Jen Emmert

Jen Emmert writes at PriorFatGirl, candidly documenting her journey of losing 100 pounds through all of life's dramatic moments including new jobs, the death of her mom, wedding planning and, most recently, tornadoes. Jen's story has been seen in SHAPE Magazine, AOL.com, Woman's Day Magazine and many local news outlets. Follow her journey as she continues to fight for healthiness in an unhealthy world.

Posts about Health

Rain makes the garden grow.

Posted by: Jen Emmert Updated: May 3, 2012 - 1:51 PM

I want to be a gardner. A garden with an abundance of fresh vegetables growing all summer long. I want to wake up on a sunny Sunday morning to birds chirping, begin brewing a donut appropriate blend of hazelnut coffee and while it's dripping away, head out to my backyard to fill a basket full of fresh produce I've grown myself.

But let's face it. I don't have a green thumb. I have a black thumb. When plants realize they've come into my posession, I'm sure they cry plant-tears. I kill plastic plants.

Every week, as I stroll through the produce isle, I cring at the prices of produce. Eating healthy is expensive. It's a constant struggle every week to balance my desire to eat healthy with the desire keep a positive balance in our checking account. I suppose I'm not alone in facing this difficult balance.

Luckily, for people like me, there is the below event.

 

 

I'm planning on swinging by, for not only the sampling of nutritious foods but more importantly, some tips on possible gardening options now that warmer weather is finally here.

Happy gardening, friends.

Channeling my inner Mighty Duck.

Posted by: Jen Emmert Updated: March 4, 2012 - 4:17 PM

I had been looking online at different workout classes I could take around the metro and while some of them looked exciting, I wasn't in the mood for an actual workout class. I wanted to get a workout in on Friday but the traditional workout of the gym wasn't going to do. I had been to the gym six of the seven days previous and needed a change of scenery.

I thought about things to do in Minnesota. Healthy things to do, active things to do. It was a last minute decision, to go ice skating. I called my sisters and asked them to bring the kids. For some reason, it's less intimidating if there are kids around.

Something about their enthusiasm is contagious. My niece, Kayla helped me lace up the $2.00 rented ice skates.

We all met at the Maple Grove Ice Arena for open skate at 7:15pm on Friday. I hadn't been ice skating since I was really young. REALLY YOUNG. 

Skates laced, I stood up and took a deep breath attempting to channel my inner Mighty Duck. This was either going to be a total failure and I'd walk away with all-over bruises or I'd find a way to keep myself up-right. Luckily for me, it was the latter.

Oh you bet I held onto that wall for as long as I could! I wanted to let go, push myself to the center of the rink and spin into a double jump Russian squat but I decided I should probably figure out how to let go of the wall first.

Around the time I was psyching myself up to let go of the wall, my nephew Colton and my sister Alicia came up behind me. I figured then was as good of time as any to make my ice skating debut so I grabbed on to Colton, wrapped my arms around him, and with a huge breath, pushed myself away from the wall and prayed to God.

I held onto Colton while he squealed in delight as the wind blew through his hair and we both skated across the center of the ice. I opened my eyes once I realized I should probably make sure we don't collide into anyone. The skating rink was full of adults and children. Colton screamed "AGAIN! AGAIN!" so I fumbled to turn us around and pushed us back to the other side of the rink where my sister and my nieces Kayla and Kenzie were.

Kayla was giggling with excitement, Colton was screaming "MORE! MORE!" Becoming more confident, my sister, Alicia and I went back and forth with the kids. Music started playing over head and Kayla screamed "Oh, yeah!" and started bobbing and wiggling her little butt. Thirty minutes passed and I found myself working up a sweat. My legs were getting a workout and I could feel a little soreness in my arms from helping the kids skate.

I was surprised at how easy ice skating was. By no means was I twirling and doing fancy footwork but I was ice skating. Using an online calculator I found (here), it says I burned 231 calories in the 30 minutes I was there. More importantly though, it was an active Friday night out with my sisters, nieces and nephew.

I won't be joining the U.S. Figure Skating team any time soon but who knows, I may find myself at an ice arena sooner rather than later.

At the Maple Grove Ice Arena, it is $5.50 for non-residents, $4.50 for residents. The rink is open year round but check the online calendar for open skate days & hours. If you aren't close to Maple Grove, go HERE for a rink finder website to locate a rink in your area. A lot of rinks open year round. Ice skating makes for a great family night, friends night or date night activity!

Maybe we won't be included in the cast when they finally decide to come out with Mighty Ducks 3 but we can still get some fun ice skating in!

