As a trainer on The Biggest Loser, Jen Widerstrom is skilled at helping other people face their fitness fears. Her own phobias around exercise, however, can prove a more challenging obstacle to overcome than a series of step hurdles. So exactly what workout is the superstar instructor afraid to tackle? Turns out she’s terrified of running outside.
“I’m very comfortable with weights,” she explained at a recent Squad Wod event in NYC. “With a barbell on my back, I know I’m strong enough. But I don’t know, I have this weird phobia that I’m not going to have the lung capacity to make it home or something. I’ve been working on getting over it, but at 34, I thought I’d be further along.”
“Once I started focusing on who I am, not what I do, everything changed.”
Confessions like this—as well as unfiltered personal moments such as her smoke-and-mirrors six pack selfies that went viral on Instagram—are why people love watching and working out with Widerstrom, who says she’s willing to share her successes (and failures) if it means making others feel more comfortable in their own skin.
And she’s serious about helping people get over their body insecurities.
Keep reading to see Widerstrom’s top three tips for empowerment—especially when that voice in your head gets a little too loud.
1. Acknowledge your negative talk—and then tune it out
“As much as I can make a great coach for someone else, I can also be the hardest critic on myself,” Widerstrom says. “I think the hardest thing I struggle with is that I put pressure on myself to perform and do well. I don’t think people realize what a mind game it is, even for me—the teacher, the person that’s doing the motivating.” So what should you do when your inner critic gets a little too loud? Try cheering yourself on, instead, she says.
2. Value who you are, not what you do
After her time on American Gladiators, but before The Biggest Loser, Widerstrom struggled with major body image issues while working as a fitness model in Los Angeles. “My value was totally based on how I looked—and if I didn’t book the shoot, I’d go, ‘I knew I shouldn’t have eaten today.’ I’d just tear myself down,” she says.
So, how to change that dangerous thought cycle? “I wish I would have sooner taken the focus away from the comparison game. Once I stopped chasing things like that and started focusing on who I am, not what I do, everything changed,” Widerstrom explains. “Once you do that, doors will open for you, because nothing is more beautiful than authenticity and confidence in who you are.”
3. Embrace your personality
Instead of changing your life to accommodate what you perceive to be healthy habits, choose routines that will fit into your life and mesh with who you are and what you enjoy. It’s a concept Widerstrom details in her new book, Diet Right for Your Personality Type.
“What I’m trying to get across with my book is that who you are is okay,” she says. “If you’re not an organized person, I’m not going to give you a super-organized plan. If you’re a ‘swinger’—a person who thrives on variety—I create menus where you get to have choices. Whereas if you’re an ‘organized doer,’ it’s: ‘Give me the checklist: I don’t want to decide—just tell me what to do.’ So, there’s a spectrum of personalities, and I want people to use that as their greatest asset. I am who I am, and you are who you are. So, let’s lean into that.”
According to Chinae Alexander, confidence doesn’t come from a number on a scale. And speaking of inspiring, SoulCycle OG Stacey Griffith has some life advice for you.