Straight Talk About The Fitness Industry

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I’ve been in the fitness industry for over 26 years.  Coaching people on how to stay fit and healthy is my passion and extremely rewarding.  I really love seeing people thrive in every area of their lives.  Can you tell that I love my job?  I hope so, because I do!

However, there is a very superficial and at times even judgmental side to the fitness industry that can frustrate me as a professional and often times cause more harm than good to the public.  Lofty unrealistic goals, low-calorie restrictive diets, before and after pictures, and peer pressure can result in physical and emotional injury.

The fitness industry has a tendency to base a healthy lifestyle on how your body looks on the outside. Oftentimes, they show you images of air-brushed professionals that workout for a living.  I’m not knocking their hard work and dedication, but how you look on the outside is only one piece of the puzzle.

When I was a size one and ripped, my body was completely broken down from over training and I went into a depressed state.  Fortunately, God used this time in my life to help me figure out what a healthy lifestyle was really all about, and I figured out it is VERY personal.  I’m now a size six and much healthier than I was back when I was a size one.  I’ve got more curves and I’ve learned to embrace them and enjoy my life to the fullest.

A happy and healthy lifestyle is SO much more than how you look on the outside. It’s a total package that includes things like having healthy relationships, working with purpose, exercising or participating in physical activity you enjoy, having enough energy, eating well and dining with the ones you love, having fun, loving yourself and the people around you, eliminating unnecessary stress and in some cases people in your life that may be causing it, getting good rest, drinking lots of water, getting good check ups at the doctor’s office, growing spiritually and emotionally, and having self-confidence in who you were designed to be.

Please understand there is plenty of good in the fitness world.  My hope for you is that you will pick and choose what’s right for you during each season of your life.  Just because your neighbor is getting strong and lean at the local bootcamp class doesn’t mean you are a slacker if you choose walking in the park with your dog to stay fit.  You could be raising four small children and she is an empty-nester that has a completely different schedule.

Avoid copying someone else’s life.  It’s like borrowing shoes that are too tight.  Figure out what works for you and stick to it.  Don’t allow the marketing of the fitness industry to steal your identity, push you into something you may not be ready for, or make you miserable.

I’m not saying you will love every minute of your exercise routine.  It’s okay to suck it up and do your abdominal exercises when you know spending those few minutes working hard will keep your back healthy.  That’s called pushing through your comfort zone to keep your body strong enough to do the things you are most interested in.

However, for the most part, a fit and healthy lifestyle needs to be sustainable and enjoyable.  Suffering is not natural.  You were designed to enjoy your life.  And that should include your exercise and meal plan!  When your fitness and health goals are obtainable and match the type of life you want to live, success will follow.

With love,
Jennifer Ledford

P.S.  Have a question or story you’d like to share?  Please leave a comment below.  I love to hear from you!


Why You Shouldn’t Count On Exercise Alone to Lose Weight

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Have you been exercising regularly without seeing much weight loss? If so, you may need to make some adjustments to your eating plan.


A recent study at the University of Texas has shown that exercise alone without adjustments to diet produces minimal weight loss. The University studied two sedentary control groups. One group of 50 people made no changes to their diet or activity levels at all and were monitored for 12 weeks.

The second group of 50 people exercised with a personal trainer up to five hours per week for a total of 12 weeks and made no changes to their weekly diet. This group lost a mere 1.5 lbs in 12 weeks. I know what you’re thinking, not that impressive.

I’ve been in the fitness industry for over 26 years and I can confirm that these statistics are unfortunately true.  Unless you are exercising at the level of an Olympic athlete or a professional football player, it’s pretty tough to lose weight with exercise alone.

Please understand, this DOES NOT mean you should quit exercising. Quite the opposite! The study reveals that exercise alone makes it hard to lose weight.  There are many reasons we should all be exercising regularly.  Research shows that exercise can help with depression, lower the risk for heart disease and cancer, reduce the risk of diabetes, and even grow new brain cells.  Exercise is an excellent anti-aging tool. It’s just not that effective when it comes to weight loss.

The best way to shed pounds for good is a combination of a healthy eating plan AND regular exercise.


1)  Eat carbohydrates.  This is where the media often gets it wrong.  Your body needs carbohydrates to lose weight.  What’s most important is the type of carbohydrates you are eating.  Skip the processed white flour and focus on whole grains like wild rice, quinoa, brown rice, organic corn, and beans.

Sweet potatoes and other root vegetables are great options as well.

2) Plan your meals.  Planning your meals helps you eat regularly and choose the right foods to stabilize your blood sugar.  Stabilizing your blood sugar helps you avoid “storing fat.”  You need to eat food to burn energy or “calories.”  However, what you eat really does matter.

Try websites or magazines like Cooking Light and Eating Well.  Make sure your three main meals are balanced and have a combination of complex carbohydrates (whole grains), protein, healthy fats, fruit, and lots of vegetables.  You can never go wrong with plenty of veggies!

