Bottoms Up!

Jennipher Walters never thought of herself as a health and fitness expert. Actually, she was just a girl trying to survive the pressures of a weight-obsessed, food-focused society.

Today, Walters, alongside her friend and business partner Erin Whitehead, is considered a voice of reason in the oft-muddled online health and fitness community.

Jennipher Walters & Erin Whitehead of fitbottomedgirls.com

As the personality and expertise behind the increasingly popular website fitbottomedgirls.com, Walters and Whitehead share their personal experiences, opinions and, most importantly, their encouragement with between 10,000 and 15,000 readers daily. Their blog entries enlighten readers through a series of personal reflections, workout motivations, food tips, product reviews and more. And with more than 5,000 subscribers, it’s a sure bet that Fit Bottomed Girls has garnered popularity for more than just its quirky name.

Life Lessons

For Walters, the Fit Bottomed Girls mentality — a healthy balance of good food and good activity — is a culmination of life lessons she has attained through years of striving to balance eating and exercising without losing a sense of self.

An athlete all her life, Walters grew up in Liberty, Mo., where she was a high school athlete and an avid exerciser. While attending college at the University of Missouri, Walters became a group exercise instructor and a personal trainer — a gig that played into what she considers a vicious cycle of under-eating and overeating combined with excessive exercise.

But things really began to spiral out of control when Walters moved to Minnesota to attend graduate school.

“It was dark and cold there, and I was away from my family and friends,” she says. “I really turned to food, especially sugar, for emotional comfort. As a result, all of my issues with food and body image were magnified, and I had nowhere to hide from it.”

As her master’s program wrapped up, Walters moved back to Lawrence, Kan., where her boyfriend attended graduate school at KU. With a background and degree in journalism, Walters took a job at an Overland Park-based publishing company, where she worked for a business magazine for the health club industry entitled “Club Industry” — a career move that would turn out to be kismet.

It wasn’t long before Walters heard through the grapevine that another young female editor, Erin Whitehead, was also commuting to and from Lawrence.

“Clearly, I needed to make her my friend,” laughs Walters.

Soon, the two became carpooling buddies and fast friends, and it wasn’t long before they discovered a shared love of fitness.

Whitehead, who was also in her late 20s, grew up in Topeka, and though she was active physically throughout her life, she wasn’t as focused and well-versed in fitness as her editorial counterpart. Lucky for her, Walters’ enthusiasm was contagious, and it wasn’t long before Whitehead became a regular in Walters’ group exercise classes, which she was still teaching in Lawrence, and a built-in accountability partner for all things fitness and health-related.

Not long after Whitehead and Walters struck up their friendship, Walters’ boyfriend proposed and she began planning her wedding.

Make a Change in 2014

Ah, January — the month of resolutions. How many times have you made a commitment to get healthy as you ring in the New Year, only to let it fall by the wayside? So often, you feel like you can’t make the change because you’ve tried before and failed. No more! Let 2014 be the year you succeed as you make changes that last a lifetime.

Fit Bottomed Girls founder Jennipher Walters gives 435 Magazine readers 10 of her best tips for success as you embark on the adventure of creating a new, healthier you!

Walters recommends picking something every week — a few goals that you are 99 percent sure you can hit — and building on those.

“If you make tweaks that don’t feel terrible, you can do them for an eternity,” she says.

• Make sure nothing is “off limits.” Depriving yourself will only make you feel short-changed, and distract you from your long-term goals. “Everything in moderation,” says Walters. After all, who can think about the big picture when you’re staring down the forbidden fruit — be it a slice of chocolate cake or a salty margarita.

• “Think about how that food makes you feel,” Walters suggests. For instance, if you feel bloated after eating a large pasta dinner or an extra scoop of ice cream, bank that feeling for the next time and perhaps you’ll make a better choice.

• The same goes for exercise. Pay attention to what makes you feel good — the types of exercise you enjoy. Exercise should not be a punishment, says Walters, so don’t treat it like penance.

• Check in with yourself, listen to your stomach (not the clock) and realize that you are accountable for what you put in your mouth, so make sure it’s something you really desire and that will benefit you in the long run.

• Get moving! Grab some buddies and sign up for a race or enlist a workout buddy for early morning workout sessions.

• Get creative in the kitchen. Challenge yourself to try new foods and recipes and experiment with foods you haven’t tried before.

