By Emma Sarran Webster | September 28, 2016 | People
We caught up with Downers Grove native Jen Widerstrom to get some real-talk on how to stay in shape through the holiday season, where she works out around Chicago, and what she loves about The Biggest Loser.
Last week, Jen Widerstrom posted a photo on Instagram that immediately went viral. The professional fitness trainer, former American Gladiator, and The Biggest Loser coach showed side-by-side images of herself in a crop top. The first photo of her sitting down was less than flattering; the second, taken only two minutes later, was what #fitspo is made of. Her point? “We all look like this when we sit. Don’t stress about the way your body looks in certain positions,” she wrote in her caption.
Widerstrom stressed that message—and the message that body positivity comes from within—at Shape magazine’s Chicago Meet & Tweet, which gathered fitness and health industry experts and local influencers for a day of real-talk, inspiration, and stories of success in and out of the gym. “We have to stop qualifying our experiences and setting ourselves up for failure in our heads,” Widerstrom said during her panel, “Be the Boss of Your Body.”
We caught up with the Chicagoland native before her trip back home for more expert advice, her thoughts on Chicago’s fitness scene, and the best and worst parts of The Biggest Loser.
Halloween is coming up, and after that we roll right into the winter holidays. How can people indulge in all of the fun foods and drinks without going overboard?
JEN WIDERSTROM: Before I go to any fun party or event I always commit to a limit for myself. And, most importantly, I stick to it. This is the answer for you, too. Commit to two drinks—no more—or indulge in a dessert, but chose just one sweet treat. Ultimately, make a promise to yourself and keep it.
Are there any "least unhealthy" options you'd recommend for cocktails, Halloween candy, or holiday desserts?
JW: If you’re [drinking cocktails], stick with your vodkas, gins or tequilas with no sugary add-ons. When it comes to candy and desserts, unfortunately, there is no “least unhealthy.” Stay away from that sugar, period. If you're desperate, cut-up fruit or frozen grapes [are] always good options.
How can people stay motivated with their diets and exercise throughout fall and the holidays?
JW: You really have to re-connect to your “why.” If you make your goals only about your waistline, you'll never make it through the season. Focus on feeling better and being at your best and you'll never steer wrong.
What's your top tip or tips for staying in shape over the fall and holiday seasons?
JW: Never go to parties and dinners hungry! I always have a small healthy snack before I go and it keeps me stable and making good choices the entire night.
You're from Downers Grove. Do you make it back to the Chicago area often?
JW: Absolutely! I get back as much as I can and even though I live in Los Angeles, Chicago will always be home.
What are your favorite things to do/places to go when you're in Chicago?
JW: I love Greektown, the lake, and Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder!
What's your favorite outdoor fitness activity or routine to do in Chicago?
JW: The path on Lake Shore Drive: Walk, bike, run, whatever—it's the best.
As the weather gets colder, it's harder to exercise outside here in Chicago. Do you have any tips for people who loathe treadmills or indoor gyms?
JW: I know it's not easy, but the bottom line is you just [have] to get out of your head about it. You [have] to remove the emotion around what you "feel like doing" and just start to move your body. After a few minutes you'll be totally invested. The hardest part is just getting yourself started!
What's your favorite exercise to squeeze in at home if you don't have a lot of time?
JW: Whether I have two minutes or 10 minutes, I do five push-ups, 10 sit-ups, and 15 squats (with the hop at the top), until [my] time [runs] out.
The Biggest Loser has been on for more than 10 years. What do you think makes it so successful?
JW: The Biggest Loser is the story of the human condition. Whether you struggle with weight gain or not, we all manifest stress in our own ways, and these contestants sharing their stories are real and [they] make everyone who watches feel less alone.
What inspired you to join the show?
JW: People. From the contestants to the viewers, I have committed my life to helping others and this was a very impactful way to do it.
What's the biggest challenge of being a coach and trainer on the show?
JW: Time. I just wish I had more of it with them!
And your favorite part?
JW: My relationship with the contestants—they are my family.
PHOTOGRAPHY COURTESY JEN WIDERSTROM
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