#TransformationThursday | Meet Jazzy from Jaszkimo Gets Fit
In conjunction with FitnessFest 2017, #TransformationThursday is a 5-part weekly series that aims to inspire everyone to kickstart their fitness journeys by platforming life-changing stories from individuals that have taken tremendous steps to lead a healthier life and get moving.
To many, working out is a personal choice. For Jasmine Tasdelen (or simply Jazzy) exercising is not simply an option – it is a necessity. After being diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), which predominantly affects women, Jazzy’s life has changed tremendously. We sat down with the chirpy 34-year-old to find out more about her story, challenges and motivations. Prepare to be taken on a transformation journey like no other.
FROM THE BEGINNING
When Jazzy was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), she decided to embrace her condition by choosing a healthier lifestyle and a positive mindset. PCOS causes the body to develop cysts, triggering hormonal imbalances that lead to spontaneous weight gain and other health issues, making it extremely challenging to maintain a consistent fitness routine. Jazzy decided to chronicle her path to fitness on her blog (aptly titled Jaszkimo Gets Fit), which has since fostered a community of like-minded individuals and inspired many to kickstart their very own fitness journey. However, there isn’t any journey without setbacks – and Jazzy’s no different. Despite being committed to eating well and exercising, she recalls a few instances where life got in the way of her fitness regime, making it hard to pick up where she left off.
Self-esteem issues have always plagued Jazzy, arising from her younger days at school in the small Australian town she grew up in, where she was given mean nicknames and teased severely. “I didn’t even think I was fat at the time!” she remembers. But it affected her all the same. Looking back now, she wishes she could be even a quarter of the size she was and works towards getting the body that she once had.
She recalls a trip she took to Boracay, where she was fascinated by the paddle boarders she saw in the water. She was flatly rejected after asking if she could have a go, as the man in charge thought she was too heavy to stand on the board. Although she insisted he didn’t mean it harshly, it was still a blow to her feelings.
DEALING WITH SOCIETAL PERCEPTIONS
Regularly defying other people’s expectations of her, Jazzy’s resilience is boundless and inspiring. Upon returning to Singapore, she signed up for paddle board classes, where her instructor was so impressed that she encouraged her to compete. Knowing that she was more than what society saw her as drove her to do more, to prove herself. However, she found setbacks in the oddest of places.
Regional sizing is when companies adjust the sizes of clothing based on the region the product is sold in. It is hence almost impossible for Jazzy to find any workout clothing that fit her here and she has resorted to buying in bulk when she visits in Australia. “My wardrobe is filled with mostly workout clothes. I’m always in workout wear. It’s so comfortable!” she exclaims.
More than regional sizing is the attitude of shop owners towards her. Imagine seeing a piece of clothing in a store you really like, going in to look at it and immediately being told that the store doesn’t stock your size. That’s exactly what happened to Jazzy while she was out shopping one day. “Even before I could finish my question, before the words left my mouth, I was interrupted by the shopkeeper telling me that they didn’t have my size. Couldn’t I have been buying for a friend?”, she recounts, adding that this has happened more than once, serving as a painful reminder of society’s attitudes towards plus-size individuals.
FINDING HER MOTIVATION
In spite of everything, Jazzy remains relentlessly positive to the point of infectious (she had us smiling throughout the interview), and her excitement and passion for self-improvement is commendable. It’s almost hard to believe that her journey has not been a constantly smooth sailing upward climb – she has moments where she falls into a pit, losing her motivation and re-developing her bad eating habits. She has also had various health setbacks, that have grounded her at home, leaving her physically unable to work out. “Losing all the progress you made makes you think why bother?”, she says.
But with a quiet assurance, perhaps stemming from her experience, she reminds us that it is and will never be smooth sailing. It is, after all, the hardships you face that shape who you are as a person.
Excelling at paddle boarding and the joy she found in it motivated her to start her fitness lifestyle. She soon realised that weight lifting was what she really loved. To her, lifting weights is a constant challenge to better herself. She jokes about being super competitive in the gym and wanting to match the weights of other people lifting around her. Thankfully, her trainer knows her well enough to distinguish between pushing her limits and causing an injury.
Jazzy reveals that, initially, she could never do group workout classes, for fear of being judged. But she has since grown to realise judging someone else in a group class is the last thing on everyone’s mind – they’re all just busy trying not to die.
