Jessica is an elementary teacher in Pennsylvania, who has lost over 80 pounds and transformed her health through exercise and clean eating. Yep, you read that correct: 80 lbs!! Jessica loves running and recently completed her second half marathon. She has a blog called Get Busy Living and can be found on Instagram - @jessicasmith626 - sharing post-run selfies and lots of clean eats! When I read Jessica's story, I cried y'all. After experiencing devastating tragedy, this girl grabbed life by the bullhorns and began an incredible transformation. What I love most about her journey is that it's not over. She didn't meet her goal weight, and then go back to her old lifestyle. She lives one day at a time, striving to be healthy (not skinny), and has developed some great habits along the way. On her blog, I love reading how she's working on accepting that she's not the girl she used to be. (Oh I can relate, Jess!) And I love all her clean recipes from squash fries to the world's best cup of coffee. I'm honored to share Jessica's story here. I hope it inspires you like it has me!
Has your weight always been an issue for you? Since what age?
My weight has been an issue for me since the summer before 6th grade. Before that, my mom used to say I was a “string bean” – it was hard to find pants to fit my long skinny legs. That changed seemingly overnight. It was like I woke up one day skinny and the next day I was fat! At first, we attributed it to hormones – but when I continued to remain overweight, it became clear that wasn’t the cause.
Has your decision to get healthy been on-again off-again, or did something just click?
I have attempted to lose weight many times since high school. I’ve tried Weight Watchers (with some success), South Beach, Medifast, Slim-Fast, and other diet programs like that. I’d always lose the weight and then gain it back when I went “off my diet”. I finally decided to stop looking for things with the word “FAST” in them, and just start eating quality, healthy foods. This lifestyle change, not diet, has transformed my life!
Did you measure body fat?
Yes! The gym I belong to started with a measurements that included my weight, body fat, and measurements of various areas of my body. When I started, my body fat was 47% - it’s now 26%!
Did you use a particular program to help you lose weight? What program? (Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, MyFitnessPal?)
I lost my first 40 pounds by exercising regularly and cutting out processed, fast, and sugary foods – no calorie counting! I got stuck at a plateau then and started to use the MyFitnessPal app to track my calories, and that helped me lose the next 40 pounds!
Has anyone been doing this with you?
I haven’t had anyone doing this “with” me – but through my gym I ended up meeting many wonderful friends, some of whom are now my best friends. We sign up for races together, plan workouts together, and text each other almost every day to help each other stay on track!
Have you reached your goal yet?
I haven’t reached my goal quite yet – I have about 20 more pounds to go! I settled myself around 170 pounds for a few months, and just allowed my focus to shift from calorie counting to properly fueling myself as I was training for my 2nd half marathon and a 10-mile obstacle race. Now that those races are behind me, I’m getting back to calorie counting and trying to get rid of these last 20 pounds!
When you started, did you lose weight immediately or has it been a gradual loss?
My weight loss has progressed along for over 2 years now. I’m taking the “slow and steady” approach and seeking to make permanent life changes, not fast fixes!
What are some of your staple foods and favorite recipes?
Every single weekday morning I make a green smoothie. I mix unsweetened coconut milk, a handful of spinach, and protein powder as my base. Then I add frozen fruit and other mix-ins like cocoa powder, powdered peanut butter, flax, chia seeds, coconut oil, or almond butter. I also eat a lot of fish and quinoa. My go-to dinner is baked salmon, broccoli, and quinoa!
Do you workout a lot? How often? Do you workout at home or do you belong to a gym?
I work out 5-6 days a week. I used to hate it, but now I’m addicted! I belong to a great gym in my area called Phases Fitness. At Phases, you work with a trainer every 8 weeks to check progress via measurements, discuss goals, and they set up an 8 week strength training program for you. It’s a smaller gym, so I’ve gotten to know a lot of people there. You schedule your workouts by appointment, so if you don’t show up – someone notices and sooner or later, they’ll call you to see what’s up!
I run 2-3 days a week (more if I’m training for a race) and strength train 2-3 days. Right now I just finished training for 2 big races, so I’m spending November shaking things up! I’m working with a personal trainer at my gym, attending a friend’s outdoor boot camp, and taking some Bikram yoga classes.
I know from your blog that you enjoy running. What got you started running? What races have you done?
I started running around August 2012. My gym offered a training for the Men’s Health Urbanathlon in New York City, and I thought it sounded like a great challenge. I did the 10 mile course as part of a relay team, so I had to run approximately the distance of a 5k. After tackling that challenge, and learning that I COULD run (I always swore I couldn’t!), I registered for my first half-marathon and I haven’t looked back! I like the half-marathon distance the best right now. It’s challenging and requires focused training, but yet it’s not as tough on my body as a full marathon.
Are your family and friends aware of these changes in your life? Are they supportive?
My parents are super supportive! They are enjoying an active retirement touring the country in an RV and it’s so fun to be able to go places and do things like hike and kayak with them. I also would be lost without the help of “The Fab 5” – 4 girlfriends I met through my gym. The 5 of us text each other constantly for support, advice, and encouragement!
Finally, do you have any advice for other women who are trying to be healthier and/or lose weight?
Get up and get started! Even if it’s to walk around your block, or start cleaning the crummy food out of the pantry – just make one change and then get up and do it. And if you’re a person of faith, as I am - pray about! Ask God to help you, invite Him along on the journey. Don’t assume that your struggles with eating and exercising are outside the realm of God – He cares about these things! Romans 12 tells us that taking care of our bodies is an act of worship!
Jessica, can I just say thankful I am for you, your willingness to share about your journey, and your outward expression of your faith? The way you've made these changes stick; the way you've intertwined them with your faith; you are incredible. Your success is a blessing and inspiration to many! Keep it up girl!
Thank you again Jessica! You are INCREDIBLE! Good luck with bikram yoga!! And check back with us again sometime, k? :)