3) Snack wisely. A small serving of chips is about 150 calories on average. But, did you know you can eat four cups of popcorn for only 60 calories? Popcorn is way more filling, and will keep you satisfied longer. Not crazy about popcorn? Eat a piece of fruit.

4) Limit the fast food. I realize this may be obvious to some. However, with 25% of our nation eating fast food daily, I do not like to ignore this one.  One of our family members lost 22 pounds when she gave up her daily trip to the fast food joint and started brown-bagging her lunch.  And, she did not add any exercise to her daily routine.

Most of us picture a drive through window when we think of fast food. However, fast food can come from restaurants that are considered “healthy” as well. When you let someone else cook the meal, you have zero control over how the meal is prepared and/or the ingredients.

Take a look at what’s on the menu at your favorite take out restaurant and decide if the food choices meet your weight loss goals. If not, look for other take out options. Or, have some healthy frozen food on hand and combine it with a fresh salad for a last minute dinner option.

5) Eat Breakfast! This important meal jump starts your metabolism. Once you are awake the body has already been fasting for an average of 10-12 hours depending on eating and sleeping patterns.

Skipping breakfast increases the fast to approximately 15-20 hours. This keeps the body from producing the enzymes needed to metabolize fat to lose weight. When you skip breakfast, you risk sabotaging your weight loss efforts.

Not hungry in the morning? Start with something simple like a piece of a fruit, and have the rest of your breakfast as a mid-morning snack.

A well balanced eating plan is critical for weight loss. When you combine exercise with the right nutrition, it will be easy to lose weight and keep it off for good.

Any questions? Please ask me in the comment section below. I’m happy to help!


How To Keep Portion Sizes Under Control

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Did you know that the average restaurant meal is now four times larger than a meal in the 1950’s? It’s no wonder that the average adult is 26 pounds heavier than sixty years ago.

One of the most important secrets behind weight loss and/or management is keeping your portion sizes under control. When you cut back on larger than needed portion sizes and take a balanced approach to healthy eating, you will see your weight drop.

Unlike restrictive diets which can lead to binging or not eating enough, portion control teaches you how to eat the foods you like in moderation.

You may be asking how to control portion sizes without scales and various other measuring tools, or what to do when you eat out. Great questions!

Here’s five simple tips for portion control:

1) Read the fine print.  The labels will tell you how many calories, but make sure you read how many servings are in that bag of chips, energy drink, soda, box of crackers, etc. Most snack size bags are actually two servings — not one!

2) Are your plates super sized? Over the years it’s become fashionable to have large plates. Don’t worry, I’m not going to tell you to get new dishes.  However, a plate that is smaller will appear fuller and may satisfy you more.

If you feel like you need the extra visual help, you can purchase plates that have the portion sizes built into them. Everything from plastic to china. Another way I combat the empty looking plate is to use bowls. They appear fuller and I am able to scoop out the proper portion sizes with a ladle.

3) Develop a simple visual system. Not all plates are created equal so it’s helpful to know what a proper serving is. Here are some visual cues/examples to help you with portion size:

  • Vegetables or fruit: about the size of your fist.  Note:  When eating raw or steamed vegetables, feel free to eat as much as you want.  You really cannot overdo it when it comes to vegetables.
  • Carbohydrates like pasta, rice, and starchy vegetables: A single serving is 1/2 cup or the size of a cupcake wrapper.
  • Meat, fish, or poultry: the size of a deck of cards or the size of your palm (minus the fingers).
  • Snacks such as pretzels and chips: about the size of a cupped handful.
  • Apple: the size of a baseball.
  • Potato: the size of a computer mouse.
  • Bagel: the size of a hockey puck.
  • Pancakes: the size of a compact disc.
  • Cheese: the size of a pair of dice or the size of your whole thumb (from the tip to the base).
  • A tablespoon of food such as peanut butter, salad dressing, hummus: The size of your whole thumb.

4) It’s okay to go back for seconds!  Try serving from the kitchen counter to avoid reaching mindlessly for a second helping. If after 20 minutes you are still hungry, then go back and load up on veggies or a 1/4 to 1/2 second serving.  Your body needs to be fed properly to keep your metabolism running at full speed.  So aim for leaving the table feeling satisfied without feeling over stuffed.

Eating out? No problem. Ask your server about the portion sizes. Start with one or two dishes and then decide if you are still hungry. The kitchen will still be there!

5) You do not have to finish everything on your plate! Many of us were raised not to waste. This was a really important thing to teach us as children, and I am grateful for that upbringing. Unfortunately, this has been linked to overeating in adults.

I give you full permission to leave food on your plate. You will not be sent to your room! That may sound silly. However, so much of our childhood training affects the way we look at food. If you are like me and really dislike wasting food, then simply place whatever is left in a small container. You can have it as a snack or combine it with your lunch.

So there you go! These strategies can be implemented right away to help you with weight loss and/or management. Portion control is one of the best ways to begin cutting back on unnecessary calories without depriving yourself.

Have questions or tricks to share? I’d love to hear from you below!

Blessings to you and yours!