Before she'd accept a marriage proposal (from her now-husband), Jennifer knew she had to do one thing first: get healthy.
Knowing she needed to take care of her health before making a big life change, Jennifer looked into Slimming World, a UK-based diet program that changed the course of her life and helped her drop half her body weight. Aside from the diet program, she developed some fantastic fitness habits and has a little motivational secret for you (spoiler: it involves a lot of Beyoncé). Today, Jennifer is a newlywed . . . and a size 8!
POPSUGAR: What made you decide to start your weight-loss journey?
Jennifer Ginley: I realized how big I had gotten on a family holiday to Florida. I couldn't go on some of the rides due to my size, and one picture I was really excited about getting really upset me: a picture with Ariel from The Little Mermaid. Seeing me next to a slim lady made me realize how much weight I was carrying.
Two things I'd say contributed to my weight gain: being addicted to indulgent junk food and kidding myself that I couldn't ever change. I let the bad food habits take over my mentality, and it kept me overweight for so many years.
PS: What drew you to Slimming World, specifically?
JG: I had done it [the diet] a few times before with little success due to my own inability to change at that time. I was familiar with the Food Optimizing plan and knew it was just normal healthy eating: no counting, weighing, and stressing! And I knew committing to that plan wouldn't mean I had to give up a normal life. It was so easy to follow! Reading success stories made me believe I could do it, too.
"I always change what I am doing and have Beyoncé music on — I love Beyoncé!"
Before Slimming World, I had tried every weight-loss diet I could, really. I tried Weight Watchers, meal-replacement diets, calorie counting, repetitive diets, and very restrictive diets like the cabbage soup diet. With all of them, I'd lose a few pounds in a week but give up as none of them were sustainable, and ultimately they made me feel worse about myself and my ability to change.
With Slimming World you're happy while losing weight; there's no pressure, and the focus is on changing habits one day at a time. Slimming World has completely changed my outlook on food. I now know to fill myself up on good whole foods every day. I knew there were the "free food" groups that I could enjoy regardless of amount; I never went to bed feeling hungry, like I did with all the other approaches. I could also socialize and eat out while Food Optimizing, no problem.
PS: What's your favorite way to work out?
JG: I love a dance class or gym circuits. I have also enjoyed doing home HIIT workouts, too.
PS: What's your weekly exercise schedule?
JG: At the moment I'm just getting back into exercise, and I'm going to be exercising three times a week with a trainer. Other than that, I love long dog walks.
PS: How do you keep workouts exciting?
JG: I always change what I am doing and have Beyoncé music on — I love Beyoncé!
PS: How much weight have you lost?
JG: One-hundred-thirty-five pounds! I also weigh that, so I have halved my body weight exactly.
PS: What was the first big difference, other than the number on the scale, that really made you feel proud and excited?
JG: My ability to say no to food that once controlled me. When I began to see willpower developing around tempting unhealthy food, I felt like I was a new person. I got stronger with it every day. And I was eating delicious healthy food, too.
PS: How do you track your weight loss?
JG: I weigh weekly, and in my Slimming World group we talk about the week gone and the week ahead. We all end it better equipped with inspiration and ideas.
PS: What's a typical day of meals and snacks?
JG: I really enjoy oatmeal for breakfast, with fresh fruit and cinnamon. Lunch would be a vegetable soup, usually with fruit, and dinner would be anything from spaghetti bolognese to an omelet with sweet-potato fries, or stir-fry. I snack on fruit throughout the day, as I love it, and low "syn" [Slimming World's point system] potato chips. I eat such varied meals and love that I'm still allowed to be a food-lover and lose/maintain my weight with Slimming World!
PS: Do you count calories? What's the range of calories you eat per day?
JG: I don't count calories at all, as I don't need to. The Slimming World plan has taken all the hard work out of the nutritional planning. I just trust the plan and rely on the food groups to allow me to make the best choices for each meal. I find calories counting restrictive and a task I could do without. I cook from scratch a lot, and I don't want to be weighing and measuring every component of my meals every day. I think calorie counting encourages eating processed foods, and it doesn't allow you to consider what type of food you're eating.
PS: What are the healthy staples that are always in your fridge?
JG: Lots of fruit, vegetables, and salad. I became vegetarian in January 2017 (after my weight loss), so I always have edamame beans, chickpeas, and quinoa ready on hand for cooking my meals.
PS: How do you strategize for meals out?
JG: I always try to look at the menus before we go and make the best choice. While there, I also ask for things to be changed to best fit Food Optimizing. So I will ask for my food to be cooked without oil or butter and ask for dressings on the side.
"Focus all your energy on becoming the best version of you."
PS: Do you use a fitness tracker?
JG: I have a Fitbit Charge HR, and I love it. I love that it lets me keep a track on my daily steps. It also records my workouts and gives a detailed breakdown on the app.
PS: What role did Slimming World play in your journey? Would you recommend it?
JG: I couldn't recommend Slimming World enough; it gave me back control over my food choices and gave me back my happiness. The Food Optimizing plan is absolute magic; I love my food, and [this program] allows me to do that while remaining healthy. Slimming World gave me belief in myself, and that is the most invaluable thing I could have been given. After years of failing, I was desperate to change, but I had no self-belief. Slimming World made my dreams come true.
A big part of my journey was having a community of people around me on the same journey. We helped inspire and encourage each other when it was most needed. Every part of the community was fab — I love my SW family — and there's an amazing community on Instagram, too.
PS: What advice do you have for anyone starting out on a weight-loss journey?
JG: Forget the past and previous attempts; nothing can be undone. Focus all your energy on becoming the best version of you and getting control of your food choices. You have to remember that changing your life doesn't happen overnight; it is very calmly done, one day at a time. I had so much weight to lose, and I refused to overwhelm myself with the daunting task. I just tried every day to make better choices and live by a saying: "Willpower is like a muscle; the more you use it, the stronger it gets." I went from absolutely no control over my food choices to happily refusing foods I know I didn't need. One day at a time I changed my life, and I know if I am capable, anyone is.