Jenna Phillips is on a mission to motivate and encourage people to make smart lifestyle choices. One source of her own motivation came in February 2000 when she was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. Jenna tackled the challenge head on by making simple changes including daily physical activity and healthy foods. She began studying nutrition and holistic healing, and became a certified teacher for classes in both spinning and pilates. Since then, Jenna has been developing a loyal following of students and an extensive list of clients whom she personally trains.
In February 2007, Jenna’s love of inspiring people to get moving and get healthy motivated her to found her own fitness company, Mission Possible. Featuring her trademark outdoor training sessions, Mission Possible was an instant hit, and people from all over LA were hooked: some still drive over 30 miles to attend a workout.
Today Jenna is moving her business to the next level as she makes her students enthusiastic about taking care of themselves. By being active and making smart choices, Jenna has achieved her goal of being able to take only a miniscule amount of insulin to control her diabetes. As a result, she is enjoying a quality of life that has impacted her health as well as every aspect of her life. This balanced approach to nutrition and wellness is the foundation of her business, and she can’t wait to help more people experience the same benefits!
Name: Jenna Phillips
Birthday: August 6th 1982
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Diet Detective: Hey Jenna, so glad that you’re participating in this interview. You’re a wonderful, motivating and powerful force—and we appreciate you sharing some of your wisdom and excitement with DietDetective.com readers. My first question is something that we all would like to know: How did you get into the fitness business?
Jenna: Thank you, Charles! It is absolutely my pleasure. I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 2000. That was how I realized the importance of nurturing my body with healthy food and daily exercise. This became my lifestyle and the benefits I experienced made me passionate about health and fitness. I decided to learn all I could to improve my diabetes even more. I also wanted to teach others how to reach a level of optimal health. I majored in nutrition in college and became certified as a Spinning and Pilates Plus instructor. That’s how it all began!
Diet Detective: Can you give me a bit the details behind the name “Mission Possible?”
Jenna: Ever since my diagnosis, I have been on a Mission to prove that it was Possible to reverse the severity and complications of diabetes. I want to show everyone, not just diabetics, that they can live more comfortably if they eat consciously and exercise efficiently. So many of my students were amazed that I had dropped some extra pounds and reduced my insulin dosage just from diet and exercise alone. I found myself talking about my grocery list and personal workout routine with so many different people everyday. I realized that I could be of more help if I just invited people to join me on my Mission. And so my company, Mission Possible, came to life! It’s a complete package. I host outdoor group exercises and offer nutritional mentoring and personal training.
Diet Detective: I’ve read that you were 30 pounds overweight—looking at you I find that hard to believe—you look amazing. How long did it take to lose the weight and get in shape?
Jenna: I was taking so much insulin in the early stages of my diabetes. I was a skinny kid my whole life, and I gained all that weight in just 18 months after my diagnosis. One day, I couldn’t take it anymore. I knew that it was up to me to turn things around. I finally created my own workout and meal plan that was everything but deprivation. It was all about moderation. It took me about 6 months to lose the weight and get my glucose levels under control. At that point, my body needed very little insulin.
Diet Detective: How do you get a client motivated to stick to a fitness program?
Jenna: I call my clients “agents” because we are all on some kind of a Mission. The most important element of my training is that I make it fun. I never create an atmosphere where my agents feel like working out is a chore so they always look forward to training. We all want instant gratification, but I remind them that Rome wasn’t built in a day. Healthily transforming our bodies cannot happen overnight. If my agents want long lasting results they have to stay committed to a plan. Being active is a must. It’s just like brushing your teeth.
Diet Detective: Tell us the biggest secret that trainers typically don’t tell their clients, but should?
Jenna: No matter what exercise you are doing you should always use your stomach. Imagine pulling your belly button into your spine. Having a strong core is no different from a house having a strong foundation.
Diet Detective: In all your years of training what do you consider the best non-weight related exercise (e.g. lunge)
Jenna: Pushups! If they are done correctly they work the entire body all at the same time.
Diet Detective: If you could only do only one strength training exercise (using weights) what would it be?
Jenna: Squats with a weighted bar. The extra weight gets your heart pumping so it’s almost like doing a little cardio while weight training. Your whole body gets attention because you have to use your core for balance, glutes and legs to squat, and upper body to stabilize the weighted bar. I love multi tasking!
Diet Detective: What is the worst strength training exercise? Or one that is the most frequently done incorrectly?
Jenna: Lateral deltoid raises with hand weights is one of the most painful ones for me to watch! I often see people using momentum and “throwing” the weights up. This makes their arms go up too high and can cause injury. When done incorrectly, they miss out on the purpose for doing lateral raises in the first place. Deltoids are beautiful muscles and should not be ignored.
Diet Detective: Can you tell us about the concept of training the “core.” You talk about using resistance cords, run, sprint, lunge, hike, climb stairs, stretch, jump rope—how is that different?
Jenna: That’s just it, there is no difference. All of my exercises are core-based. I teach them in a way that you have to use your core for balance and longevity in each exercise. I make sure that everyone uses their core at all times while training with me. I even encourage people to “engage” their abs while they’re doing nothing at all. Soon enough it becomes second nature. Once the core is strong, every other body part becomes stronger much faster. If the core isn’t strong enough it’s really hard to efficiently work out.
