Oxygen Presents

Discover How Jen Widerstrom's Health and Fitness Journey Led Her to Her Best Self

By Jen Widerstrom

Only when I honored my true self was I able to change my relationship with food and fitness—for good.

Sports were always at the forefront of my life. As a kid, I did gymnastics for more than 10 years, and in high school, I participated in track and diving. In college, I was a walk-on member of the collegiate rowing team but soon switched over to track and field. By my senior year, I was a national-level competitor in the NCAA and the best female hammer thrower in school history.

If you had asked me who I was leading up to my college graduation, my answer was clear: I'm a Division I athlete in the Big 12 Conference pursuing a degree in sports administration. My identity was intact, and my list of projects and accomplishments made me feel worthy. But just one month after graduation, nothing made me feel like I mattered anymore.

Loss of ID, Gain of LBs


After college, I was bartending in my hometown. I felt such a loss of identity and of value. I didn't know what I had to offer and started to struggle with my relationship with food. Up to that point, I had never had to worry about how many calories I ate because I trained several hours a day. I'd eat whatever I wanted—burritos, pizza, bread and fries—and since I continued to eat that way at a fraction of the activity level, my weight shot up.

That extra 15 pounds happened so quickly, and I didn't feel good. I had no energy, no drive, no confidence. I had to take action, but I didn't know what to do. My life was a daily struggle with self-image and self-worth. I was following the exercise and nutrition plans that worked for others, but they weren't working for me.

Clarity and Reinvention

This struggle, while difficult, ultimately led to the biggest breakthrough of my life—that I needed to honor what was best for me to be successful. Why was I eating foods I hated and following a fitness routine that didn't jive with my life? I needed a plan customized just for me.

Once I took account of these things, I stopped trying to be like everyone else and began to do things my way. I made my breakfasts and dinners a week in advance instead of skipping the meals or eating cheese and crackers for dinner. I never left home without a snack in my purse and a big bottle of water to sustain me through long, unpredictable days. And I began training with a workout buddy to help motivate me and get me to the gym consistently. Suddenly, I was seeing results on the scale, and I was listening to myself versus looking to others for validation.

Soon, I found work as a fitness model and photos of me appeared in popular magazines like Oxygen. Then I was contacted by producers from the TV show "American Gladiators" asking me to audition. And somehow, among all the professional athletes, stunt people and longtime industry standouts, they chose me.

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

"American Gladiators" will go down as one of my favorite experiences, filled with great people and a greater understanding of the television business. However, I quickly fell back into old mental patterns. I identified myself based on external qualities and accolades rather than continuing to develop my own identity within. When the show was canceled, I was once again lost and unsure.

I moved to Los Angeles, but even though I was modeling, training and teaching fitness classes, I was living the opposite of a healthy life. For instance, when I booked a modeling gig, I felt important and valuable, but to prepare I would crash-diet and cut my fluids in order to look smaller and leaner. After a shoot, I would binge eat on pizza, sweets and cocktails. These unhealthy habits evolved into a very distorted self-image, and even though I was in good shape, I was never "small enough" in my own eyes. At each meal and in front of every mirror, I was tearing myself down.

My lowest point came when I contemplated purging the foods I had just binged on, and this scared the crap out of me. An eating disorder? How could I let this go so far? This was another huge turning point for me, and I decided to use health and fitness as a way to mentally get healthy again. I started to put my best self forward, and my training business began to thrive. The momentum continued, and I appeared in more magazines and ultimately landed on "The Biggest Loser."

Looking back, I can see that the problem was never with my workouts or the meals I prepared. It was with me and my understanding of who I was and who I wanted to be. I transformed my critical tendencies and began acknowledging and celebrating my successes versus beating myself up for some stray, imperfect action. I stopped the one-size-fits-all mentality and focused less on what everyone else was doing and more on reaching my own goals. I created a routine of healthy eating and exercise that made sense for me. And as a result, I didn't just look good on the outside, but I was also happier, healthier and more successful in all areas of my life.

Now It's Your Turn

On "The Biggest Loser," my approach was not one of tough love, though I set a tough standard: eat highly nourishing foods, exercise right and—most of all—believe in yourself. Both seasons I was on, my team took home the prize, and that's exactly what I want for you—to win by overcoming your challenges and achieving your best body and your healthiest life.

With The Oxygen Challenge 4, I share all my secrets for success with you and will teach you how to believe in and learn to use the power within yourself. Together, we will bolster your strengths, work through your problems, and enable you to live in a positive and vibrant way.

The choice is yours. Let's commit to this journey—and succeed—together!


The Oxygen Challenge 4 (OC4) begins July 16, 2018.
Join #TEAMJEN today!

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