Natalie Jill will never forget something she saw nearly 10 years ago that prompted a giant realization: her own reflection in a store window. Hit with multiple life stressors that yera —job loss, a divorce, and pregnancy —Jill had sunk into a depression and, like many of us, turned to food for comfort.
“I ate lots of fast food and junk, and wasn’t active,” recalls Jill. The result was a 60-pound weight gain — 50 pounds of pregnancy weight plus 10 in addition — leaving her feeling unhealthy, overwhelmed, and even more stressed out.
That day, as she was taking her newborn daughter for a walk, her own image looking back at her from the glass was shocking. She’d always been fit before, and “the person I saw, with all those bulges and things sagging, was not me,” she says. Something clicked. Jill walked straight home, put her daughter down for a nap, and began mapping out a plan.
The first thing Jill did was decide on her goals. “I grabbed a stack of magazines and cut out photos of fit women and happy, healthy moms — images I knew would motivate me,” she says. She displayed these cutouts on a “vision board” she placed in the kitchen, where she would see it every morning, and then started sussing out how to make those images come to life for herself.
Her research convinced her that the best plan involved not crazy diets or running a marathon, but the tried-and-true approach of eating better and exercising more, a strategy she could adapt and make her own. She vowed to start incorporating more natural, unprocessed foods and adding a little more activity every day. “I promised I would give it four months and see what happened — no obsessing, no scale.”
Step one for Jill was balancing her diet — out went the junk, and in came fresh, whole foods. “I made sure that all of my meals contained lean protein, complex carbs, and healthy fats. I ate a lot of salads with grilled chicken or fish, and I added olive oil or avocado for fat.”
Low-calorie veggies and berries were unlimited, and for snacks she enjoyed apples with a few bits of chocolate. One of Jill’s rules was that she had to be able to pronounce all the ingredients in her food—if she couldn’t say it, it was probably a poor choice. Another was that she ate all the most nutritious foods first, filling up on the good so she’d “have less room for the ‘bad.’ ”
After Jill divorced, both money and time were tight, so investing in equipment, pricey fitness classes, or a gym membership was out of the question. Instead, Jill’s research taught her that she could use her own body weight for resistance, which is key to building muscle. Her workouts included lots of strength-training exercises like pull-ups, squats, planks, and triceps dips. “I didn’t spend hours working out,” she says, adding, “If you are exercising daily, you really don’t need more than 15 to 20 minutes.”
One part of the equation that she found difficult, however, was not having a strong support system. Jill had recently relocated from Washington, DC, to California with her daughter and had yet to make friends nearby. Facebook to the rescue! Jill shared her routine with her online friends and posted photos of her gorgeous, healthy meals.
Sharing didn’t inspire just her: It also motivated other women who wanted to lose a few pounds. “People were interested — they would say, ‘Oh, what are you doing to get in shape? I want to try it.’ That kept me accountable,” she says. (Join the super-supportive Prevention Health Squad community on Facebook for help reaching your own health goals.)
Finally, after four months, Jill climbed on the scale and held her breath. “I couldn’t believe it: I had lost 50 pounds and completely changed my body,” she recalls. “It made me want to keep going.” The pregnancy weight was gone, and soon the rest of the extra weight fell away too. Jill felt happier and more energized than she had in years.
Jill’s success sparked even greater social media interest in her eating and exercise plans. Fans of her Facebook and Instagram posts started asking her for more recipes and workout suggestions. Her simple exercises appeal to people of all ages, but especially to insanely busy, multitasking women over 40 who are grateful for basic, doable moves that work.
And what began as a personal journey has turned into a career. Now 46 and a licensed master sports nutritionist and functional fitness trainer, Jill has more than three million social media followers and has helped many women lose weight and get in shape.
“Every single thing on that vision board has come true for me,” she says. “I am that healthy, happy mom. I’ve completely changed my life and body. And I’m not unique. Anyone can do this. You just have to start.”
Natalie Jill’s 15-Minute Strong & Lean Workout
Ready to change your life and body? Start with this beginner-friendly routine from Prevention’s new Fit After 40! DVD program with Natalie Jill.
💪Workout How-To: Perform each exercise for 60 seconds. Do the circuit 3 times.
❗What You’ll Need: A sturdy chair and a yoga mat or carpeted surface
1. AIR CHIN-UPS
Targets: Upper back, biceps
How to do it: Stand with feet shoulder-width apart. Extend arms overhead as if grasping a pull-up bar, hands in fists. As you pull both arms down, squeeze shoulder blades together, ending with fists in front of chest. Pause, then reverse the move back to start.
Expert tip: Move slowly and squeeze through your arms and back as if you are doing a chin-up.
2. AIR CURL
How to do it: Stand with feet shoulder-width apart. Place right hand on left palm. Curl left hand to chest while resisting with right hand. Pause, then return to start, pressing up with left hand as you press down with right. Do 30 seconds, then switch hands and do other side.
Expert tip: Move slowly, using biceps to fight against pressure on both upward and downward motions.
3. SUMO SQUAT
Targets: Inner thighs and butt
How to do it: Stand with feet wider than shoulder-width apart, toes pointed slightly outward, hands on hips. Bend knees and lower hips into a plié squat. Return to starting position and immediately go into next rep.
Expert tip: Keep knees in line with toes.
4. ACTIVE RUNNER’S LUNGE
Targets: Butt, legs
How to do it: Stand grasping chair. Squat, back straight and core engaged. Extend left leg back and tap toes to the floor. Return to squat and repeat tap back on the opposite leg. Continue alternating legs.
Expert tip: Move as fast as you can without sacrificing form.
5. KNEE PLANK WALK-OUTS
Targets: Abs and back
How to do it: Start on all fours, wrists under shoulders and knees under hips. Slowly walk hands forward to a modified plank. Hold, then slowly reverse movement back to start.
Expert tip: Keep back flat, abs tight, and navel pulled toward spine.
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Prevention’s Fit After 40 gives you everything you need to slim down and firm up fast. Start your transformation today.
Fit After 40
From: Prevention US