Meet Jennifer Coggins, a 52-year mom and teacher who moved to Alaska and found her healthy life – in and out of the kitchen.
“I felt defeated…”
Jennifer uses this word a lot when describing her feelings towards putting weight back on after losing 70 lbs.
When her family relocated from The Outer Banks in North Carolina to Bethel, Alaska it quickly hit Jennifer that life was very different here.
“It’s mostly Native Alaskans here. You can only access Bethel by plane. And you can be bigger here – no problem. You are all bundled up anyways,” Jen explains. “And something like a zucchini? Forget it. They don’t know what it is.”
This proved difficult for Jennifer, as juicing was her current diet of choice.
“But a watermelon costs $50 bucks here! So I was at a loss. I felt disgusted because I couldn’t manage my food.” Jennifer shares. “I kept thinking what do I do now? I didn’t feel good in my skin. I felt like I was spinning out of control with my food and my life. And on top of it, another diet didn’t work.”
The Diet Myth (And The Missing Link)
“No one talked about the WHY…”
In addition to the juice cleanse, Jen had tried the Atkins Diet and Weight Watchers (several times). She describes them all initially working in some form, but none with long-term success.
“All of them were about intake, but none were about WHY I was eating.”
And this was the thing eluding Jen most. She felt like she was making healthy choices but still not getting the results she wanted. So she would lose weight, but then gain the weight back each time.
She describes it as years and years of the same pattern with food.
“So I felt embarrassed. Really embarrassed.” Jen shares. “I was heading home to visit my family in Detroit and the last time they’d seen me I was 30 lbs lighter, and here I was again. I wasn’t really sure there was a way out…”
The Way Out (According to Julie)
“I want to be that person…”
Julie was a friend Jennifer had made in Bethel who had lost weight (and was keeping it off ) by working with a weight loss + fitness expert named Jen Powter.
“She looked so different!” Jennifer says. “But it wasn’t just her weight – it was her emotions. Julie had confidence. I wanted some of that. So I asked her what she had done. She replied, ‘I got my life together!’”
Jennifer went home and immediately Googled Jen Powter.
The first thing she noticed about Jen’s website was that it wasn’t about the food…
“You could just feel it – this was different. I read a testimonial on the site and instantly knew I was meant to be here.”
And although Jennifer knew she had come to the site for a reason that day, she hesitated to invest in herself.
“I had to work around the guilt factor to spend money on myself.” Jennifer says. “No one else in my family was saying I couldn’t. They were supporting me 100% but I had to realize it was an investment in myself – one I needed and was ready to make.”
Ready to stop going at it alone, she reached out to Jen for a phone interview and they began working together in Jen’s 20 in 120 Program.
For the Love of Fruit
“Jen’s food plan was so liberating…”
The first thing that Jen did was take a look at what Jennifer had been eating.
“She said to me, ‘I see you eat oatmeal every morning. Do you like it?’ I replied, ‘Well, not that much but it’s supposed to be good for you, right?’”
But what’s “right” or “trendy” isn’t what Jen is about. Her mission is to help her clients pick foods that are, not only, good for you but foods that you LIKE. Because when you like something – when you enjoy what you are preparing, cooking, and eating, you are more likely to stick with it.
“Just by her mentioning the oatmeal thing, I started to think differently. Hmm…what do I like? It made food something that should satiate my taste buds, not what some diet told me I should be eating.”
And once Jennifer was able to identify what she did love, Jen was able to help her understand how to use that to take control of her portion sizes and fuel her body without ever feeling deprived.
“I love fruit! I could eat 4 whole watermelons myself in one week. But I had no idea just how much sugar fruit has when you eat a lot of it. Jen helped me see that in the most gentle way.”
Jennifer describes Jen’s unique ability to be point blank without ever hurting your feelings.
“It’s a remarkable skill – truly. Some days are going to be hard and Jen tells you it’s ok to make mistakes. There’s no guilt here. On other diets, it was all about the guilt train. Jen simply asks you to notice your own behavior.”
Always on the go as a mother, wife, and teacher, Jennifer began to notice how she always found herself eating on the go, as well. She never gave herself time to sit down and enjoy her food.
