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Fitness expert Jennifer Nicole Lee shares her secrets for getting in shape for swimsuit season.

Summer is nearly here, and spending time in a bathing suit is probably in your future. Need some inspiration? Just take a look at a picture of fitness expert and two-time Miss Bikini Diva World Champion Jennifer Nicole Lee. Now, imagine this: Just eight years ago, Lee (or JNL, as she’s known professionally) weighed more than 200 pounds. She developed her own fitness plan, and the result was a jaw-dropping 80-pound weight loss — and a new career. These days, she’s a fitness coach, a best-selling author, a top fitness model (she’s graced the covers of 40 magazines to date), and an exercise DVD and infomercial star, not to mention a trainer, a mother and a wife.
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Look for Lee’s new book, Jennifer Nicole Lee’s Fun Fit Foodie Cookbook, in September!

American Way: How did your weight-loss journey begin?
Jennifer Nicole Lee: I grew up in the South — I call it the deep-fried South. I saw my mother and grandmother struggle with emotional eating throughout their lives, and I began to fall into the same trap. I decided I wanted to break the cycle and get in shape for my children and my husband.

AW: Did you have an “aha” moment?
JNL: After the birth of my second son, I weighed around 200 pounds. I asked my husband to take a picture of me in a bikini, and I was shocked and horrified at what I saw. That became my “before” picture.

AW: What was your first step?
JNL: The first thing I did was get real with myself. It wasn’t just about losing weight for me, because I knew that wouldn’t get me healthy. I also wanted to gain. I wanted to gain stamina, energy and a new identity. After that, I joined a gym. I became my own fitness expert and learned as much as I could about nutrition, weight training and exercise.

Find Jennifer Nicole Lee at JenniferNicoleLee.com

AW: What’s one tip you give people who want to get in shape?
JNL: It’s so important to believe in yourself. Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right! This isn’t about being perfect; it’s about being persistent. A cheat meal once a week or a cheat bite every now and then is perfectly OK.

AW: What kind of workout do you recommend?
JNL: I always say weight training trumps cardio. In my book, The Jennifer Nicole Lee Fitness Model Diet, I suggest four days a week of weight training plus two days of cardio, if you want to blast fat.

JNL Spills: How to Get Bikini Ready — Fast

• Eat asparagus. It’s a natural diuretic and will help you shed pounds. Lee recommends eating six stalks with lunch or dinner.
• Fill up on high-fiber fruits and vegetables, like blueberries and broccoli. “Fiber is your friend when it comes to weight loss,” Lee says.
• Dine on grilled fish: The omega-3s are great for you and also make for healthy hair, skin and nails.
• Avoid complex carbohydrates (like rice, bread and pasta) at dinner.
• Get glowing. By using self-tanners, you can “tan off” five pounds instantly.