She is a writer, a speaker, a student, a teacher, a wife, a mom, a total foodie, a believer. The list could go on, but for now, I’ll finish by telling you who this wonderful Chica is: Jennifer Tuma-Young.
She is the founder of Inspirista and offers workshops, one-on-one sessions, and content (blogs/newsletters/multi-media) designed to help women find balance, embrace life, and be who they were born to be.
Jennifer had always struggled with weight and self-esteem. She spent most of her life cognizant of body weight and believing a common misconception – that being a certain weight would make her happier. Losing weight would also validate her as a woman and attract compliments from women she admired.
In her ‘girl power’ college days she rebelled against it all and fought the fight against the scale for women everywhere. But inside, being truly honest with herself, that didn’t feel right either. She knew she didn’t actually believe it at the time.
Instead of loving her body, she was abusing it with food. She ate to ease her shame and soothe her embarrassment. She then starved herself to feel better and win the approval of those around her. She went on every diet under the sun. She was ‘all’ or ‘nothing’,…and she felt horrible, inside and out.
On the edge of developing diabetes and full of self-loathing, she knew she couldn’t keep living that way. She had to change. Somehow, she had to find balance.
Ditching the dieting, she learned what it meant to nurture and love her body, and set out on a quest for understanding what living a ‘balanced’ life meant.
The health issues went away, and she released 100 pounds of body weight. “I learned so much”, she says, and to reinforce what she taught herself, she began teaching it to other women, and studying even more.
Alongside her mother, she opened a Curves franchise in 2001. She then began a private practice, teaching workshops, and since has worked with thousands of women to help them ‘find balance’, and assist them in being the most vibrant version of themselves possible!
Jennifer says, “As we evolve and experience life, our perspectives change. As a young girl, I always knew I had something I wanted to share in the space of women’s lives, inspiration, weight, self-love.”
Almost 11 years into her business, she is a deeply invested volunteer with the 501(c) 3 non-profit organization, Enchanted Makeovers whose mission is to transform shelters for women and children into an environment that inspires psychological and behavioral change.
She found the organization by “a divine connection” in 2009. She went into a local shelter to bring some donations, cleaning supplies, items that the director said the shelter needed. With her then 3 year old daughter she walked inside. A baby stroller with a missing wheel was in the doorway. She immediately saw her baby girl in that stroller. She saw herself on the couch in the common areas. This place was not in good shape, with old paneling on the walls, dim lights, and broken steps. She wanted to inject hope in the space – some color, some life.
Asking the director if she and her husband could come back to paint and add some inspirational artwork, she was denied the opportunity. But, the women and children living in the shelter stayed in her heart. She wanted to serve, share her gifts, spend time together.
Teased as a child, called “Jolly Green Jennifer”, working on a blog post about about 9 months later, she put a query in HARO wanting to hear other people’s stories. She got tons of replies, but chose to open one response in particular. It was Terry Grahl’s (the founder and visionary behind EM) sister-in-law. She introduced the two through email in a story about Terry’s childhood. When Jennifer got to the bottom of the email, her eyes filled with tears. Terry led an organization that did exactly what her heart was calling on her to do. The two connected immediately. In love with Terry and her mission Jennifer has completely thrown herself into it ever since.
“I am a child at heart. I love using my imagination and creativity. I believe limitless possibilities emerge with creativity and imagination. I look at the wondrous imaginations of my children, and I just know that we are all born with this ability, but sometimes as we get older, our creativity is suppressed, or we’re taught to fit a mold that doesn’t allow for imagination. And, then we forget what makes us ‘come alive’.
Everyone, from the volunteers, to the investors, to the women and children living in the shelters, every single one of us experience the sheer power of imagination – it allows us to each have our own internal “enchanted” makeover.
I think it is important to serve in all aspects of our lives. We each have gifts, talents, and I believe it is important to share them. Volunteering is a means to connect with people, not as a way to ‘save’ people. When we help others, we heal ourselves, too.
EM’s motto is “She is Me”. I firmly believe we are all an extension of each other, and that the best gifts we can give are our time (priceless) and talent…we become much more deeply invested in the giving when we are actually using our hands to serve, I think.
This is one of the many reasons why EM’s work is so important, and so very close to my heart. Terry Grahl, EM’s Founder & Chief Visionary is a true kindred spirit. She sees the possibilities, and transforms physical shelter spaces into whimsical cottage retreat centers where the women and children can thrive, where dreams and hope can live,” Jennifer adds.
As the organization’s National Spokesperson, she helps Terry spread the word about EM in order to find donors, sponsors, and other volunteers.
Learn more about Jennifer Tuma Young in her new book “Balance Your Life, Balance the Scale,” in stores now. Learn more about Enchanted Makeovers through their website enchantedmakeovers.org