Healthiness Lifeline at LifeCafe

Posted by: Jen Emmert Updated: February 21, 2012 - 9:56 AM

I felt like I had been running all day, and I had. Work had been extremely busy and my mind racing as my unfinished to-do list swirled my thoughts around. I looked up at the clock and realized it was 4:00pm. I had a 4:30pm walk-through at our wedding venue with the photographer and needed to wrap up my partially completed project.

At 4:15pm, I scrambled as I threw my jacket on and raced to the car. I made it to my appointment 5 minutes late but arrived in one piece. Our appointment went well but I was slightly distracted as my stomach screamed “Feed me, feed me!”  My fiancé and I, and our photographer wrapped up our appointment and I remembered I had dinner plans with two dear friends, Ann and Amanda.

Most Sunday’s, I plan our meals for the week and sometimes go so far as to prep so that when weeknights come, it is a little easier to cook healthy. Going out for dinner on weeknights are tricky.  Quick, fast, and healthy? Not the norm in restaurants. Luckily, my friends Ann and Amanda both understand the healthiness fight and like me, both look for restaurants that have a healthy twist to them.

Most wouldn’t think of a restaurant in a gym. And if you thought about it, you’d probably envision entrees replacing flavor with veggies. I did. Until we had dinner at LifeCafé, at LifeTime, at the suggestion of Ann.

The deli style layout caters to the grab-n-go eaters but the menu  satisfies taste buds looking for flavor and healthy. As you’d expect at a restaurant in a gym, the menu has shakes and smoothies with all-natural fruit, no sugar added, and endless combinations of fruits, veggies, whey proteins and energy boosts.

But pizza and quesadillas? Now this is a healthy restaurant I can get used to! Breakfast, salads and sandwiches complete the menu. Everything on the menu has basic nutritional information under the description. Whether you are looking for protein, watching your fat or counting calories, it’s all there on the menu.

 

By the time we ordered, I was starving. My eyes and my stomach had become obsessed with the BBQ Chicken pizza. For a half pizza, it had 28 grams of protein and 445 calories. In true deli-style, I placed my order, paid and was given an order number to put on our table. Ann and Amanda both placed their order for wraps and we made our way to the table.

 

 

It was a quiet evening; we were one of two tables being used. As we waited for our food and caught up on life, I noticed a few people post gym swing in to grab something to go but no one else sat down. 

When our dinner came, I was elated. I wanted to devour my BBQ pizza in one breath but tried to eat slowly in order to enjoy how delicious it was. 

 

There was just enough melted cheese to keep my chicken in place and the sweet yet tangy BBQ sauce drizzled over the top of my pizza was the perfect compliment to every bite I took. 

The entrees were fairly normal size, not monstrous like it seems we’ve become accustom to in our culture.  There were also no huge sides of French fries or accompaniments we probably didn’t need anyway. My half pizza was just that; a half pizza. Ann and Amanda’s wraps came with a small salad and fresh fruit. Prices are very reasonable and comparable to locations which catagorize themselves as serving food which is fast.

There was nothing more perfect than our conversations, laughing and secret sharing over a healthy dinner. While we had gone to the LifeCafé in Highland Park, there are 15 other locations in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area. How I did not know this before is beside me. Gym membership not needed for dining - you can just walk in and have a delicious, healthy meal.

Healthiness is difficult enough on its own - now that I know LifeCafé has my back, I'm so much more excited to go out to eat during the week knowing I'll have a quick and healthy place to go.

Click HERE for LifeCafe location, hours, menu and additional information.

Really. Jazzercise.

Posted by: Jen Emmert Updated: February 13, 2012 - 11:02 AM

I woke up on Saturday morning and stepped outside - the arctic air took my breath away. As I walked toward my car, I sensed frozen existence around me. The lack of snow exposed brown shades of hibernation everywhere; the frigid air around me froze everything.

It was 8:00am and I was fighting my own stereotypes. I kind of didn't want to go. I'd much prefer to have been meeting a friend for breakfast or even still wrapped up on my couch in a warm blanket and a huge mug of coffee. Similar to last week's experiment with cross-country skiing, I was going for the sake of writing. Leave it to writing to challenge me to do things I normally wouldn't.

Jazzercise.

Stop giggling. Apparently this is serious stuff. One look at the Jazzercise website and you'll realize it is not the 1980's feathered hair, leg warmers and leotards once associated it with.

The website describes itself as...

