Advance grandmother loses 170 pounds, inspires others

Tuesday, June 16, 2015
submitted photo Jennifer Nelson, before her weight loss.

Four years ago, Advance resident Jennifer Nelson got on a plane to go on vacation. After being seated and struggling to buckle in, she realized her seatbelt was one inch short of fitting around her waist.

"The passenger across from me was visibly disgusted. I was so embarrassed. I had to ask for a seatbelt extension. That's when I told myself, 'Never again. This is not going to happen next year,'" Nelson recalls.

Her daughter Ashley had been trying to get her to join the local weight loss group, the Big Fat Losers (BFLs), for some time. The incident with the seatbelt spurred Nelson into action and she joined the BFLs.

submitted photo Jennifer Nelson took second place in her age division in the Advance FCCLA 5K Race on May 23, 2015.

"I didn't want to know my exact weight. I was afraid to get on the scale and didn't even know if it went high enough to weigh me," she says. "I weighed 312.8 pounds. I was disgusted with myself."

Nelson began by just eating half of what she was used to eating and quickly dropped 20 pounds. That encouraging loss was the kickstart to her success. She weighed in with the BFLs every six months; members who gained paid in a dollar per pound and members who lost were ranked by percentage of weight lost.

The next year on vacation, she had eight extra inches of seatbelt on the plane. Over the course of about a year and a half, she lost about 170 pounds and won quite a bit of money with the BFLs.

submitted photo Jennifer Nelson with her grandchildren.

For the last two and a half years Nelson has been maintaining her weight by being judicious with her food intake.

"People send me messages all the time asking for advice. My advice is: don't drink sodas, have a heavy meal for breakfast, medium-sized meal for lunch and a light dinner, and don't eat after six," she explains. "If you fall off the wagon just climb back on and don't be mad at yourself!"

Exercise is also a huge part of Nelson's ability to maintain her healthy weight.

"If you find an exercise you love it's easier. Bike riding was an instant love for me. I've done 'centuries,' which are 100 mile plus bike rides," she says.

"Some people can run, depending on their health, age, knees, and feet. The Missouri Running Company will give you an evaluation and has layaway for shoes. You need good shoes," she says. "I also recommend the 'Couch to 5k' free app for your phone. If you have a bad week on your running, you just do it over again."

A few more tips Nelson offers involve keeping oneself motivated and safe.

"Good music is important. Always carry mace. Take your time. When I was going walking I listened to audio books and it was wonderful. It was like going into your own 'me' place and relaxing," she says.

Nelson is thankful for the new lease on life she's been given.

"I have two grandchildren who are seven and three years old. We do stuff all the time together! If I was still heavy still be sitting on my rear end," she explains.

Nelson recently ran the "Get Fit or Dye Trying" 5K hosted by the Advance FCCLA. Her grandchildren ran part of it with her.

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