  Cook at home for the next 30 days and bring your lunch. Use light recipes from sources like EatingWell, Cooking Light, and Health magazine.

4) Cut back on liquid calories. Try substituting alcohol, sodas, and other higher calorie drinks with water. Try adding lemon or cucumber for some variation.

If cutting out liquid calories sounds extreme, take a more moderate approach and cut down to half or even a quarter of what you usually drink. You can always go back to your normal consumption if you want to.  This is about figuring out what works for you personally.

5) Cut back on dessert.  Desserts are usually loaded with calories. If you have a sweet tooth, try substituting with fruit or one piece of dark chocolate.

6)  Be authentically you.  It’s really important that you pay close attention to what’s most important to you.  Not everyone wants to be or was designed to look like the models on the cover of fitness magazines.  If challenging yourself to reach an elite athlete status is fun for you and you can achieve it in a healthy way, then by all means go for it!  However, if you know in your heart of hearts you’d just like to live a long healthy life, fit in your jeans, and have the stamina to do the activities you enjoy without a whole lot of restrictions in your life, then general health and fitness is for you so please don’t beat yourself up because you’re not “doing whatever it takes” to look like a fitness model.

I recommend you try my suggestions above for the next 30 days and stay consistent.  However, If this all seems a bit overwhelming,  pick as many things from above that you can realistically implement right away and stay consistent.  Diet and exercise are very personal which is why a canned approach rarely works.  We all have different lives, different goals, and different needs. 🙂

To your long term health and fitness!
Jennifer