To lead by example, former First Daughter Jenna Bush Hager, 35, recently took a bold step to encourage women — especially new moms — to boost their fitness levels: The contributing correspondent on NBC’s “Today” got weighed and measured on the show.
For four weeks, the teacher and author of three bestselling books worked with a trainer to explore new ways to exercise, prepare meals and reduce stress.
The result? “I feel much stronger and my range of motion and balance have gotten a lot better,” she said.
The Texas native resides in New York with her husband, Henry, and their daughters Mila, 3, and Poppy, 18 months. Living nearby is her fraternal twin sister, Barbara. Both women travel extensively for work, so they value time together: “We like to combine working out with our ‘sister dates’ as opposed to getting something to eat or going to a movie,” Hager said. “It allows us time to talk and catch up.”
Here, she speaks on her workout and nutrition habits, as well as how dumping some social media apps de-stressed her life:
Few people would agree to get weighed on television. What was your hope in doing it?
To encourage women to measure themselves and to be happy in the skin they’re in. I don’t always feel that way but I’m trying to do it more. Over the holidays, I was looking through old photographs and saw a picture of myself in college. I remember thinking at the time, “I don’t look great.” I said to my husband, “I wish I had appreciated my college figure — it was pretty good.” And he said, “Why aren’t you doing that now, because at 70 you’re going to look back and think, ‘I looked pretty good at 35.’” So, I’m trying to focus on feeling good and being strong, and not just the number on my scale.
After working with a trainer, what are your takeaways to continue on your own?
One: Mix up my exercise. I love Soul Cycle, and do it twice a week. To boost my metabolism, I’ve added strength training. … Two: Focus on food. I was making great food for my kids: cut-up spinach, kale, salmon, turkey meatballs, avocado, and pasta with vegetables. … But I was too busy to focus on what I was eating. Now I go for “real” food — fruit, vegetables and proteins — not things out of a package. … Three: Be mindful. … I’ve started meditating in the morning and before bed. And I’ve taken Twitter and Instagram apps off my phone — constantly looking at them stressed me out.
Beef is sacrosanct in Texas, so how did you take to the meatless meals your trainer suggested?
I’m not a big meat eater. We were more a beans-and-cornbread Texas family. We like Mexican food. … My problem is carbohydrates and cheese. I’m a cheese addict …. who is trying to cut back and have a delicious, small amount of cheese as an [occasional] treat.
What role does music play in your workouts and your life?
Music is vital. My playlist inspires me to run farther or stay on an eliptical longer. Most of the exercise classes I like are based heavily on music. …We listen to music in our house all the time. Dance parties with my daughters and husband are a regular occurrence.
Your grandfather was known for hand-writing personalized thank-you notes. Did you inherit that interest?
We definitely write thank-you notes. My parents raised us that way as well. It’s very Southern. … It’s important to write letters to let people know how you feel and to make sure they know how grateful you are for whatever they’ve done. My grandfather was a terrific letter writer … and not just thank-you notes. He wrote profound letters that we still read and cherish.