"choreographed to today's hottest music, each 60-minute Jazzercise group fitness class offers a fusion of jazz dance, resistance training, Pilates, yoga, kickboxing and Latin style movements."

My hesitancy stemmed from the lack of rhythm and grace I was born with - anything choreographed scares the bonkers out of me. What's more, the thought of purposefully going to a class with a group of people who probably wanted to be there? Terrifying.

My friend, Amanda, raved about it. She is a youngin' so I trusted her. I knew she wouldn't steer me wrong in the fun department. There are over 20 Jazzercise locations here in the Twin Cities, ranging from locations at local community centers to Junior Highs. You can buy monthly passes or pay a nominal drop in fee, both of which vary slightly depending on the location. Average monthly prices seem to $35 a month or around $10 for a drop in fee {see specific location for exact amount.}

I arrived 20 minutes early. The "regulars" showed up 5 minutes before we started (showoffs.) Two minutes before class started, I looked around and realized the gymnasium was packed full of 39 women & 1 man, ranging in ages from 26 years old to... grandma age.

The music started and the instructor, Sandy cheered out our first set of instructions.

"March, right, left, right, left. Swing those arms!"

The room filled up with sounds of our synced stepping - it was like ants marching toward picnic leftovers, on beat with the overhead playing of Pop 40 music.

Sandy had more energy than a 4 year old on Christmas morning. I wanted to run around the room looking for her secret stash of coffee but the truth was,  we had all somehow formed into rows and I wasn't going to be the crazy one who broke out of line. We were in rows with enough space between each other just in case someone wasn't wearing deodorant. Thankfully, I had remembered to put some on.

I swayed back and forth, bouncing up and down every once in awhile, just in case anyone was looking at me. My arms swung all around me as I tried to mimic what Sandy was doing. My eye-hand coordination seemed to be slightly less than average as I stepped over myself.

"TRIPLE RIGHT! LEFT FOOT UP, LEAN BACK, RIGHT FOOT UP!"

"TRIPLE LEFT! LEFT FOOT! LEFT FOOT!"

I was a mess. I kept smiling thinking my smile would somehow distract people from laughing but in reality, my face hurt from smiling so hard and I was losing my breath.

And then, thank the heaven and all its stars, Sandy told us to repeat. Repeat? I did a little better the second time but still smiled really hard attempting to convince everyone around me I was having fun when the truth was, my mind hurt from trying to concentrate.

The third time we did the moves, I began to catch on. The chorus and the verse each had their own dance move so by the time we got to the end of the song, I actually got it! I GOT IT!

And then a new song came on.

Oh dear Lord, save me. I fumbled through the second song, only learning the moves as the song was ending. Song 3 was the same thing. My face hurt as much as my feet did from stepping on myself.

It was like I was in a real-life Olivia Newton-John "Let's Get Physical" workout video!  Randomly, my concentration would be broken when someone would yell out "Wahoo!" or "yaoowww!"

 

 

40 minutes had passed and I was still alive. I was proud that they hadn't kicked me out yet. Lady Gaga came on and a few women "yahoo'd" from the back. Sandy got us into our groove for the first verse and all was well. Until the chorus. Sandy shouted out with glee...

"Sashay to the back corner! Now to the front. Half way to the back, turn and sashay to the other side!"

I was lost. I remember turning in a circle and getting slightly dizzy. Shoot, I was facing the wrong direction. I flipped around but everyone had turned and I was again facing the wrong direction. I wanted to cry. I spun around trying to figure out where to go and then I saw it.

I wasn't the only one.

Two older ladies were circling around like someone told them to keep turning right. Finally, they stopped and looked at each other, laughed, grabbed each others hands and just started dancing to their own beat. They didn't need choreographed dance to have fun and move, they had each other. I considered joining them but the verse started and, like a well oiled machine, we all synced up into a familiar flow.

I felt safe again. I knew my steps and performed. In fact, I stomped it out. I even added a little hop or two in there. I was just starting to feel confident again when the chorus came back up. Ah, that darn sashay crap! The two older ladies didn't even try this time - they just grabbed each others hands and swung around with each other like they had their own dance. I craved being a part of their party but couldn't move. I wiggled my butt a little more, to attempt to blend in with all the movement around me while inside I prayed the song to finish. I prayed that I would be transported to a place where I could just sway again.

We finished up the class on mats and light weights we each brought from home. By the end of the 60 minutes, I had managed to make a complete fool out of myself and get totally schooled by the older women in class who had more moves than U-haul.

