I grew up in West Virginia.  When I look back on my life, I had a great childhood.  My parents both worked outside of the home and worked hard.  My father taught, and also, worked in the coal mines.   He would go to work, then go to his other job, come home, sleep for 3 hours, and then get up and do it again. The hustle and bustle of our lives … 2 working parents, us going to school, me and my siblings doing our activities was “normal”.  What was not normal, was my father’s tragic death in a work accident.  Needless to say, that was hard and I miss him, still.

My path was that I went to school, graduated and eventually met and married my husband, Jason.  We have 2 wonderful children and I absolutely love being their mom.  I have worked as a domestic engineer and a substance abuse counselor and I understand the challenges that come with everyday life and working to stay on the “healthy and happy” path, while living married, with kids and work.

So, … I’m living my life, and the next thing I know, life is BUSY!  My life in a sense has turned into the life that I had as a child, only this time, my kids are playing the role of myself and my siblings and I am now playing the role of my mother … I’m working hard at my job, and as a mother, and wife, and I am giving to myself, what is left over, … whatever I have left at the end of my day, is what I was giving to myself.

I am the type of person that has a large capacity to “do” … go, go, go.  I tend not to say “no”.  Sometimes the line gets blurred because I just “do”, and I don’t stop, ever to “feel” what’s going on with myself.  Doing anything less – felt like … “what am I doing?!” … “like it’s not enough”.


Even though I was seeing my mom in me, and how I was doing life, not that I’d label it as “bad”, I knew I wasn’t taking care of myself like I wanted to.  Even though I was aware of it, (“it” being how I was doing life), “it” was, and still is hard to stop doing life this way.  I jokingly think of it as a generational curse. 


Course Correction

It’s hard because you are fighting against the thoughts of how you think things are supposed to be, based on what was normal for me when I was a child.

When I was at home with my kids as a domestic engineer, it was a humbling experience for me.  It was humbling because staying at home did not feel normal – it felt weird because I felt like this is not what my parents bore me to do.  I felt like I wasn’t living up to my parent’s expectations.  My husband helped me see my value in staying home with the kids.  This caused me to start thinking differently about myself and processing what it meant to have a different role, and how I viewed myself as a result of having a different role.

That’s when things started to change for me


I started giving myself permission to be human.  I started re-evaluating my worth.  I developed a different connection to God, … remembering who I belong to, and I started to ensure that every season was purposeful.

When I think about how nutrition and fitness have evolved with the change in my thoughts about my life and my well-being, I think, fitness has always been something that I’ve done.  I grew up being very competitive and athletic.  I’ve always worked out, but that did not keep me from becoming over-weight.

When I started looking at my life differently and asking myself, what does it mean or look like to take care of myself, I had to start looking at nutrition differently.  I could not look at the quick fixes of yo-yo dieting that I saw when I was growing up.

In getting to a healthier space, I had to re-evaluate nutrition. I was exercising two times a day and still was struggling with my weight.  This helped me learn that most of weight loss occurs in the kitchen.

Started making small changes in my nutrition and giving myself permission to not be perfect at it.  As long as the scale was moving in the right direction, I was celebrating my achievements no matter how small. The celebration of even the smallest change, was helpful for my well-being.

I knew that the “celebration piece” was important and I think that I came to really enjoy celebrating from playing sports … and knowing how good celebrating felt when you were successful at something.

I also knew that this was an on-going journey … not a sprint with finish line. It’s more like cross country, repeated time and time again! LOL!

Over time, I dropped the weight and gained strength and a better sense of well-being.  When I think back on the journey and what my hope is for my kids around fitness, nutrition and well-being.  My hope is that they are seeing balance in those 3 areas.  My hope is that they don’t have the word “diet” in their vocabulary but instead substitute it with healthy living, and that they find a balance in that.  That they don’t look to restrictive thinking, gimmicks, or loosey-goosey … but they live life with balance being restrictive, treats are okay but find a balance.  It’s not about a perfect body on tv and it’s not my 600lb life.

I’ve learned that kids see every extreme and my hope is that mine will see how I eat and how I do life.  As I sit here and think about it, I think they do see … because it shows up when my son is sitting at a restaurant and says, “I think I’m going to have fish today”, or he says, “I had desert yesterday, so I don’t need one today.”  And we celebrate those choices.

Kids will see every single extreme.  I hope that they see how I eat and how I do life, which is different than their dads, but it’s a balance.  It shows up when my son is sitting at a restaurant and says I think I’m going to do fish today, or he says, I had desert yesterday, I don’t need one today.  And we celebrate those choices.

What I know to be true is that you don’t have to be more important than anyone in your life, but you have to make yourself just as important.  You have to make an effort to treat yourself just as important.  And what this looks like or reminds me of are flight attendants when they talk about the oxygen mask and they say “if you are traveling with a young child, when the oxygen mask falls, place it securely over your mouth and nose first, then assist your child with their mask.”  It’s not only important for you, but for women who have children or other loved ones in their lives, it’s important to model healthy and happy.

My thought/encouragement/hope for anyone who reads a little piece of my story is that to ask yourself, “where do you fall in the line of all those that you take care of?”  or “what will your kids see in how you live healthy and happy?” or “What do you have to lose by trying – by taking that first step or by asking for help on your journey?”

And lastly, my encouragement for the lady who falls off or stumbles … dust yourself off and keep going.  Just keep going … it doesn’t have to be pretty or perfect … just keep going.






  • What an amazing story of perseverance and strength! Really inspiring and uplifting. This is precisely what Fitchicks does for me each and every day. I am encouraged, despite obstacles that may come my way, to be the healthiest version of me. My time in the studio encourages me to pick up the pieces and try again. What a truly remarkable story, Jen. I’m blessed to have you in my life. Thank you for sharing!

    Anita Bhagat Patel

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