A Place In The Sun presenter, Jasmine Harman, 45, on lockdown weight gain, the pitfalls of diet culture and why exercise is a form of self-care.
I have to enjoy health and fitness for it to be sustainable. At primary school, I was captain of the netball team but I wasn’t a natural sportswoman. So, in my teens, I went to aerobic classes, which is my go-to workout of choice because I love the music and choreography, and enjoy being around other people.
Working out with others is hugely motivating and I feed off other people’s energy. I’ve realised in lockdown that I don’t get the same buzz from an online workout as a group exercise class, which explains why I’ve struggled to do a workout over the past 12 months.
Indoctrinated to think slimmer is better
It’s sad that as a young teenager I was already indoctrinated to think that thinner was better. At 14, I was scouted by a modelling agency and in the contract, there were clauses stating things like you had to shave your arms and nostrils if they were visibly hairy and you had to be a certain weight and measurements.
I was slim but bigger than was allowed in the contract so I decided to not pursue the modelling. However, it planted a seed in my head that I wasn’t the right shape or size. I then started being more self-conscious. I wasn’t overweight, but I always thought I could do with losing a few pounds.
The silliest thing I ever did was to go to a slimming clinic where I was weighed and given amphetamine-based slimming pills. The side effects were awful. I’d be awake all night, I got a really dry mouth, I had heart palpitations and I would sweat randomly. I took the tablets on and off for a few years in my early 20s and did lose weight temporarily.
The tablets became my default thing I’d turn to whenever I felt I needed to drop some pounds. As a mum of a young girl, when I think about what I did it turns my stomach. Children pick up body confidence messages from television – even the main characters in the cartoons they watch look a certain, perfect way – and from their friends and parents.
I try to always be very loving towards myself in front of my children but sometimes I’ll accidentally let something slip, such as telling my husband Jon if I’ve lost a few pounds. Children are so observant and hear everything. You have to be so careful.
How Jasmine Harman dropped two dress sizes
For two years until the beginning of last year I was really confident and truly loved myself. I lost 1.5 stone after ditching junk food, cutting down on portion sizes and upping my exercise to six times a week. I used a hypnosis app called Virtual Gastric Band, which sounds extreme but it’s really about mindful eating, loving and honouring your health and prioritising yourself.
It changed my mind about the food I consumed; I only wanted to eat food that was nourishing my body. When the kids had ice cream for dessert, I’d have one spoonful and it would be enough. I really appreciated that one spoonful!
In six months, I dropped two dress sizes from a 14 to a 10 and, along with the weight loss, other things also improved. I had more energy, my skin looked better and my confidence soared. Then lockdown happened and because of gyms closing, eating the wrong foods and drinking too much, I put almost all the weight back on.
The right mindset is the key
The way I feel about my body has nothing to do with my actual body – it’s all to do with my brain. When I’m in the right mindset and doing exercises classes I love, I feel good and don’t want to sabotage my health and hard work by poor food choices. After gaining weight during lockdown, I started working out at home for half an hour six days a week.
Exercise really helps with my mental health, because it’s me being kind to myself. I subscribe to the Beachbody On Demand programme, which I used when I was travelling with work. I’d do a workout with my bands in my hotel room if there wasn’t a gym in the hotel.
When I started working out again, although I initially felt unfit, psychologically I began feeling so much better as I’d taken charge of my life.
Being on TV wearing strappy summer dresses inspires me to eat well. Not being at work has made it easy to hide behind social media and share old photos. At the start of the year, I took to Instagram to say I’d put on weight because I was so ashamed of letting myself down.
I felt like a prisoner behind my social media pictures. It was making me feel depressed and ashamed of myself, so for my own sense of wellbeing, I decided to be honest with the public. It was important to say, ‘We’re all having a hard time with this and we’re not perfect’, which is how people’s lives can seem on social media.
Why Jasmine Harman is not overwhelmed by ageing
I feel good about being aged 45. There are times I compare myself to other people, including the other A Place In The Sun presenters because I am the oldest, but I’m not bothered about my age. I’m fairly realistic. Ageing doesn’t overwhelm me or take me to a level where I want to have treatments to hold back the years.
The biggest anti-ageing benefit has been going vegan. I was vegetarian for nearly 30 years and went vegan seven years ago after becoming a mum. I’ve since definitely seen an improvement to my skin. A moisturiser with an SPF is also essential to my beauty routine, because I’m in the sun a lot for work. I use vegan-friendly beauty products.
For Christmas, I received an advent calendar from Holland & Barrett that contained trial-size vegan products and so I’ve been experimenting. I love the Frank & Rose beauty range and right now I’m using The Body Shop Vitamin C Glow-Protect Lotion SPF30.
People eating plant-based diets are supposed to take supplements, but I’m not religious about it. At the moment, because I haven’t been in the sun as much as usual, I’ve been using a Better You Vitamin D Oral Spray. It apparently keeps my bones and teeth healthy, but I never notice much difference when I take supplements.
I consider myself a bit of a foodie and I’ve always enjoyed eating so I like to experiment when I can. There are almost 300,000 different edible plants in the world and yet people tend to eat the same four meats – chicken, lamb, beef and pork – over and over again. That’s not variety in my opinion.
Whereas if you’re consuming different vegetables and plant-based food, there’s tons of choice. The one ingredient I use in all my cooking is Marigold Organic Bouillon Vegan Powder. It’s my go-to seasoning and I get through giant tubs!
Menopause is creeping up!
Since I had my son when I was age 40, my menstrual cycle has been all over the place. I think I might possibly be perimenopausal, but I’m not sure. In my early 40s, I started to get clumsy and my hair went lacklustre so I went for a blood test and apparently everything was fine – although I think menopause is creeping up on me.
Having a dog really helped my mental health while we were in lockdown. I go for a dog walk every day in nature, which is also a great thing for getting the kids out of the house. Being outside in nature is so therapeutic and dogs very much live in the present moment; they react to whatever is happening around them and that’s so refreshing!
● Jasmine Harman is a presenter on A Place in the Sun, which broadcasts daily at 4pm on Channel 4.