As I leaned up against the wall after class, catching my breath and trying not to tip over from the spinning of the room, an adorable woman came up to me and threw her shoulder up in glee toward me. "Way to go, today! You totally caught on to that really hard move faster than most of us did!" I think she was just being nice but a compliment is a compliment and I wasn't turning anything down. I giggled and thanked her, dropping my eyes before she took it back.

I sat in my car for a few minutes after class, waiting for my car to warm up and Alicia Keys "Say you'll love me" came on the radio. I'll never be able to listen to that song again without hearing Sandy tell me I should squat lower.

My friend (Amanda) our instructor (Sandy) and myself.

 

 

I highly encourage you to push yourself outside of your comfort zone and try a Jazzercise class. All joking aside, everyone was so extremely nice to me in class. I'm pretty sure everyone was concentrating so hard on their own dance moves, they aren't looking around at everyone else. Jazzercise is a great way to warm up, dance your worries away and pretend you are in one of those videos on the music channel.

For more Jazzercise information including locations, schedules and pricing, click HERE to visit their website.

 

Cross Country Skiing in a Snow-less Minnesota

Posted by: Jen Emmert Updated: February 5, 2012 - 4:23 PM

When it comes to skiing, there's a difference between
what you think it's going to be like,
what it's really like,
and what you tell your friends it was like.
~Author Unknown

Well, that is unless you have pictures.

Yes, I know the 2011-2012 winter has so far been lacking serious snow. But don't let that stop you from cross country skiing!

I think it's funny I signed up to write for here at Star Tribune on healthiness activities in Minneapolis/St. Paul because the truth is, I'm not adventurous. I'd really rather just go to the gym, do my workout and be done. Something happened when I lost 100lbs - I developed this desire to push myself outside of my comfort zone and doing things I normally wouldn't do. I hate the thought of going outside my comfort zone but love the feeling of looking back and accomplishing it.

I haven't been skiing since I was young. In fact, I don't even remember doing it. I only know I did it because my sister, Melinda, reminded me I did when I stopped at her house to pick my niece, Kenzie, up.

"Do you remember going skiing with mom and dad?" she asked.

"No, when was that?" I replied back.

I shut my eyes for a moment, desperately trying to remember that day when my mom was still alive; when she and my dad bundled us girls up and loaded us into the van for an outing. It crushed my heart knowing it was a memory so long ago that I couldn't remember. 

I have to admit, the thought of cross country skiing terrified me. I have very little coordination when it comes to doing anything that requires choreographed movement. But for the sake of sharing my experience here, I sucked it up and pretended that my heart wasn't beating outside my chest. Kenzie had recently been skiing and was excited. At least one of us was.

I helped strap Kenzie into her skis...

 

 ...but should have headed the advice the flight attendants tell us "put your own mask on first." I'm pretty sure there is a trick to putting your own skis on but I didn't figure it out. I fell more times than I'd care to admit trying to get my skis on.

 And then to stand up? Yeah, right.

Skiing is not only a great workout for arms and legs but assuming you can laugh at yourself, it will also work out your stomach muscles.

Don't let the lack of snow stop you from considering cross country skiing. For a $4 daily usage fee, we took advantage of the man-made snow made at the Elm Creek Park Reserves in Maple Grove. Lacking cross country ski equipment, we rented everything we needed for a very nominal fee ($8 for adults, $6 for youth).

 The one thing I couldn't pay for? Stability. Cross country skiing is harder than it looks.

 It took us about an hour to make our way once around the main trail but I think we were the slowest skiers there. At one point, after finally making it up what appeared to be Mount Everest (truth: it was a small incline), I threw my hands up in the air and shouted "I MADE IT!" only to be passed by a 13 year old boy who mocked me and screamed sarcastically  "I made it too!" I wanted to chase after him and tell him it wasn't nice to make fun of his elders but the truth was, my feet were strapped into skis and let's be honest, I could barely keep myself up right.

We finally made it back to the chalet and while a majority of people there went around multiple times, the sound of hot chocolate by the fireplace sounded more appealing. My knees felt like they were bloody and my butt felt bruised, neither of which turned out to be the case.

You want to know something though? I had a blast. I loved it. It was inexpensive fun and a workout at the same time burning roughly 450 calories an hour (source.) I really do want to go back but this time, I plan on bringing more people with me and maybe I'll go around 2 or 3 times.

To learn more about cross country skiing at the Elm Creek Park Reserves, including the location, hours of operation, equipment rental details and contact info, click HERE. Interested in cross country skiing somewhere else? Click HERE for other Minneapolis cross country skiing and click HERE for St. Paul cross country skiing.

 

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