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Jennifer Carroll

Extract 'I didn't see a future for myself then and never imagined I'd reach where I am today'

Instagram influencer Jennifer Carroll shares a chapter from her new book, ‘Jen’s Journey’.

The following is an extract from Jennifer Carroll’s new book, ‘Jen’s Journey’, a mix of memoir and recipe book. The Instagram influencer looks back at the tough years she spent living in turmoil and dealing with her pain by overeating. Jen struggled to cope with the weight gain after years of this secretive and emotional behaviour, all while she remained trapped in an abusive relationship. 

When her son was born, everything changed. Jen left the relationship, moved home from London and drastically overhauled her lifestyle to incorporate healthier habits. Her new book allows Jen to dive deeper into facets of her story and how she made the changes. 

TO THIS DAY, I have triggers and flashbacks of moments I had long buried and forgotten. I have memories I will probably never share with anyone.

I have shared more in my latest book than I have before because I don’t think it would be a true representation of my full journey if I didn’t.

I didn’t want to sugar-coat my story or lead people to believe that it’s been an easy journey. From the beginning, I wanted to take my time and open up and share.

We all have a past, but our past does not define us; it teaches us lessons. We will always be faced with difficulties and bumps in the road, but when we work through them and come out the other side, it’s always more fulfilling, even if it doesn’t seem like it at the time.

‘Like a failure’

I remember queuing at 8 o’clock in the morning with a buggy and a suitcase to get a bed in a shelter, and not one person close to me had any idea that this was my life.

I felt weak and like a failure, but when I look back on that day, I see strength and resilience in my showing up and doing what I could for Carter and me. I didn’t see that at the time at all, but often we don’t realise the things we are capable of in the moment.

Another moment that really sticks in my mind was just after Christmas 2016. I was sitting on my own on my sitting-room floor in London. I had probably sat crying for over an hour because of how low I felt.

I was exhausted from the constant anxiety, weak from the constant sadness and completely crippled with loneliness. I couldn’t see as far as tomorrow. I had no idea if I would ever get home to my family and friends. I had almost accepted that this was going to be my future.

I was riddled with guilt that I had already failed my son. I don’t think I had an ounce of hope left in me. My life was in the worst place, and I couldn’t see a way out. I honestly believed nothing was going to change.

I know there are other people out there in similar situations who may never want to open up or talk about it. Still, I hope that my sharing the ups and downs of what I went through makes someone feel a little less lonely or provides a little comfort in knowing that it’s not just you and that you’re never alone.

I didn’t see a future for myself then, and I would never have imagined that I would get myself to where I am today.

I know some circumstances feel impossible. But things can and do change, and nothing is permanent; this moment or this feeling will pass, and you are capable of changing just as much as anyone else out there.

‘Wellness messaging’

I wanted to be honest about my mindset throughout this journey because we are constantly being bombarded with messages about positive mindsets, self-love and body confidence – which is great to see and the direction we need to go in, but it’s not always easy.

People sometimes look at me and my journey and just assume that I am there. I don’t think most of us are, but I hope we can all be more open about it and unafraid to say, ‘Actually, I don’t feel my best, but that’s okay because I’m acknowledging it and working on it.’

When it comes to food and diet, it’s impossible to tell anyone what to do, as we are all built differently. Some people want to track and weigh, some want to use intuitive eating, and some want to try weight-loss surgery. You must do what is right for you and, most importantly, what works for you! Finding the balance is key.

Jen's Journey Final cover APPROVED AM 200123

Cook more meals from scratch, cook with your family, cook new recipes, batch cook, plan your meals, and cook meals you enjoy! And still, go out and live your life. Make memories and enjoy being social when you’re out. Don’t deprive yourself; don’t say no to things because you’re afraid of the calories. You can have a great week full of nutritious meals and plenty of walking and exercising, and still enjoy a meal out and a few drinks.

Mindful eating

Remember that small changes all add up to make big differences. There’s no rush: just keep doing the work and the results will follow. You won’t get to the end of your life and say, ‘I wish I never ate that box of chocolates,’ or ‘I wish I had spent longer in the gym and burned more calories,’ or ‘I wish I worked harder to get rid of my cellulite.’ So, when you find yourself worrying about those things, remember that they’re the least important things about you and your life.

We are so much more than our bodies. It’s great to be active and healthy but it’s not okay if we think about it 24/7.

I already regret that I spent so much of my life in my negative headspace, consumed by thoughts about my body. Imagine looking back at your life and that’s one of the main things for you too. I think you’ll regret that.

So, from today, take the power back and own who you are; not who anyone else thinks you are or should be, but who you are! We all have the power within us. Trust yourself and trust the next chapter in your life – because you’re the one writing it!

Jennifer Carroll is best known for her Instagram page ‘Jen’s Journey’, in which documents her journey to healthier living. She lives in Tallaght with her son, Carter. Jen will be signing copies of her new book on Sunday 2 April at noon in Easons in The Square, Tallaght.

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