Fitness Fridays: How Jaz Jackson Overcame Severe Depression To Lose More Than 50 Pounds In A Year
Jaz Jackson is a renaissance woman. The 29-year-old Chicago native is a licensed cosmetologist known for the wizardry she can work as a makeup artist. She’s a beauty blogger with nearly 250,000 YouTube subscribers. She’s a burgeoning radio personality working for Chicago’s popular Hip-Hop station Power 92. She’s a mom (of one). She’s an entrepreneur. And nowadays, she’s an authority on health and fitness. The latter came to be after Jackson found herself diagnosed with depression and anxiety in 2012. For two years, she was given a whirlwind of medication that messed with her weight, her sex drive, her memory and more. During that journey, the doctor told her that she would greatly benefit from writing in a journal, taking part in meditation, eating right and exercise.
“At the time, I just really wasn’t ready to do that,” she said.
It wasn’t until her longtime relationship ended in 2015 and Jackson’s depression got out of control, as well as her weight (she increased to 190 pounds at only 5’2″), that she knew something needed to change.
“Spinning into this spiral, I gained a lot of weight,” she said. “My depression got even worse. I wasn’t being active with my son. I completely isolated myself. But I was still a beauty blogger and so I still had to portray myself as if everything was ok.”
It wasn’t until she took a trip to Miami with a friend in 2016, a “reset” trip as she called it, that she decided when she returned home she was going to change her diet, work with a trainer (Marissa McDonald) and finally take her doctor’s advice to deal with her depression naturally.
“In remembering what the doctor said to me, which was meditate, eat well, work out, journal — if all those things would work, let me give it a try and see if it really would,” she said. “It did.”
In just a year, Jackson lost more than 50 pounds and saw her life change for the better. She hasn’t looked back, and has shared her story with her many followers and supporters in the hopes of encouraging them.
We talked to the Jane of All Trades about her fitness journey, working out hard while keeping your curves, criticism over the fitness belts she sells, and how taking hold of her mental, physical and spiritual health changed everything.
MadameNoire: After a year of hard work, what has motivated you to stay the course and not go backwards?
Jaz Jackson: Remembering who and what I was a year ago. I put up side-by-side photos and I get hundreds of comments. A lot of likes, a lot of shares and a lot of comments. But most people in those comments say, “I like the before picture.” And it frustrates me so much, but it’s very telling of how we as a culture view physical appearance. Here you clearly have a woman who was overweight. I could barely walk up the stairs. I had trouble breathing. I was upset. I didn’t like myself. I couldn’t look at myself in the mirror. I couldn’t interact with my son in the way that I should have. But because you see a curvy body, you think this is ideal? That makes no sense. So I often have to check myself. People don’t know the backstory. They don’t read about it. But there is no way you would like the before girl if you knew who she really was. So looking at those pictures constantly reminds me of where I was mentally and it’s not something I’m willing to sacrifice anymore. And then too, I created a habit. It is second nature for me to get up and work out. Yes, I’m tired, but my body’s like, “Oh we work out every day.” And I can tell the difference when I eat certain bad foods. I will feel sluggish and tired. I’m just like, “I don’t feel like myself.” But when I eat my whole foods, my greens and drink my fresh juices, I’m ready to roll. In that moment, it reminds me that this is what whole, healthy foods do for you. Had I gotten some soda, chips and candy, I still would have been in the same spot. So knowing where I’ve been keeps me focused.
What is your workout regimen like these days?
I give myself six days to work out and then one day to rest. I do tell people, for the everyday woman, that’s not really realistic. So I tell them not to really strive for that. Definitely try for three days or just start with two days. It creates a habit of getting up to work out and you can build upon that.
As someone super busy with a son, you work with Power 92, you do the beauty videos, you have all of this talent, how do you find the time to make healthy meals?
I take advantage of Sundays. They’re really important. You take that one day where you’re not working and where you decompress, use that day to meal prep. In the real world that doesn’t always work, so I do have certain restaurants that I go to that I frequent that I know I can get a healthy, balanced meal from that is aligned with my goals and my meal plan. It’s really about making healthy choices. When I’m leaving from the gym in Hyde Park, there is a Chipotle there. I go there a lot but when I go in there, I get chicken breast, brown rice and vegetables. I’m not getting a bunch of sour cream and things on it. It’s about staying focused. You can still have fast options, but stay within your goals. And another thing that keeps me focused is I do allow myself to have a cheat meal. I don’t eat super healthy all of the time. I do allow myself to indulge, but 98 percent of the time I’m focused.
As someone with curves, what kind of moves have allowed you to keep them?
That is a major thing I hear from women. When they first start they say to me, “I’m ready to lose weight and get my life together, but I don’t want to lose my curves, my butt or my breasts.” I tell them, you’re not going to unless you work out to do that. Most of the time, women when we start to work out, the first thing we think about doing is cardio. We want to jump on the treadmill, jump on the elliptical and that’s all that we do. But if you do that, you’re going to lose muscle and muscle is what builds the curves. So I love to lift weights and strength train. These are the key components to how I’ve kept my curves.
I know that you sell the JSCULPT Fitness Belt. I see that you do wear it and have followers who buy it as well. What do you say to people who have criticisms of such contraptions and call them all waist trainers that don’t really help?
I don’t mind when people say that to me or try to challenge me with that. The first thing I tell people is that it’s not a waist trainer. I do not personally believe in waist trainers. However, I love fitness belts that make you sweat. So when I was on my journey, I did wear a few of my competitor’s and what I loved was that they made my midsection sweat. That helped me reduce water weight and reduce inches. So the difference between a waist trainer and a fitness belt is that the belt is to make you sweat. As for waist trainers, I think people mistake it for a full-blown corset that will change the makeup of your body structure. This belt is not that. It’s not going to do that. It’s purpose is to help you during your workout. Use it as your fitness companion. I make no claims that the JSCULPT belt is going to be your be-all-end-all. Coming from my journey and people actually seeing me lose weight, I would be damned if I acted like a fitness belt did that for me. I would never give a fitness belt that much clout. So I did the work, but the belt helps me along the way. It’s meant to make your midsection sweat, but it also helps you with your posture for someone who lifts weights. It helps me to make sure I stand upright, especially during cardio. And a lot of my customers wear it for that. They wear it during the day for back support. The JSCULPT Fitness belt is not what you think it is, nor do I ever promote it to be that. And if you are ever a customer, you will see that along with purchasing the belt, we also offer you workout videos and nutrition guides to go along with your journey because that is the true key. My goal is to build a community of women who want to lose weight and want to lose weight in the right way. If you don’t learn the steps to maintain, you’re going to be right back where you started.
Outside of your physical health, in what ways do you practice self-care to maintain your mental health as someone who struggled with severe depression?
To this day, I journal. I still meditate. Those are key components because I have learned to handle my depression. It’s not a thing you just get rid of. It’s something you learn to work through. So there are days that I have where I’m really just not feeling it, I don’t have energy. But I’m able to identify those moments and in those moments I’m able to combat it with the tools I’ve been taught over the years. So if I’m feeling down a particular day, I’m going to journal. I’m going to write it down and I’m going to move on. I’m not going to harp on it. Or if I’m feeling down, working out is great for that, giving you a pick-me-up. So it’s about maintaining and understanding what you’re doing and not allowing it to consume your life. Learning how to work through it, because we’re all faced with troubling times. We all go through things, but it’s how you pull yourself out of it that really matters.