Inspire · Miss Mary

Meet Jen Kelly and Be Inspired to Good Health

Believe in Yourself

Jen Kelly is an athlete.  She is a tall beautiful well-spoken blonde who is an inspiration to many who are making lifestyle changes to become healthy.  This past year Jen completed her first ever Chicago marathon.  Jen use to weigh 326.8 pounds.  Yes, she is fall-off-your-stool amazing.

Chicago Marathon 2011

I met Jen at Fitness 19.  I knew she was an athlete by how she worked out; it was not your normal routine.  She could have been a triathlete for all I knew.  I told my husband that I thought for sure she was on a women’s professional sports team.

Motivation to Begin:  Always active in High School, Jen played basketball.   When she went to Harper College she did not continue in sports.  She did however, have a gym membership.  She would go for a month then stop for awhile and start up again.

Weight was always a struggle.  She could always lose 50 pounds but could never break that barrier.  She would gain it back plus more.  She hit an all-time high of 326.8 pounds.

Between Christmas and her 30th birthday, her brain just clicked in.  Her doctor said her vital statistics were good but he warned her that the consequences of carrying the weight would catch up to her.  I asked her, “What made the difference this time?”  She WANTED to make the change and she wanted to be happy.

Her sister Kathy convinced her to attend Weight Watchers.  Jen  was ready to commit.

The Process:  January through September of that year she lost 50 pounds.  She faithfully attended her Weight Watchers meetings.  The food journal became a very important tool in her weight loss success.    She constantly worked out during that time.   Then Jen hit the 50 mark again.  The scale wasn’t moving.  This time she knew she needed to CHANGE the way she was working out to break the barrier.

Fitness 19 was offering a 90 Day Fitness Challenge which combined a trainer with a full range of techniques to reshape your body.  Jen was ready to crash the 50 pound barrier.  The program included a fitness evaluation before and after, nutrition information, small team workouts, cardio and fat burning tips all with a trainer.

Working out as a group was motivating; it was less intimidating than a one-on-one trainer.  The scale started to move in the right direction as the shape of her body changed.  She not only looked better, she felt better.  This was the best decision because it kick-started her weight loss that motivated her to stay positive about her lifestyle changes.  The weight came off faster.  She would never have done any of the free weights without the challenge.

Jen committed to success every day by packing her gym clothes up to have in the car so that after work she would head right to the gym to do cardio and weights.  Jen explains that psychologically when you get home you’ll not want to go back out after work.

Now:   It’s been three years since she commited to a better way of living.   “I already have a plan for eating and exercise,” Jen says.  Weight Watchers is still in Jen’s success lane.  The stories of those at the meetings give her inspiration and the ability to cheer on those that have had success.  She still journals which holds her, as she says, “accountable to yourself”.   (See endnote on food journals.) [i]

For now she is enjoying her life and is experiencing lots of things that she didn’t believe she would do.  “I use to sit in the background.  Now I have a quiet confidence that brings me out of my shell.”

Exercising and clean eating[ii] are her habits now.    She indicated she has found another habit, exercising and clean eating, to replace her bad habits.   Is Jen perfect in sticking to her choices, “No, I still indulge but I pick and choose more precisely what I eat.”  Jen counts calories and protein.  If you don’t  know the calorie content immediately her advice is to “Google it”.

“When you’re on Weight Watchers you learn to go to the grocery store.  The food I buy now I never purchased before,” she said.

You can tell when talking to Jen that she is very humble about her program.  “I will never go back to where I was,” a confident Ms. Kelly exclaimed.   Jen competes with herself always trying to attain the next thing – a better run time, a better work out, or a new physical competition such as the Tough Mudder – May 19 in Twin Cities, WI, Chicago Rock n Roll Half Marathon (7/22/2012), the Las Vegas Rock n Roll Marathon (12/2/2012).

Training Routine:

  • Cardio 6 days a week at least 30 minutes unless specifically working on cardio, then it’s 60 minutes.
  • On cardio/weights days its 30-40 minutes cardio and a minimum of 30 minutes on free weights alternating lower body/upper body.
  • At her peak of training she spent 7 days at the gym.  Today, she never goes lower than 5 times to the gym per week.   Weight training is essential to losing weight.
  • Jen sees a trainer 1 to 2 times a week.  What did a trainer help her with?  “I learned the correct technique for each muscle group to obtain the optimum strength and to not hurt yourself.”
  • Marathon Training.  Jen started in June of 2011 on a 19 week program to work up to the Chicago Marathon.  There was a running team through Centegra Health Bridge in Crystal Lake that they all worked together to prepare for the 26.2 miles of Chicago streets.   She had no after affects that stopped her from competing the next week in the Urbanathalon sponsored by Men’s Health.

Lifestyle food choices:  clean eating

  • Jen eats non-processed food.
  • Protein – chicken, beef, fish, cottage cheese, Greek yogurt and protein drinks (smoothies for the morning)
  • Veggies – all kinds.
  • Jen’s advice:  You need to set yourself up for success every day and have a plan.  You need to figure out your menus.

Encourage others:

  • Jen would encourage others to put yourself first and that the changes you make be for you.  You have to believe in yourself.

 Success Plan:

  • Journal everything you eat.
  • Plan your meals around clean eating.
  • Weight Watchers worked for her.
  • Be prepared to bring your workout clothes with you to the gym.
  • Become a member of gym.
  • Work out with a trainer.
  • Plan for success.


  • Height:  5’9”
  • Before:   326.8 pounds
  • Now:   175 pounds
  • Loss of 151.8 pounds

[i] “The more food records people kept, the more weight they lost,” said lead author Jack Hollis Ph.D., a researcher at Kaiser Permanente’s Center for Health Research in Portland, Ore. “Those who kept daily food records lost twice as much weight as those who kept no records. It seems that the simple act of writing down what you eat encourages people to consume fewer calories.”

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