“Just not eating at the counter was huge for me! Because I was usually picking – while I cooked, while cleaning up. I consumed so many calories I didn’t even know about! Jen gave me structure.”
Jennifer felt for the first time she was realizing her patterns and with support she was able to make a real change.
“Jen helped me realize that so much was in my control. She made it about the journey for me – the process.”
Leaning Into The Process
“Multiple times a day I remind myself to just lean into the process…”
Being a part of a group program helped set the stage for thinking about weight loss in a whole new way.
“I was hesitant to be in a group program,” Jennifer shares. “Because I had been in previous ones where people sabotaged each other, but with Jen, it was just the opposite!”
Jennifer describes the 20 in 120 group as an environment where you feel constantly supported and are never alone. It’s a place to share struggles, wins, bounce ideas and also a place to pay it forward.
“I could help another person out on certain days. It gave me a deeper understanding of my own process when helping someone else. It made me realize that I could do this – right down to my goal weight with these people by my side!”
And the process wasn’t just about eating.
“Jen also used this mentality when it came to fitness.” Jennifer explains. “If someone shared that they were dancing in the kitchen with their kids that day, as opposed to going to the gym, Jen would applaud it!”
Therefore, Jennifer stopped dreading exercise and looked forward to moving her body in a way that worked for her.
“I love my walks everyday at 4pm. I get to dump it all out there. And I know Jen is a big athlete – multiple triathlons and marathons, but she never put that on us – ever!”
Jennifer was finally given permission to find what worked for her instead of a prescribed formula. Jen bases the fitness component of her program on two things: moving your body everyday and finding joy in it.
“I had never looked at it that way before. Now there are no excuses because my walks, runs, and lifting weights in my living room are joyful and I am moving my body. It’s the ultimate win-win!”
Making Mental Moves
“Honestly, the change in me was so illuminating…”
Jennifer credits Jen’s program with helping her address (for the first time!) why she was eating and what that meant in her life. She realized that when she turned to food, it was often about something deeper.
“I started a new teaching job. I had no idea just how nervous I was until Jen brought it up to me. I was eating and then 20 minutes later I would be starving – not fully understanding the tolls my nerves were taking on my body.”
We often don’t see how our emotions cause us to reach for more food. But when we actually take time to address the feeling, we find that it’s not so scary and our eating can be separated from our emotions.
“Now I eat only when I’m hungry. And this is big for me! Jen addressed the WHY and gave me the essential tools to keep moving forward. I’m here to tell you – no one else does this!”
The Ripple Effect
“What Jen had done for me has ricocheted out of my kitchen and into my whole life…”
Jen stresses a thing she calls “stinky thinking” and how getting a hold of this has the power to change so much – as it did for Jennifer.
“Before Jen, I didn’t fully understand that what we THINK informs how we FEEL and further informs what we will DO. She helped me change my thoughts so that my feelings, and therefore, my CHOICES were more positive. They were rooted in confidence and not in shame.”
Jennifer describes this newfound way of strengthening her relationships, not only with food, but also with her students, friends, kids, and husband.
“I feel like the best version of me because I am in control now. I’m no longer sabotaging myself with food.”
Dreaming The Impossible Dream
“Jen once asked me to sit down and write my impossible dream. I had no idea what I was in for…”
Releasing her inner critic has given Jennifer confidence to keep going; that her goals weren’t so far away from her.
“I realized that my impossible dream wasn’t so impossible. It was actually really possible once I stopped just talking about it and decided to take action.”
Jennifer talks about her weight loss of 24lbs (and counting!) as merely a by-product to her life now.
“You send Jen your numbers each week, but she doesn’t mention them to you. So slowly, you start forgetting about the numbers. Your jean size no longer matters.”
Jen says she would tell anyone to run, not walk to work with Jen.
“If Jen lived down the street from me, I would be begging her to be my best friend.” Jennifer says. “And so I have already have so many people patiently waiting for Jen’s next program! I tell friends and strangers – find Jen. You will not regret it.”
Jennifer found a way to make real foods work for her – no more juicing, no more diets that don’t last – no more defeat.
“I came for the weight loss and left with my whole life changed. It’s like my friend Julie told me that day – I got my life together.”