Jen Wichern grew up in a food-centric family.

Meals were how they came together and showed how much they cared for one another – now she keeps that love for food alive through her passion for wellness.

“Healthy eating is crucial to wellness because what you put into your body helps your body perform at its best,” said Wichern, organization development consultant at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska (BCBSNE). “Your brain and body need a mix of healthy fats, complex carbs and proteins in order to help keep you focused and capable of handling what the day throws at you.”

Her healthy eating journey started her freshman year of college as a way to manage her weight and her asthma.

“After being an athlete in organized sports for most of my life, I wasn’t going to be playing them in college, and I wanted to wean myself off of the asthma medication I’d been on that suppressed my appetite and made me gain over 70 pounds,” said Wichern.

It opened a whole new world for her.

“Eating healthy helped me to find the energy and drive to get back to being active again,” she said. “I fell in love with weightlifting and high-intensity cardio and lost 35 pounds. By the time I graduated college, I had lost all 70 pounds I had gained and had a new lifestyle that I knew would carry me through my life.”

She also realized healthy eating was a great way to reduce her and her family’s risk of future health problems.

“I have a family history of heart disease, high cholesterol and cancer,” said Wichern. “Eating healthy helps me to ensure that I reduce my risk factors for these diseases and keeps my extended family healthy.”

Her passion for wellness through healthy eating is shared with her husband as well.

“We knew that it was important to provide our children with healthy options and ensure they knew how important eating healthy was,” she said. “My kids love fresh fruit and vegetables and choose them as snacks. My husband and I never want them to have to worry about how their eating habits are impacting their lives.”

She makes healthy meals a priority for her family by planning the week out, sticking to a list, always having healthy options on hand and, of course, cooking healthily.

“I believe you can make any recipe healthy, and I often look for ways to take a recipe and make it healthier,” said Wichern. “I also know that you don’t have to sacrifice flavor for health. There are so many ways to make something taste good without frying it or adding a lot of unhealthy ingredients.”

Wichern also makes fitness a key part of her wellness routine.

“I work out a minimum of five times per week, focusing on weightlifting and intense cardio,” she said. “I also help my kids practice their various sports.”

Other ways she stays well is getting a full seven hours of sleep, practicing mindfulness, reading and spending time with her family.

To read more stories like this one, visit Health and Wellness.

*Wise & Well is a monthly wellness series highlighting BCBSNE employees and their dedication to health and wellness.