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.

Cross Country Skiing in a Snow-less Minnesota

Posted by: Jen Emmert under Health 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.


Back to healthy!

Posted by: Jen Emmert under Health Updated: January 29, 2012 - 12:47 PM

Did you miss me? Or did you even notice I was away for a bit? I promise, I was not hibernating. Actually, I kind of was. I had elective surgery in November and am just now getting back on my feet, ready to take on healthiness in Minneapolis/St. Paul again.

The Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area has so much we can do to be active and healthy, no gym membership needed. The cold weather shouldn't slow us down. In fact, it should be extra motivation to get up and moving so that when the summer months get here, we can jump right into a healhty, active summer life.

Come back next week and I'll share my adventures of being healthy in the Twin Cities. If you have any ideas or recommendations, leave them in the comments!


Rollin' Round the Dome

Posted by: Jen Emmert under Health Updated: November 13, 2011 - 8:42 PM

What do you do when it begins to get cold outside but you need to move? You head to the Metrodome! Ah yes, the marshmallow-lookin' place in the middle of the new-stadium-controversy has some hidden tricks and I'm about to share it with you!

I'm fairly confident, based on the small number of people on the night I went, Roller-Dome is not a well known activity but one the Twin Cities needs to know about. Winter is coming soon which, if you are like me, winter means going stir-crazy indoors dreaming about warm summer days when frolicking in the sun-rays is the norm. I'm not a roller-gal. The only set of wheels that feel comfortable to me are the four wheels of a car. 

When the opportunity came up to go rollerblading at the dome, I jumped at it. No. Actually, I didn't. My first reaction was to make a I just drank spoiled milk face and exclaim "No way, I haven't roller-bladed since I was a tween!" It was only after I declared I couldn't do it that I decided I needed to do it. There is no way to prove you are too old then by saying you are too old -- so I needed to prove to myself I still had it in me, that I didn't in fact become too old to be active.

Parking is free and admissions was $6.50 (less if you are a student, senior or pre-teen). Luckily for me, Roller-Dome rents all the gear I needed: blades, elbow/knee pads and helmets. (Note: I made the decision to rent pads or helmets. My choice.)  It took me about 3.2 minutes to remember how to secure my feet into the blades.

And then? It was time to face the music... or blades. Standing up was harder than I remember. My feet rolled back and forth, my balance tested. I held onto the wall longer than I should but only because it gave me security that my feet weren't providing.


When I felt comfortable enough, I let go of the wall and just stood there. Taking it all in, breathing in and out slowly so as not to lose my balance and topple over. Another two or three minutes passed and then, it dawned on me. I hadn't fallen yet. I stood up straight and puffed out my chest. I was on roller-blades. Realizing I had accomplished only the beginning, I knew what was next was movement.

I went rollerblading with my sister, Melinda, and my niece, Kenzie who is 10. Both of them seemed way more confident then I, even though Kenzie was the only one out of the three of us who had been rollerblading in the recent years. My shoulders back, my head held high, I thrust my head slightly back which threw my weight to the front...I scooted forward about six inches. My eyes lit up and my mouth opened wide exposing my teeth in a smile as wide as my face -- I did it, I moved on roller-blades without falling! I tried it again and then, again. I was 3 feet away from where I had been holding on the wall and I was childishly elated with my accomplishment.

One of the workers watching me from a distance chimed in and told me I'd actually have to move my feet and not just throw my weight around attempting to move. And he was right. I'd have to make some sort of a fluid move. So I waved my arms and my legs when in opposite directions. My right leg pushed back and my left leg forward in a scissor like motion. I felt discombobulated  yet I was moving. Upright. With some sort of wobbly balance.

With each push of the right leg, I felt more and more confidence. Music piped blaring from the speakers above was Top 40 main stream. I wanted to bounce up and down but feared I'd overload my balance. Right leg, left leg, right leg, left leg. It was like the 15 years of no rollerblading hadn't existed. I was no professional, by any means, but I was moving more than I would be had I opted to stay home and watch Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. 

A couple times around the upper concourse and I was floating on my roller-blades. The three of us, Melinda, Kenzie and myself had tackled our roller-blades and were moving pretty good. Imagine my surprise when we came up on one of the emptied out concession stands where three women had stopped. They were sitting on the floor with their wheels in the air, twisting their mid-section left and right.

I knew exactly what they were doing. Ab work. These smart ladies had gone around a couple times and then paused to do some ab work. BRILLIANT! Now that is a way to get a workout in!

Their names? They told me: Detroit Muff, Dollface Demon & Beretta Lynn.

An hour had passed and Melinda, Kenzie and I had made it five times around the dome. Each time around is a little less than a 1/2 mile so 5 times around was about 2 miles.

Rollerblading at the dome was the perfect week day activity to get us out, get us moving and laugh with each other. We had good conversation and created memories. We were surrounded by serious roller-bladers and others who, like us, were there just for the fun of it. There were those who were twice my age and others who were half my age.

RollerDome is the perfect activity to escape the winter blues.

For the schedule (week night & weekend dates available), parking instructions and additional information, CLICK HERE.


An afternoon of just apples.

Posted by: Jen Emmert under Health, Health & nutrition Updated: October 2, 2011 - 8:19 PM


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 under Health, Health & nutrition 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.

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!


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