Over the years, she has realised the importance of proper nutrition and how it plays a big role in weight loss. She has even worked out while on a diet of unhealthy junk, which did nothing to increase her fitness levels and weight loss progress – in fact, she gained weight. She even recalled a time where she was obsessing over calories and numbers, which she admits was effective, but made her miserable at the end of the day.
“I don’t like to say “diet” because you’ll think of those trendy diets. I’m on a diet because I literally cannot eat certain foods,” she explains.
Having to go on a low-carb diet because of PCOS has made mealtimes a tricky situation. But as always, she handles it. A self-proclaimed food-lover, Jazzy loves poring over cookbooks and coming up with new meal ideas for her and her husband. Meal prepping is one way she stays focused on her nutrition but recently, she has been enjoying her frozen meals from a new service she’s trying out. She raved about the avocado cacao mousse no less than three times during our conversation (and we have to admit, It really sounds drool-worthy).
ON BEING SELFISH
Something Jazzy emphasises on quite a bit is the necessity of being selfish to achieve your goals. “You need to prioritise your own goals when undertaking this journey. If it means I’ll have to bring my frozen food out for lunch with friends, I would!”, she exclaimed.
Being an expat in Singapore, she regularly hosts visiting friends from overseas to show them around. She laughs as she tells us how many times she has visited the Singapore Flyer and Universal Studios (too many times for any one person), as well as having to take friends out to popular eating haunts, like chilli crab places and hawker centres, effectively ruining her diets. Jazzy admits that she has gradually stopped hosting her friends in Singapore in a bid to focus on her personal fitness journey.
THE IMPORTANCE OF SUPPORT
Jazzy admits that having a circle of supportive friends and family has definitely helped push her to go the extra mile. She gushes about how her husband’s companionship during workouts and meal times makes them more enjoyable and bearable. Her close friends even offer to come over to her home with their own meals, just so that Jazzy wouldn’t have to deviate from her meal plan, while some go the extra mile to cater to her dietary restrictions when inviting her over for dinner parties.
Grateful to have such an understanding and supportive community of people around her, Jazzy maintains that it is these people who have shielded her against the prejudices of society.
At times, Jazzy questions the purpose of maintaining a blog and social media when she is admittedly bad at remembering to post regularly. But then she remembers the messages she receives, from other women who have been inspired by her story to begin journeys of their own, and she perseveres. Those messages make her day. “This sounds cheesy, but as long as I know I’ve inspired at least one person to take control of their health and fitness, then it’s all worth it”, she says.
HER FOUR TIPS BEFORE STARTING A FITNESS JOURNEY
After years of trying out numerous gyms, workouts and diets, Jazzy has only these 4 tips to share:
1. Get a full medical check up
Jazzy recommends starting with a full medical check up, to properly find out the condition your body is in. “Imagine lifting weights with an injured back. You don’t want to worsen any pre-existing injuries,” she explains.
2. Consult a nutritionist
You’ve probably heard how your diet makes up 80% of weight loss – food is a 100%, especially for her. A nutritionist can help you sort out what food and nutrients your body needs. In the words of Jazzy herself, “It’s not always about broccoli and chicken breasts”.
3. Engage a personal trainer
If you can afford it, she highly encourages you to get a personal trainer. And not any random trainer either. Get someone with experience and passion because they will be there for you at your most vulnerable. Jazzy adds that her trainer, who is also a personal friend, has seen her at her “worst”, through “sweat and literal tears”, but it is that relationship that propels her forward in her journey.
4. Reward yourself
When you’ve trained so hard, it is alright to reward yourself for all your efforts! As a foodie, Jazzy rewards herself for keeping with a diet plan or completing an exercise routine with a taste of her favourite food (she admits that she can never resist a good cupcake too). It’s one way she has kept herself motivated, which has worked very well for her.
Jazzy also doesn’t believe in restricting herself – she describes how a build-up of cravings can be detrimental to all your efforts when you go through a “revenge period”, where you inexplicably binge on your vices. Instead, she switches out unhealthy components of her favourite meals and learns to enjoy them. One of her favourite foods is spaghetti Bolognese and, being on a low carb diet, she learned to swap the pasta for zucchini noodles.
Feeling inspired? Join Jazzy and many others at FitnessFest 2017 -a vibrant weekend of workouts, healthy eats and great vibes, all at one place! Check out our picks on the Top 10 Things You Must Do At Singapore’s Ultimate FitnessFestival.