The Secret to Fighting “Writer’s Spread”…Jessica Jefferson

"I'm ready for my close-up"
“I’m ready for my close-up”

Last year I had the dubious distinction of being chosen to participate in the American Heart Association’s BetterU Challenge. Myself, and a few other women were chosen to experience a lifestyle makeover. For 12 weeks we were provided with lifestyle coaches, nutritional advice, physician consultations, and personal trainers.

Walking the Red Carpet
Walking the Red Carpet

In other words – I was so out of shape, the AHA found it necessary to intervene.

Now, I’ve always been relatively unhealthy. I’ve struggled with my weight since I was young and my southern-born mother believed corn was the only vegetable that didn’t necessitate deep-frying. I may have started out as a normal sized infant, but I was chunky kid, and then a fat middle-schooler. Before my fifteenth birthday I spent a summer following along a Richard Simmons video and eating turkey sandwiches. That seemed to work and I managed to lose quite a few pounds, but then it all came back when I went away to college. And then I lost some of that with another popular fitness tape, only to gain it back again. So the cycle began…

Before my second child, I managed to lose the weight with the help of a premier diet plan and an expensive gym membership. Then I got pregnant (isn’t that always the way). I gained pretty much in one pregnancy what most women gain in 2, er, 3, actually. But I carried the weight well…well, everywhere.

Enter the AHA. My new writing career required me to sit more than I ever had before. I tried typing on the treadmill once, but all that did was lead to an unfortunate near-death experience involving a wall and broken flash drive. I thought I was too busy to exercise and eat right. I had a book to promote, another to write, a full time day job, two kids at home, and a husband.

I simply didn’t have time for fancy gym memberships and I didn’t have the money for designer diet plans.

Taking a turn about the garden...
Taking a turn about the garden…

What I didn’t understand is that I didn’t need those things to live a healthy lifestyle. Perhaps the best lesson for weight loss can be taken from history. Highlanders believed oats kept you regular, Regency women found that walking could help one keep a trim figure, and before cross-country travel became commonplace, people ate what was in season. There were no NordicTracks…only Nordic tracks. Exercise happened during your everyday – lifting pails, doing the wash, and simply walking from place to place. Granted, over-indulgence was common amongst the rich, but for the rest of the people, meal size was relatively portion appropriate. You didn’t eat what you didn’t need.

Who knew history could provide us with such great fitness tips? And who would have guessed so many of those lessons held true today?

I still eat these…

So, what did I learn from the AHA? I learned that simple exercises I could do in my home worked just as well, if not better, than anything I could do in a gym on a fancy piece of equipment. Push-ups, squats, jumping jacks – that’s what worked. I learned that eating right meant eating well. I ate natural foods whenever possible, natural being anything not packed with preservatives and chemicals. I filled up on whole grains, lean protein, fruits and vegetables. There were no snacks that were off-limits, I just had to enjoy them in moderation.

I’ve lost over twenty pounds, and I still have some to go. I’m determined to combat the dreaded writer’s spread. I try to get up every so often and do a few squats or spend a minute in a wall-sit during my writing day. I try not to eat while I’m at the computer, and often times I turn to almonds when I’m feeling particularly stressed (deadlines!).

Perhaps the real secret to maintaining a healthy weight, is that there isn’t a secret at all.  So, what do you do to keep yourself healthy during your busy days?

Ballroom at Notre Dame where we walked the Red Carpet
Ballroom at Notre Dame where we celebrated our successful makeovers

The Romantic Pursuit question today – How did Regency women keep their figure trim? Click here to answer!

Pic of Jessica Jefferson for Thursday ThreadsJessica Jefferson makes her home in northern Indiana, or as she likes to think of it—almost Chicago. She is heavily inspired by the classic sweeping, historical romance novels, but aims to take those key emotional elements and inject a fresh blend of quick dialogue and comedy.  Visit her at for more of her random romance musings. Be sure to like Jess at and follow her on Twitter,

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Jessica Jefferson makes her home in Almost-Chicago with her husband, nine and three year old girls, guinea pigs, and English bulldog Pete. When she's not busy trying to find middle-ground between being a modern career woman and Suzy-Homemaker, she loves to watch "Real Housewives of [insert city here]" and performing unnecessary improvements to her home and property. Jessica writes Regency-era historical romance with a modern twist, infused with humor. She always tries to create endearingly flawed heroes and one of a kind heroines that you'll want to continue knowing long after you read the last page. Fall in love with romance again...

