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 & nutrition

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.

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.

An afternoon of just apples.

Posted by: Jen Emmert Updated: October 2, 2011 - 8:19 PM

Yes.

I can feel it.

I can smell it.

I can taste it.

It is the beginning of fall. The leaves are starting to turn amazing shades of reds, yellow and oranges. The mornings are starting to become light-jacket weather. The evening darkness spreads through the skies quicker than the previous week and in the air, smells of neighboring bonfires float. I am reminded of soups, slow-cooker recipes, curling up under blankets and apples.

Oh yes, apples.

An apple is often symbolic of a healthiness journey.

"An apple a day keeps the doctor away."

I went through a period in my life where I didn't eat any fruit, let alone apples. And by "a period in my life," I mean years. I ate them growing up but when I moved out and in with a friend at the young age of 18, buying chips and cookies seemed to be a much more appropriate way of spending my money instead of on apples & other fruit.

That changed though, when I embarked on my healthiness journey to losing 100lbs. I realized how little fruit {and veggies} I ate and worked hard to change that. What I realized is eating apples is so much more than just eating apples. It is about the taste, the texture, the crunch, the sweetness, the tartness and most of all, the nostalgia.

Over the past couple years, I've grown fond of apples but couldn't quite figure out why. I didn't realize it until I sat down to write here today, but apples remind me of my mom. She bought them often and would always cut them up and serve them up on paper plates. She had a delicate apple theme in her kitchen that I forgot about until just now.

The weather here has been amazing the past couple of weekends so I decided to gather up my sisters, my nieces and nephews and my dog, Iggy and head to the Minnetonka Apple Orchard.

We were hungry when we arrived so we went straight for the food. We grabbed some lunch (the chicken sandwich was surprisingly juicy) and sat on a hill overlooking the kids playground. For dessert, we munched on apple donuts which were a-m-a-z-i-n-g and very much worth it. {I don't make donuts a regular part of my diet so maybe I was just head over heels in love with the fact that I was eating a donut?!}

Iggy, my apple donut and me!

We wandered around a bit, looking at everything there was to do. They had a some llama's, sheep & goats, and chickens in one corner.

They also had a small corn maze to run through! I had never been in a corn maze and am glad this one was small enough for me not to get lost! The kids had a blast!

There was also a small choo-choo train for kids and a huge hay mountain to climb on. But first, it was time for a hay-ride! We all climbed aboard and settled in for a tour through the apple orchard.

When we got to the other side of the apple orchard, there was live music and a fun store full of everything apple related.

And of course, there were a lot of apples available for purchase!

After browsing and grabbing some apple-licious goods, we decided to walk back through the trails to the other side of the apple orchard.

As we walked through the trails, I thought about how long I had gone without apples and how "normal" it was to me. I thought about how overlooked apple orchards are for a weekend activity and how much fun I was having just enjoying being outside. I thought about I wished I could capture the smells floating through the air to take them home with me.

A few hours later, as I began to drive home, I realized that something as simple as an apple had just kept me busy for the afternoon. An apple. In its simplest form, hanging from a tree, had given me an afternoon full of activity.

Apples. The symbol of health.

  • Fat free
  • Convenient (nature's fast food)
  • Provide as much dietary fiber as a bowl of Wheaties cereal
  • Loaded with pectin, a soluble fiber that aids digestion
  • The more complex carb in apples give your body a longer, more sustained energy boost
  • Contain no artificial colors or flavors
  • Come in over 2,500 variety's
  • (source)

Ah yes, I wish each of  you a lifetime of apples.

You can buy a lot of locally grown apples from your neighborhood grocery but you can also go right to the source! Here is the apple orchard we went to:

Minnetonka Apple Orchard (website)
6530 County Road 26
Minnetrista, MN 55364
Click HERE for calendar of events

There are A LOT of local apple orchards here in the Twin Cities. Click HERE for a list of pick-your-own farms in the area. Some are a little bigger than others so take the time to look at the sites and compare what they have to offer. You can also get a GREAT selection of locally grown apples at the Minneapolis Farmers Market. or St. Paul Farmers Market.

In motion at a health & fitness expo.

Posted by: Jen Emmert Updated: September 25, 2011 - 10:08 AM

It only happens once a year.

Clear your schedule and get ready to give yourself a chance to find healthiness resources you need and some you didn't know you needed! My goal with writing here at the Star Tribune is to share with you healthiness activities around the Twin Cities from my eyes, whether it be restaurants, physical activities, places to go and things to do. This is one of those places to go and things to do posts to help you with your healthiness goals.

The Twin Cities in Motion Marathon Weekend is coming up - October 1st and 2nd. You may already know about these activities:

  • Marathon
  • 10 mile
  • 10k
  • 5k
  • Diana Pierce Family Mile
  • Half-mile
  • Harry & Shelly Mascot Invitational
  • Diaper Dash
  • Toddler Trot

A lot of walking and running and family events, sure. But did you also know there is the Twin Cities in Motion Health & Fitness Expo this weekend? Want to know why it is important to you? Because it is FREE and packed full of tons of resources to help you on your healthiness journey!

I went to the expo for the first time last year to pick up my 10 mile race packet. I didn't have any expectations for the expo because I hadn't heard much about it. I was surprised to see so many vendors and exhibitors all in one place - and they weren't all about running. {Which was important because while I was running the 10 mile race, I didn't really consider myself a runner. I know how backward that sounds, believe me.}

 

 

Here are some of the things you'll find at the Twin Cities in Motion Health & Fitness Expo:

  • hands-on health and fitness exhibits
  • great bargains on running and fitness gear
  • free sampling
  • free massages
  • information on equipment
  • information on nutrition
  • a full schedule of speakers!

The speaking schedule alone is worth you swinging by. Here are some of the talks:

“Hot (Sweaty) Mamas: Five Secrets to Life as a Fit Mom”
(Laurie Kocanda & Kara Douglass Thom)

“Be the Best Runner You Can Be”  
(Hal Higdon)

“Sports Psychology & Goal Setting”
(Max Trenerry, Ph.D., L.P., Psychology, Mayo Clinic)

“The Last Supper & Other Eating Strategies to Run Your Best Marathon"
(Steve DeBoer, R.D., L.D., Clinical Dietitian, Mayo Clinic)

and... I'm beyond humbled that the Twin Cities in Motion also asked me to speak!

"Running into my future self"
(Jen, a priorfatgirl)

If you are around during my session, please do introduce yourself! Click HERE for the full schedule of speakers

Days & Hours
Friday, September 30 12:00 - 8:00 p.m. and
Saturday, October 1 10:00 a.m. - 7:00 p.m.

Location
Saint Paul RiverCentre
175 West Kellogg Boulevard
St. Paul, MN 55155

Did I mention it is FREE? So come by, say hi to me and the other speakers as well as visit over 100 exhibits to help you with your healthiness goals!

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!

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