She got it from her mama.
No, really. Jessie James Decker kinda has mom Karen Parker to thank for her successful, five-year run on the South Beach Diet. "My mom did South Beach when she was younger," the singer explained to E! News in a recent interview. "And I remember actually seeing the book at the house and that being a thing."
So when she was on the hunt for a way to feel more comfortable and more energized after the September 2015 arrival of her second child, son Eric Decker II, named after his football-playing father, "I just felt like, 'Okay, if Mom did it and we're the same, this will work for me,'" she reasoned. "And I think what I liked about it was that it was heavy protein—we all know I love my protein—low carb and I just felt like I was already living like that."
Because, let's be clear, an entire overhaul wasn't happening, the 32-year-old mom of three not about to play around with crash diets.
Becoming pregnant with Eric (or Bubby, as he's known in their Nashville home), just eight months after she and NFL wide receiver husband Eric Decker welcomed daughter Vivianne in 2014, she hadn't even begun to think about postpartum weight loss. "I was still breastfeeding her," she recalled, "and I don't really love to diet and nurse."
Nor was her waistline top of mind soon after Bubby's arrival, when she was too consumed with double the diaper changes, crying jags and middle-of-the-night wake-ups—not to mention juggling her music career and the launch of her clothing brand Kittenish to concern herself with any sort of formal diet.
"I always tell mothers, like, that should be the last thing on your mind," she stressed. "After you have a baby, please do not think about trying to lose weight. Just feed your baby. Love on your baby. You have a newborn. Your body is trying to heal. You will know when your body is ready. Don't listen to your brain telling you, 'Lose weight, lose weight.' You'll know when you physically feel like, 'Okay, I feel like I'm ready to kind of have that energy and can run around.'"
For Jessie, that point came right around the time Bubby started crawling, the prospect of having two very mobile children leaving her eager to gain more energy. And South Beach provided the boost she was after. "I felt like I saw results instantly," she shared. "I got on the program and I worked out and it was just like, okay."
She returned to it after welcoming her third child, son Forrest, in April 2018. And again after she realized the nightly cookie dough and glasses of vino that had helped her and Eric power through the early months of stay at home orders had left her feeling sluggish and just not like herself.
"I gained the quarantine 10, like everybody did," she admitted. "I mean, we were having, like, wine every night for a minute there. I'm like, 'Oh my god, this is not a good habit!' So we're back on a good program, I'm working out a few times a week. I'm eating well. And so I just feel good about it."
Which is, of course, the key for the country and pop singer-songwriter, who's not about to suffer through a miserable diet plan. "I wouldn't keep going back to something that didn't work," she noted. "I don't have the patience for that."
Her current system "just works," she said of the chocolate protein shake ("My favorite one!") that she has after her morning workout, sometimes adding in a scoop of almond butter and a little banana. Scrambled eggs keep her fueled a few hours later as she plows through work in her home office and she usually finds herself cooking some chicken for lunch.
Or, if she's scheduled for a studio session, "I'll take one of my South Beach meals with me in one of my kids' lunchboxes," she admitted. (Her go-to: the Texas chili.) "I really should get an adult one."
A South Beach snack tides her over 'til she cooks up a batch of, say, steak, rice, beans and corn for dinner. "Everything's really light," she noted. "And the kids eat what we eat for the most part."
That's not to say some nights don't include a side of mac and cheese or French fries for the littlest Deckers, or a dish from the decidedly not low-cal section of her recent cookbook, Just Feed Me. "I am not on it every day," she admitted of her plan. "I can't. Y'all know I make cookbooks! I love food."
But the South Beach approach has proved sustainable enough for her to be mostly all-in while still living her damn life.
And should her Kittenish pants start to feel a bit too tight, she can double down on the protein and scale back on carbs: "I always have this little thing in the back of my head, like, 'I can just get back on the program and I can get back to where I want to be.'"
And she knows her intense AF three-day-a-week meet-ups with her new personal trainer should take care of the rest.
"I've always been able to work out myself and just motivate myself," she said. "But I felt like with this year I'm noticing my body slowing down a little bit. I don't metabolize as fast as I used to. I don't build muscle as fast as I used to. So I felt like I needed to treat myself and maybe take it up a notch."
Or a few, her cardio and weight sessions leaving her spent. "They're freakin' hard," the 5-foot-1 star said. "I'm at the end going, 'Are we done? Are we done? Are we done?'"
But it's worth the sweat equity because she's got some big plans for 2021.
Really, she had some big plans for 2020, before COVID got in the way. But with concert venues shuttered, she made the choice to press pause on her forthcoming album, pivoting instead to her September cookbook release and upcoming Kittenish beauty launch.
"It just didn't make sense," she said of dropping the in-the-works fourth studio album. "I need to be able to, when I put out music, like, go out on the road and instantly be around people." She's hoping this year finally brings that opportunity along with another helping of recipes, her second cookbook already in the works for 2022.
And until that happens, she and her husband, retired from professional sports following eight seasons of play with the Denver Broncos, New York Jets and Tennessee Titans, have a game plan to make it through.
"People have asked us, 'How is the quarantine on your marriage?'" she shared. And now that the kids are back in school, the answer is....not all that much different. "He retired from football about a year before this whole pandemic," she explained. "So it wasn't, like, a shocker. He didn't have work to go to anymore and he was at home. And I work from home a lot, too. So we were just kind of adjusted to that."
Plus, nearly a decade after Jessie's pal texted her that she may have found her perfect guy in the 6-foot-3 athlete, they still really like each other. "We just love each other—it's just as simple as that," she said. "We have our days, too, where maybe we just get a little overwhelmed. But I think we started off our marriage and our relationship with, we just liked each other so much. And I think we got that right."
So the haters can keep coming for her if they'd like, riffing on her body, her parenting choices, her envy-inducing still-steamy marriage. But she's going to meet them with a shrug and maybe, if they're lucky, just a hint of snark.
"I think everybody's just grouchy and they're looking for some sort of entertainment," she reasoned of the seeming uptake in rude comments on her Insta feed. "I don't take it personally. I'm just like, you're having a bad day. It's all good. I know I'm a good mom. That's all that matters."
Turns out Jessie is really adept at finding the sunny side of things. Sure, she's just as anxious as any of us to return to "being around people and being in big crowds and not being afraid." But she's found a way to keep on keepin' on, taking each day as it comes while reminding herself that better times simply have to lie ahead.
Rising each day with her kids at 7 a.m., "I just wake up and go, 'You know what, I'm going to have a good day today,'" she insisted. Most everything is out of our control, she acknowledged, except how we treat others and ourselves so "let's just get through these days with a good attitude. That's just been my motto right now."
Uh, sign us up for one helping of that.