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

Why I Stopped Comparing Myself To Others

It’s pretty normal to have experienced comparison to others at some point or time in your life.  For example, that moment you see someone on the street, in a magazine, or in your neighborhood that seems so put together and successful that you are tempted to be just a tad bit jealous. You know what I mean, from appearances it looks like they have the perfect hair, body, home, job, family, pet, etc.

And then, you start thinking “if only I had what they have I’d be happy.”

I’ve even heard personal growth gurus say “if you see someone that has what you want then do what they do. “

Um, yes and no.

I agree it’s a great idea to pick the brain of a successful person to learn proven principles that produce positive results. However, if you don’t know the person well or their history all you get to see and hear is the finished product. Behind every successful image lies a story of personal dreams, hard work, and failures.

And once you see the sacrifices they make, or they daily schedule they keep, you could decide their path is not for you.

If you find yourself wanting what someone else has, the best thing to ask yourself is are you willing to do what they did to get there? And, do you really want their life or is it the outward appearance you desire?

Years ago, I was sure that I wanted the exact life of a certain mentor I was learning from. I thought she was just like me. Funny thing, the more I coached with her and became more comfortable with who God designed me to be, I realized how different we were.  I really didn’t want her life at all. Not because there is anything wrong with her life, but it’s not who I am.

This set me free to be confident in my own skin. I no longer desired to be just like her, I wanted to become the best me I could be and fulfill my own dreams.

Friend, whether you are pursuing weight loss, health, fitness, relationship, business, or even philanthropic goals, it’s important that they mimic the desire of your heart and they serve the life you want to live long term. Whenever we try to copy someone else’s life it can turn out to be unfulfilling and unsustainable. In the end, this can lead to depression. No one wants that!

I truly believe that God has a path for each and every one of us. And, when you choose to listen to your heart and walk down that path, you will experience success in every area of your life beyond your wildest dreams!

That, I can promise.

With much love,

Jennifer Ledford


A Healthy Body Image Is Key to Permanent Weight Loss


Are you searching for some encouraging words on body image? I found a great quote by Oprah Winfrey.  It is such a powerful statement that I want to share it with you and discuss the importance of a healthy self image.

“Say bye-bye to feeling bad about your looks!”


“Say bye-bye to feeling bad about your looks.  Are you ready to stop colluding with a culture that makes so many of us feel physically inadequate? Say goodbye to your inner critic, and take this pledge to be kinder to yourself and others.

This is a call to arms. A call to be gentle, to be forgiving, to be generous with yourself. The next time you look into the mirror, try to let go of the story line that says you’re too fat or too sallow, too ashy or too old, your eyes are too small or your nose too big; just look into the mirror and see your face. When the criticism drops away, what you will see then is just you, without judgment, and that is the first step toward transforming your experience of the world.”

I agree wholeheartedly with Oprah that we have actually allowed the media to make us feel inadequate. We have succumbed to unhealthy diets — and sometimes painful exercise just to “fit in”.

I believe that you were uniquely designed. Some of us are thinner than others. I also believe it is perfectly normal to exercise and eat right so you look great in a bathing suit — or getting those “guns” to look good in a t-shirt. However, not everyone has the time or the desire to look like a model on the cover of a fitness magazine.

Interestingly enough, an unhealthy body image does not discriminate. This type of self-loathing can occur for any body size. When I was a size two, I was never satisfied with my looks. Now, I’m a size 6-8 with lots of curves and I love the way I look. Am I motivated by vanity? Sure I am.  However, I am no longer a slave to it. I exercise, eat healthy, and focus on living a balanced life.

A poor self-image sabotages your weight loss.


An unhealthy body image leads to yo-yo dieting, over training, and unhealthy eating patterns. These patterns can actually cause weight gain. Yo-yo dieting and over training can actually cause your metabolism to slow down. Being unhappy with your body can cause binge eating which will destroy your hard work. At this point, guilt can set in which may lead to depression and often times more binging.

What do you say to yourself when you look in the mirror? Years ago a fellow fitness coach used the phrase “watch your words, your body’s listening!” That forever stuck with me. When you speak negatively about yourself, your subconscious accepts the information as truth.

And, since the brain “fights to be right,” your subconscious will automatically want to carry out what you said about yourself. If you say “I have a big gut,” then your brain will agree. You will do what it takes to maintain that “big gut.” This is not just ooky-spooky hocus pocus. This has been proven by neurologists!

You can develop and maintain a healthy body image — here’s how:


1)  Discover what you want! Take time to write what you want your health and body to look like — not how the media says you should look. Research what it would take to accomplish these goals. Then decide if your goals are realistic and mirror the life you desire. Not everyone wants to be at the gym five days a week. 

Once you have a reasonable set of health and fitness goals, ignore the outside chatter. There will always be some new diet or pill, a well-meaning friend, and Lord knows the magazines waiting to tell you that your plan is not ambitious enough. Or, that their way is better. My favorite is the person posing and asking “don’t you want to look like me?”

Now, I’m not saying to be closed-minded on a better way of doing things. I’m saying you should always question if a health or fitness idea fits into your life and values.

2)  Speak Success! Tell your body what you want, not what you don’t want. When you look in the mirror, use phrases like “I am losing weight,” or “I have a flat stomach.”  In the beginning this can be tough. You tend to think “you are lying.” However, you are not. In my favorite success book, The Bible, it says “speak as if it is already.” This is called faith my friend! You are believing you can accomplish your goals!

Negative thoughts will enter your mind. That’s normal. You’re human! Just don’t let them leave your lips. Replace each negative thought with a positive statement. If that’s tough in the beginning, use one of my favorite personal quotes. If you don’t have anything nice to say about yourself, don’t say anything at all. You wouldn’t say something that mean to a friend, so why say it to yourself?

Leave notes around the house as reminders to speak positively about yourself. This will help you build the mental muscles you will need to make success talk a habit.

3)  Birds of a feather flock together! Pay attention to how your friends talk about their own bodies. Do they have a healthy self-image, or do they tend to put themselves or others down? Now I’m not suggesting you dump all your friends. Sometimes we need to examine if a relationship is healthy for us or not. If you notice friends putting themselves down, take the opportunity to respond with positive attributes you can point out about them. This practice will help you do the same for yourself. And, you will discover people just can’t seem to get enough of you!

A healthy self-image is critical to losing weight and maintaining it without having to be a slave to dieting. This is powerful my friend. Take it seriously!

Have a question or a tip on  overcoming body image issues?  Please comment below. I want to hear from you!

Blessings to you and yours!