SINGAPORE - Looking at singer, actor and photographer Juan Jackson, you would not guess that he used to be teased in school in Florida, the United States, for being fat.
The 42-year-old said: "My favourite food was and is cake. I ate it pretty much almost every day then. Now, I keep my indulgence to one day a week."
But not everyone was mean. When he toured Australia with an opera group, he met some friends there who introduced him to the gym and he became hooked on weight training.
Now, he goes to the gym six days a week, but takes a break one Wednesday a month.
Based in Australia, he has been visiting Singapore often since his partner of 16 years, a senior human resource executive, moved here for work more than three years ago.
He is now playing a psychiatrist in Next To Normal, a Pulitzer Prize-winning musical being staged by Pangdemonium at the Drama Centre Theatre till Sept 22. He stands 1.81m tall and weighs 88kg.
What do you do to keep fit?
I like weight training and go to the gym six days a week. I use the bike or treadmill and work one muscle group a day.
Monday is when I work my back; Tuesday is for my chest; Wednesday is for odds and ends such as, say, my forearms, or extra cardiovascular work; Thursday is for quadriceps and hamstrings; Friday is for arms; and Saturday is for abs as well as other parts that may need a workout.
I try to keep each workout to an hour. I also like to go into the gym fairly hungry and hope to burn more fat.
How do you keep up your frequent gym visits?
I perform and do not want to be on stage looking unfit. Part of it is just plain vanity and part of it is to hopefully be a healthy role model.
Being able to have good physical health has helped me to have good mental health and be more well-balanced. I would like people to know they can also look good and be happy if they work out and make it part of their lifestyle.
Apart from making it a part of their lifestyle, they should also enjoy working out.
I started out as an opera singer and love singing. My good friend told me to take that love for singing and apply it in the gym.
I vary my routine every few months as I want to keep my muscles guessing all the time. Generally, a good mix of more repetitions with lighter weights and fewer repetitions with heavier weights keeps me interested and happy.
People in this country work very hard and it can be difficult to justify taking more time out to sweat on a bike. But if they do not like to go to a gym and like to walk down a street, they can do that and make it a part of their lifestyle.
If you go to the gym, make it a place of joy. Do not just go there, ignore people and leave.
What is your best advice on how to pick a gym?
People make a gym more than just a place with equipment. Gymgoers should make sure they find somebody to give them good advice so that they can develop good techniques. Then, they can pack on the muscles quickly without hurting themselves.
What is your secret to looking fabulous?
There is no secret. Most people know what to do. They have a fair idea about diet, for instance, but they do not do it. People should find something they like to do and just do it.
Has there been a time when you were not fit and fabulous?
I was a fat kid. It was so long ago but I think most people have a hard time getting over childhood stuff.
It is one of those things that really motivated me. Being ridiculed for being a little overweight in school is not nice.
What is your diet like? I am an octo-lacto vegetarian (a vegetarian who eats dairy and egg products). It has been 22 years and I get most of my protein from protein powder and eggs. Vegetarians can also have nice bodies.
What are your indulgences?
I try to be fairly strict, but on Sundays and when there is cake around, all bets are off.
How do you maintain a healthy work-life balance?
My partner and friends keep me sane. They pull me back when I go too far. Most importantly, they remind me to find joy when striving for excellence.
What are the three most important things in your life?
My partner, family and friends. I feel that the pieces of my life really come together when the people I love are happy. If they are good, I am good.
Would you go for plastic surgery?
I have no problem with it and I am not going to judge anybody for having it. I have had varicose veins in my legs removed. There is a health aspect to it and a looks aspect as well.
Would I get a facelift? I do not know. I joke about it all the time.
Do you think you are sexy?
I do not know if I am sexy. But, at least, every year I am getting fitter.
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