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,, 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 maintenance

Eating with the Blackbird.

Posted by: Jen Emmert Updated: August 21, 2011 - 3:43 PM

One thing you'll learn about me is I believe we each must determine what healthy is for our own individual journey. Healthy may be one thing to me but for someone who is managing their diabetes or Celiac disease, what I do may not be the right choice. Our own journey is as individual as our finger prints. Sure there is probably a common theme of "move more, eat less" but how we do that is individual based on multiple variables. The hard part about being healthy is in the end we each are responsible for figuring out what healthy means to ourselves. That's my opinion - yours may differ. While I don't boast clean or non-processed eating 100% of the time, I do love when I can find opportunities to eat food not scientifically created in a lab.

Enter Blackbird Restaurant:

Situated on a bustling corner in South Minneapolis, you'll find Blackbird Cafe. While new to me, Blackbird Cafe has been around for awhile although not in its current location. Reopening a little over a year and a half ago after a fire ripped to shreds its insides, Blackbird Cafe confirmed a fire can't stop 'em now. Blackbird Cafe takes pride in a menu cooked from scratch. From their website:

Blackbird is a casual restaurant, serving lunch and dinner, plus breakfast on the weekends. Our menu items are prepared from scratch in our tiny kitchen. No frozen fries, no pre-fab desserts.

We use high quality ingredients and transform them into our versions of homespun classics. Our menu changes occasionally to showcase the best ingredients in their seasons, and to accommodate the fickleness of Mother Nature. But, we also like to keep your well-loved faves on the menu too!

My fiance, Carlos and I walked into Blackbird Cafe on an evening earlier this week, both starving and desperately needing to relax. Free yoga was a great escape but I also needed some quality one-on-one time with Carlos. We were shown to a tiny two person booth toward the back of the restaurant. As we walked toward our booth, I couldn't help but find my eyes darting around the mismatched decor consuming the walls. Every section of the wall seemed to have its own theme which didn't connect but seemed to somehow match its neighboring decorations. The hodgepodge of decor worked in a way I'm pretty sure would look tacky and unorganized if recreated in my house. I was impressed and a little jealous.

I sat down with a heavy sigh as if I was letting stress escape from within the sigh itself. I opened the menu and found familiar thoughts racing through my head. There is often an internal struggle in my mind when I look at menus because I want one of everything. I'm the type of person who eats because food tastes good, because I love the textures of food and because I crave the sensations dancing on my taste buds. I envy those who eat to live and work every day at trying to force a much needed paradigm shift but often get distracted by dreams of what I'm having for dinner. {Note to self: talk to therapist about eating to live and not living to eat.}

As we scanned the menu at our delicious main meal options, we ordered the crusty baguette with chickpea spread and whipped honey butter. I know some who can resist bread but that isn't me. The chickpea spread was a play off a popular hummus flavor but twice as good. It boasted a bold flavor but lightly complimented the crusty bread. The whipped honey butter was good enough to be eaten with a spoon however I resisted and thinly spread it on the second half of my crusty baguette.

While the menu had a lot of really creative dishes, making a decision was not difficult for me. Blackbird Cafe had a dish on their menu that sang melodies to my heart. Spicy peanut noodles: udon noodles, sauteed veggies, fried egg & spicy peanut sauce... add chicken.

In my world, an egg makes everything better. Carlos and I had conversations while a light murmur of conversations floated through the air around us. It was an August evening fit for a paragraph introduction in a book.

Portion sizes are a struggle when eating out because most places give us what we scream for - more for less. Blackbird Cafe challenges that request and instead strives to plate meals that are closer to appropriate portions. Over the past few years, I've allowed myself to adjust to leaving satisfied from dinner, not stuffed beyond comfort.

My spicy peanut noodles with chicken and egg were better than the high expectations I had set. I tasted every unique flavor choreographed together. Each bite made the world turn a little easier. How can a girl eat to live when made from scratch promises to emphasize this kind of live to eat mentality! I finished my egg and half the noodles & chicken. I paused and made a conscious decision not to eat everything on my plate.

Our server came by just enough to let us know he was still there but not to bombard us with intrusions. When he noticed we were slowing down on our meals, he asked the tempting question surrounding the subject dessert. Would we or wouldn't we? I entertained the thought. I even went so far as to ask for descriptions of heavenly creations and begin the process of elimination deciding which one I wanted in my stomach.

As I looked up at the server, I noticed a monster-sized antique looking door on the wall behind him. A symbol, I'm sure of it. The door represented all I'd hope for, fought for and dreamed of. This door was colorful as if alluding to the promises met on the other side. It also appeared to be a heavy door of which one would need to use all the fight they had to push open. It looked simple yet screamed of strength and power.

The server was calmly waiting to fulfill my dessert dreams but my thought process revolving the door helped me realize my stomach was truly satisfied. I had bread and chickpea spread and honey butter. I had udon noodles with a spicy peanut sauce and chicken and an egg. I was satisfied and did not need dessert. {Trust me, I'll talk plenty in the future of dinners when I decide dessert is the perfect end to an evening.} As the server walked away, I looked up as if my decision had been influenced from above. A wall full of mismatched framed mirrors looked down at me.