Diet Detective: If you could eat one forbidden or unhealthy food (candy, cakes, etc..) whenever you wanted without gaining weight, what would it be?
Jenna: Anything chocolate, but definitely LAVA CAKE! Yummy!
Diet Detective: What is the one food or meal you always eat before training? What do you advise clients to eat?
Jenna: I always make sure to have a good balance of fat, protein, and complex carbs. I usually have a whey protein smoothie before a workout, and I suggest that my agents do the same. They are easily digested and fuel the body. In my smoothies, I always add flax seed oil for my essential fatty acids and Acai berry juice for the phytonutrients and antioxidants.
Diet Detective: What’s your favorite breakfast?
Jenna: I love egg whites and oatmeal with flax seed. I flavor the oatmeal with cinnamon (very good for you!) and stevia instead of Splenda.
Diet Detective: What do you consider the world’s most perfect food? http://community.active.com/blogs/CharlesStuartPlatkin/2007/12/20/q38a-with-jenna-phillips/Please be specific and try not to answer with a category but rather with a specific food item: for example, not “whole grain” but “raisin bran cereal”?
Jenna: I’m sure the last two answers gave it away. Flax seed is my favorite ultimate super food. The health benefits of adding this to your diet everyday are endless. Some of the most important things about flax seed is that it lowers cholesterol and has tons of fiber. It’s also loaded with antioxidants and omega-3s. You can literally add flax seed to anything: salads, soups, yogurt, cereal, desert, and you can even bake with it!
Diet Detective: On those days when you're not motivated to work out, but you should, what's the one thought that gets you going?
Jenna: I will never beat my diabetes if I slack off. My blood sugar levels are higher if I get out of my routine. I remind myself that I’m not staying active for just me alone. My Mission is much bigger than that. I have to set a good example if I want to show people how to attain their optimal level of health and fitness. This is my life’s purpose.
Diet Detective: Do you have a favorite recipe? Can you share it?
Jenna: I love to throw a bunch of veggies in a pan and sauté them just a bit so they are warm but still crunchy. I make sure to keep the heat on low to medium and spray the pan with olive oil cooking spray. I put carrots, snap peas, bell peppers, squash, tomatoes, red onions, broccoli, and cauliflower all together and add about 2-3 ounces of balsamic vinegar for some low-calorie flavor. After about 5 minutes, I remove the veggies from the heat and put it all on a plate. I finally top off the veggies with a little bit of hummus. Yummy!
Diet Detective: What person do you respect most, or who motivates you?
Jenna: All of my agents motivate me. I love training with them because I see their focus and perseverance. Watching their bodies transform is so rewarding! I have so much respect for anyone who makes the choice to make the change. I remind my agents that making the decision to get off the couch and come work out with me is the most challenging part. It isn’t easy to get out of a comfort zone. It takes a lot of determination to stick with a routine.
Diet Detective: What do you do to reduce stress/relax/center your mind? Do you participate in an organized relaxation activity such as yoga, meditation or tai chi?
Jenna: I do yoga whenever I can, but the one thing that relaxes me the most is Reiki. I am a certified practitioner and I do Reiki on myself every night before I go to bed. It’s a Japanese healing technique that allows for deep relaxation, decreases stress, destroys energy blockages, and detoxifies the system. It’s rejuvenating and calming at the same time.
Diet Detective: Do you have a Calorie Bargain?
Jenna: I love these apple chips that I’ve only seen at Whole Foods. They come in a canister like Pringles. That really makes me feel like I’m buying a true snack food! They are dried and made without any added sugar, but they are so delicious! I love that they are crispy like chips, full of fiber, low in calories, and can totally satisfy me when I want a snack.
Diet Detective: What was your worst summer job?
Jenna: I was a barista at a coffee shop when I was in high school. I had never consumed more caffeine or sugar in my life! It was endlessly available to me, and I just didn’t know any better back then. I can tell you right now that eating that way did not help my diabetes in any way!
Diet Detective: Define failure.
Jenna: I view it as the opposite of success in any given situation. I owe all my success (including my health) to having no plan b, no other plan of survival. Failure is not an option for me.
Diet Detective: What’s the best book about health that you’ve read?
Jenna: The one that is closest to my own beliefs about nutrition is probably The Great American Detox Diet by Alex Jamieson. She was Morgan Spurlock’s girlfriend in the movie Super Size Me. She put him on a very needed detox diet after he ate so much garbage for 30 days! Her book is full of simple recipes. It also has a lot of valuable information to incorporate into the way we buy our groceries and cook at home.
Diet Detective: Do you have a pet? Name?
Jenna: Not yet! I’ve been wanting to have a little workout buddy. I like Jack Russell terriers. They are so full of energy!
Diet Detective: What did you want to be at the age of 5? (as far as a career)?
Jenna: I really wanted to be a teacher or a doctor. I guess I’ve always wanted to be a leader and help others. I absolutely love what I do! It is so fulfilling and I wake up morning looking forward to the entire day. I literally have my dream job.