17 Responses

  1. Maggi Andersen

    Congratulations on the weight loss, Jessica. That’s fantastic! I’ve found walking is great, but I still sit for far too long every day.

  2. Barbara Monajem

    I have found that walking every day and drastically reducing the amount of carbs such as grains, sweets, and potatoes makes all the difference.

  3. hollybushbooks

    Congrats on losing weight, Jessica. It is so hard but I have to completely agree with Barbara – some exercise and cutting out the carbs is the trick for me but it’s so hard! I love my bread, potatoes and noodles!

  4. Desiree L.

    Congratulations on your weight loss! It’s hard to start that process and keep it up. I have always eaten healthy but have cravings for junk foods. I give in once a month now instead of weekly. I stopped drinking pop, which was very hard at first since I love the taste of Coke. Lol. But that dropped 15 pounds in 2 months. And I try to keep active as much as possible.

    • jessicajefferson

      I have a soda addiction. I try to cut back, but I just can’t resist. I drink diet, but apparently, that’s worse than the real stuff!

  5. Collette Cameron

    I too found that I had to up the exercise and watch what I eat even more as a writing with her bum parked in a chair most days. Loved your story!

    • jessicajefferson

      Between education and nursing, who would have guessed I’d end up in a job where I actually sat down most of the day. I never knew how much I walked during my day job until I became a writer…

  6. Victoria Vane

    Hi Jessica! Thanks so much for posting this! I too, was a chubby kid and even battled anorexia/bulemia in my teens. I later became a fitness fanatic but having children changed everything. I didn’t have time. When I began writing full time I also began gaining a few pounds. I finally joined a gym this year (it’s only $20.00 a month and 2 miles from home) and have been able to kill 2 birds with one stone by reading during my 40 minutes on the elliptical. I feel so much better about myself when I’m exercising. I encourage everyone to find whatever it is that works best for them and just stick with it.

    • jessicajefferson

      I love to read while I walk, but as soon as I’m going faster than 4 miles per hour, I get motion sick. You look great though, so whatever you’re doing must be working!

  7. Sandra Owens

    Congratulations on your weight loss, Jessica! Being a writer is probably the worst career in the world for keeping your weight down. I love to walk, so I try to do that for thirty minutes each day. So, today, I had my annual physical and my doctor asked if I was exercising, and I said yes, I’m walking. He asked if I was working up a sweat. Well, no. Guess I’m not even walking right. 😀

    • jessicajefferson

      I had to learn that lesson also. My favorite piece of fitness advice is from one of our trainers – Molly. She’s always encouraging us to “squeeze” and “engage” our muscles. So she yells “If you don’t squeeze your buns, no one else will either!”

  8. JoannaM

    Wonderful news and Congratulations! It’s never too late to make life changing choices and the healthier the better. I learned the hard way that to stay trim I had to eat healthy. I didn’t have parameters in my eating habits but my stressful life established them for me. I couldn’t eat any greasy, spicy, sugary or even creamy foods for the longest. I have no idea how many test I had done and they didn’t find anything wrong with me. Of course by that time I was already losing weight because all I could eat was grains and vegetables (sometimes even fruits upsetted my stomach) chicken and the occasional fish. I guess my body was asking for a little cleansing (perhaps I learned to control my stress) because after a period of a few years I was able to start enjoying food again. Now I never pass on the foods I love but I always look at the portions and I still eat my veggies. I’ve managed to keep my weight stable that way =D

    • jessicajefferson

      Stress is often the culprit! I noticed when I was closer to deadlines, my weight loss would just level off or I’d even gain a couple pounds. I’m trying to incorporate daily meditation, but it’s hard. Apparently, I have to turn my phone off and step away from the computer to truly meditate…