I smiled and snapped a photo. Doors and mirrors. An entrance to possibilities and a reminder of responsibility. Out in the real world, healthiness exists. We just have to slow down and take a breath long enough for it to make its presence known to us. Blackbird Cafe gives us the space we need to take a breath long enough for us to slow down in a fast paced world. It is a reminder we can be healthy by looking in the mirror and seeing ourselves making responsible decisions.

Have a healthy week, my friends!

A complimentary escape.

Posted by: Jen Emmert Updated: August 14, 2011 - 10:07 PM

When a tornado rips through your life, your world gets turned upside down beyond what you ever thought imaginable.



A tree fell on my "normal" and windows came crashing in exposing my internal character and making me more vulnerable than I'd been in recent years. My insides were on display for everyone driving by. Contractors have been at our house the past two weeks completely demolishing the inside of the house, repairing every ceiling on both the first and second levels as well as an entire bedroom on the south side of the house where they found rotting wood.

On my continued quest to be healthy, I decided I needed to find an outlet for the mental stress. Balance in an unbalanced world. I need to find more ways to calm down and relax. Carlos, my fiance, would agree, I'm confident. 

This past Saturday, I decided to look for my balance at the Mall of America. No credit cards needed. The Lululemon Athletica store offers complimentary yoga every Saturday morning at 8:30am.

I woke up on Saturday and before I even got out bed, my mind started to dart back and forth trying to remember where I put my yoga mat. It had been over a year since I last used it. The time I went on a "I'm going to be a yogi" kick which lasted about three weeks. I enjoyed those three weeks last year but never really turned into a yogi. Yogi - it is a real word,  I Googled it:


Noun: A person who is proficient in yoga.


Yogi I was not. Runner, yes. Weight lifter, yes. Yogi, no. I sat up in bed and let my feet hit the carpet. Iggy, our 2 year old fluffy white dog opened one eye and shut it when he realized how early it was. I quietly made my way into the loft area where our dresser had been displaced to and grabbed my "pretend to be a yogi" attire made up of a bright pink fitted t-shirt and black capris.

I walked downstairs and opened the door to the room which held all of our life's possessions. The day before the contractors came, we shoved our life into the room. I had remembered my yoga mat was in the closet tucked behind all of our materialistic things piled high.

Yoga step number one: climb over mountains of household goods to get to closet.



Yoga mat in hand, I made the 15 minute drive to the Mall of America. Parking was amazing - but who would have thought it would be anything other than a breeze at 8:00am on a Saturday. I walked into the mall and was greeted by silence. Off in the distance were two mall walkers. You know the ones. They wake up on Saturdays and speed walk the insides of the mall getting their distance in before most brush our teeth.

I found my way to the Lululemon Athletica store and walked in to find the store contents had been pushed to one side leaving a large open space in the middle, already filled with a few mats. The silence in the store created an ambiance setting the stage for what was coming.



I found a section of the store floor that had been unclaimed and unrolled my mat. I took a couple deep breaths and tried to calm down the voice inside me screaming "what are you doing here? You will make a fool out of yourself. Run while you still can!"   Yoga, I've decided, is one of the most intimidating "workout" activities for me because it challenges my body to move in ways I typically don't. Which also means the rolls of excess love handles also moves in weird ways. I was nervous the instructor would have us in some pretzel-like move and my stomach rolls would be forced to twist and hang while I would be feverishly trying to hold the position as I attempt to not fall over onto the nice woman who had set up mat next to me.

I spread my feet out and took deep breaths.



Our instructor introduced herself as Terry and welcomed us. Terry started some music which instantly catapulted the aura in the store to that of an official yoga studio. Terri had us start standing at the top of the mat with our arms extended in the air. We were told to lower our arms down and fold over at the waist while exhaling. It would have been appropriate for me to think calming thoughts but my mind ventured into the to-do list I had waiting for me.

Terry interrupted my thoughts as she told the class she was going to guide us through our first flow. We stood back up with our hands in the air and as if we had all been practicing a choreographed routine, all swan-dived into a folded over position. A few seconds of rest and then we stepped back with our feet leaving our hands at the top of the mat, entering into down-dog.

Over the next hour of yoga, my body was challenged to move in ways that seemed almost natural if it weren't for the resistance I felt from my muscles as they were being asked to move in ways that should be possible but hadn't been tried in a long time. Something magical happens in yoga. At some point in the class, your surroundings disappear as if you are alone. Alone with your thoughts. A calmness sweeps over you while you work to figure out each pose as if it is the most difficult thing you have going on in life at that moment. All external and environmental struggles fade away as your mind is absorbed in thought of poses. Nothing else seems to matter. It is as if for that moment in time, it is just you and yoga.

60 minutes passed quicker than I thought - the music ran out and I realized we were all lying on our backs. Terri called it the corpse pose. We laid there for about three minutes in absolute silence. It was the end of an hour in the morning where balance was found. I realized I would now have to go back out into the mall, back into the real world. 

September is National Yoga month - complimentary yoga can be found all over the Twin Cities with most studios offering your first week free. I dare you to think outside the mat and get your yogi on. Try it. Break through the intimidation barrier and let yourself be challenged. Let  your mind be balanced, if only for a moment in time. 



And if you are too uncomfortable to go alone for your first time, send me an email and let's do it together.



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