• Sign up for a race! Nothing says motivation like a training deadline. Let your 5K or 10K training help shape your exercise habit.

• Don’t feel like you need to get all of your daily exercise in within a single workout. You might have 30 minutes before work and 45 minutes after, or maybe 15 minutes on your lunch hour. If you have fitness goals, allow yourself to break up the workouts — two-a-days aren’t a bad thing!

• Lastly, Walters says it’s important to understand that in making a lifestyle change, there is no “on” or “off.” “‘Cheat days,’ so to speak, are inherently wrapped in guilt, and who needs that?”

It was then, she says, that she had a revelation.

“I thought to myself, ‘I am going to get into a wedding dress in front of all these people, and I don’t want to come down the aisle and be thinking about how I look,’” she says. “I began to see that that my obsession with food and exercise had the potential to take me to a really bad place.”

Long-Distance Beginnings

Walters took matters into her own hands and began meeting with a registered dietitian, who taught her to handle the issues she had with emotional eating and to take charge of reading her own hunger cues.

“I remember one day, my dietitian asked me a question that really changed my thinking,” Walters says. “She said, ‘Can you imagine what the women of this world could do if we stopped worrying about what we look like?’”

For Walters, that was the turning point. Not only did she drastically alter the way she looked at food and exercise. A desire was stirred deep within her to get this message out to the masses.

“For so many women, the number on the scale dictates how they live, feel and what they believe is their self-worth,” Walters says.

That’s when she began to formulate a plan that would change the face of health and fitness blogging.

Walters presented her idea to Whitehead, and the two began to work on Fit Bottomed Girls while simultaneously holding down the fort at other full-time jobs. It wasn’t until Whitehead moved to California that their conversations began to take the form of a full-fledged website, ultimately merging their joint love of writing and fitness while keeping them connected, even though they were half a country apart.

With a total of $200 invested ($100 each) in the launch of the site, the pair threw caution to the wind and launched the online magazine with their main focus on the site’s fun and sassy voice.

“We wanted to be every girl’s favorite fit friend,” Walters says.

To that end, Walters, Whitehead and their small team of contributors strive to bring humor and energy to their blog entries, which inspire women (and men) all over the country.

Fit Bottomed Girls, which got its name from the notion that fitness comes in all shapes and sizes, burst on the scene in 2008, effectively making fitness fun and attainable through writing full of fresh perspectives, realistic goals and a healthy dose of encouragement.

The site, which posts between two and five articles daily, is helping readers realize that an active lifestyle and good health is not about counting calories or the number on the scale, but rather about being active, eating healthfully and — most important — maintaining a positive attitude toward food and exercise.

“We really aim to be every subscriber’s daily reminder to take care of themselves because they are worth taking care of,” says Walters.

What’s Your Jam?

Across the board, the formula is working — Fit Bottomed Girls has expanded to launch two sister sites. In 2010, Walters and Whitehead launched Fit Bottomed Mamas, which is primarily run by Whitehead, who has children of her own. The site focuses on maintaining a healthy lifestyle through pregnancy and within a family.

Then, in 2013, the pair created Fit Bottomed Eats, a site dedicated specifically to nutrition and food information.

In addition, Walters, based in Kansas City, and Whitehead, who now resides in New Jersey, have penned their own book, “The Fit Bottomed Girls Anti-Diet,” which is set for release on May 6, 2014. It focuses on 10-minute tweaks you can make to improve your attitude and overall health.

The secret to the success of the Fit Bottomed brand, says Walters, is the ability to speak effectively to different people from different walks of life who struggle with different issues related to food and fitness.

“People are so often confused about where to even begin when it comes to their health,” she says. “There is definite information overload and often an inability to listen to ourselves and trust our instincts. You have to pay attention to yourself and trust yourself.”

For Walters and many others, this lesson has come with time.

“Each person has to find her own healthy living ‘jam’ — what works for them,” says Walters. “Then you evolve and take part in creating your own healthy lifestyle. I really look at my life as an experiment in fine-tuning my healthy lifestyle and my choices. Change takes time.”

Walters’ passion for creating healthy lifestyles has no end in sight, as Fit Bottomed Girls remains fervently dedicated to empowering people to make changes for the better and to maintain lifestyles that reflect positivity and balance.

“What if you stopped telling yourself that it’s hard,” Walters says. “What if you decided you can do it?”

For more information visit fitbottomedgirls.com.

photos: Drew Ertle

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