Tucked within the Himalayan mountain range sits an awe-inspiring beauty of nature. Its rugged landscape and rigorous incline attracts thousands of climbers each and every year hoping to scale even a portion of its 29,000-foot elevation. Twenty-six-year-old Jennifer Redinger of Billings always dreamt she’d be one of them. If you asked her four years ago if she thought it would be possible, she most certainly would have said “no.”
“I have struggled with my weight pretty much my whole life,” she says in a matter of fact tone. But even though she tipped the scales at 320 pounds at her heaviest, “For me, it was always important, no matter what my weight, to still do things and experience life.” She’d spent time in her late teens backpacking across the eastern coast of Africa. A few years later, she voyaged to Thailand.
It wasn’t until her trip to Asia that she realized just how much the extra weight hampered her.
“I was backpacking through Laos, Thailand and Vietnam. We were hiking up through these little villages and literally everyone had to help me to make this trip happen by carrying my bags.” On top of that, Jennifer says she seemed to attract attention wherever she went. “It was really an awful experience because I had locals who wanted to take pictures with me because I was so overweight and people were telling me, ‘Oh my gosh, you are so fat.’ In Thailand, that wasn’t an insult. It was just a comment. That was really hard,” Jennifer says and adds “I started to take a hard look at what my life was like. I knew that I never wanted to be limited like this again. It was humiliating for sure.”
About two and a half years ago, Jennifer says, “I started to realize what I needed to change in my life in order to be a healthier person, not just in my weight.” She decided this time her journey would be different. “I had approached weight loss so many times from diet to diet to every pill you could take.” This time, she started to see a therapist to address some of the emotional baggage she was carrying. “I got working on how my life and the unhealthy relationships in my family had impacted me,” Jennifer says.
And with the therapy sessions, she flipped the switch quite literally by documenting her weight loss on her own YouTube channel. “There’s an entire community of people that make videos about weight loss, health and wellness.” Jennifer Redinger, a.k.a. GainingJenny, would be the next video blogger on the YouTube scene. As she nervously uploaded her first few videos, folks started tuning in, watching her chats and hitting the subscription tab. At last check, GainingJenny had 1056 subscribers with more than 300 uploaded videos.
“I started the videos when I was at 280 pounds,” Jennifer says. “Now, I can go back and watch those when I am feeling down on myself or when I have had a bad week.” And while she says she had no idea where this public approach to weight loss might take her, she’s built a national following. GainingJenny is one of the five cast members on the live YouTube show called “The Forum” on Rob Reno TV. The Q & A health and fitness program airs every Friday night at 7PM MST. Jennifer says, “I get people writing to me all the time and letting me know how I have encouraged them. That is really incredible and it keeps me going.”
One of the most common questions Jennifer gets is how was she able to successfully lose 160 pounds? Jennifer always answers that it was a year and a half, slow and steady transformation with nothing but hard work behind it. She shares that in addition to getting into a cardio and weight lifting workout routine, “The biggest thing for me was cutting out processed food. Anything that comes from a box or a bag, trash it because those foods in general are really bad for your health and are horrible for weight loss.” She took up running and went to spinning and body pump classes regularly at the gym.
Just when she reached her goal, she took the trip that she’d dreamt about for as long as she could remember. She was Mount Everest bound. “I had wanted to go the year before but I hadn’t lost enough weight. I wasn’t in a place to physically do the hike. It was a huge motivation for me because I just booked the trip on blind faith that I would be ready.” When she boarded the plane to Nepal, Jennifer was in the best physical shape of her life.
“It was insane that in less than two years, I went from 320 pounds to be able to complete the hike to the base camp of Everest. That’s insane!” In addition to scaling the side of Mount Everest and making it up 17,000 feet, she climbed Kala Patthar, a mountain to the south which sits at an elevation of 19,000 feet. “When you are around something so amazing and so beautiful, it makes you realize exactly how significant your life is.”
She’s learned a lot these last few years.
“It’s important to do things that make you uncomfortable,” she says. “You need to really look at yourself honestly with a transparent lens and say, ‘Why am I struggling?’ Those moments in our extreme discomfort motivate us to change.”
And if this two years of change wasn’t enough, Jennifer has more of it on the horizon. In the fall, she’ll attend the University of Denver to get a masters in social work. Of course, she’s also spending time dreaming about her next international trip. Just in case you wondered, she’s got her sights set on Peru and plans to take on the Inca Trail.