How this 44-year-old mom of 7 became a fitness star on Instagram

After giving birth to her first baby at age 19, mom Jessica Enslow assumed her body would bounce right back into shape — so she was shocked when she couldn’t even get her pre-pregnancy jeans past her thighs.

“That was the first wake-up call that, oh, you can’t just get pregnant, eat whatever you want, not work out, and then fit right back into your clothes,” she remembers. “At least I couldn’t.”

But that was almost 25 years (and seven babies) ago, not that you could tell by glancing at Enslow’s Instagram account. Casual observers might mistake the 44-year-old Utah transplant for a carefree, health-conscious millennial — but her 200,000 devoted followers know better.

Enslow’s quarter-decade fitness journey has been filled with lots of relatable trial and error: fad diets, professional trainers, every cheesy celebrity workout video you can think of and even periods of starvation. Today, she says she feels the healthiest she’s ever been in her life — and that first baby has grown into a 24-year-old woman who could easily be mistaken for her sister.

From First-Time Mom To Fitness Influencer

Enslow says she never intended on becoming a fitness influencer. In 2015, after giving birth to her youngest, Enslow started a new program to lose the baby weight and get back into shape, something she made sure to do in between each pregnancy. Inspired by all of the fitness before-and-afters out there — particularly the strength-training transformations — she launched an Instagram account to document her progress.

“In the past, before Instagram, people saw mostly just skinny women,” she says. “If you could fit in a size two jeans, you were considered good to go. The models were just waifs, but none of them were very muscular. Instagram kind of made [strong female bodies] the new standard. I thought, ‘I would prefer to look like that.’”

Why She Went Vegan

Of course, it wasn’t that simple. Enslow hired a trainer in 2017 to help her transform, but by then she had developed something of an exercise addiction — and, eventually, adrenal fatigue.

“I was working out way too much, and I started feeling really sick and low energy,” she says.

Eventually, she made her way to an ear, nose and throat doctor who gave her an Rx she didn’t expect — Enslow was ordered to become a vegan. Not yet a year into her plant-based diet, she says she loves what she’s eating: oat-based pancakes and waffles, black bean fresca bowls and green smoothies are her favorites.

“It’s so much better than boring chicken and rice,” she says.

Out of solidarity, her husband has even joined her. The kids, though, are a little more skeptical — but Enslow says it isn’t hard to keep everyone in the household happy, no matter their food preferences.

The Ups And Downs Of Instagram Fame

Enslow, who worked as a registered nurse before having her fifth child, is now a full-time fitness influencer on social media. Well, in addition to being a full-time mom to her three youngest, who range in age from 4 to 8. But she constantly struggles with how to strike a balance on Instagram between the glossy veneer that garners likes and the not-so-photogenic reality that helps keep things in perspective.

“Instagram is a funny little thing because you want to be authentic, but you know that people respond to certain pictures,” she says. “I always worry that I look so full of myself, you know? I kind of hate that part. But you have to play the game.”

She says she’s happy to get messages from women who say she inspires them. But she’s disheartened when women compare themselves to her in a negative way.

“I’ve had a lot of fluctuations, even now,” she says.

Since starting her fitness journey, she’s decided to end her gym membership and work out just three days a week in her unfurnished dining room — it has the perfect lighting for Instagram, she says — with resistance bands, home weights or just her own body weight.

“I’m not in the gym five or six hours a day anymore, and I don’t necessarily look as ripped as I used to, but the balance I have in my life now is so good. I get to be around my kids and spend time with them,” she says.

That balance is the key to her personal satisfaction and to the success of her family dynamic. Looking “perfect” on Instagram has never been the goal.

The Importance Of Putting Your Health First

That said, Enslow does hope her Instagram — and her new favorite platform, YouTube — will keep inspiring people to put their health first.

“People ask, ‘How do you stay motivated?’ and I say, ‘I don’t stay motivated. I stay disciplined and committed,’” she says. “I’m kind of a no-excuses kind of person. If you have time to sit down and watch an hour of TV, you have time to get off your tush and do something. I understand that people get busy, but your health has got to be a priority. It just has to be if you want to live a better quality of life, and maybe a longer life.”

That said, by her own admission, there is one thing that does motivate Enslow to be consistent: her fans. She says the people she reaches give her a heightened sense of responsibility.

“When I start to back off and lose progress, I think, well, I don’t want to disappoint people,” she says. “They help keep me on track to where I want to be anyway. I’m more aware of what is going on with my own body because it’s the constant topic of my Instagram for the most part. But I also don’t want people to think that just because they don’t look a certain way that they’re not as worthy. On the one hand you do have to make the commitment, but on the other hand, don’t beat yourself up. You just do what you can do and then try to add upon that.”