You've seen Jamie Eason grace our Powerful Images section many times. And you'd probably think that any writer assigned to interview her would be jumping up-and-down with excitement about the idea of getting to talk to such a gorgeous gal.
Well, you'd be wrong.
I've interviewed (and tried to interview) a lot of fitness models and figure competitors in the past. The excitement of getting to sit down with a real live magazine cover girl fades fast. These types of interviews are, well, challenging.
I don't want to propagate stereotypes here, but yeah, most of these women are vacuous. Beautiful, built like goddesses, and duller than a two-dollar Tijuana pocketknife. So I wasn't that excited about talking to Miss Eason.
Well, I should've been. Thirty seconds into our talk it became obvious that Jamie Eason wasn't a stereotype. With the body comes a brain – quite a refreshing experience! Here's how the interview went down. (Oh, and keep in mind that some of the pictures in this interview have never appeared anywhere!)
T-Nation: How did you get started in this whole fitness thing, Jamie? Were you always an athlete?
Jamie Eason: Growing up I'd always been active in sports and dance, but with age came responsibility and less time to do those things I'd once enjoyed. In 2001, with college completed and a career established, I began to seek out fun activities or hobbies to take up. It just so happened that 2001 was the year that NFL football was brought back to Houston and they were holding tryouts for the new Houston Texans cheerleading squad.
I tried out with over 1600 girls in a rigorous two-day process and ended up one of the 35 girls chosen. It was exciting and fun and an experience I'll never forget! After my stint as an NFL cheerleader ended, I noticed that returning to my inactive lifestyle was really affecting my body. I decided to join a gym and began lifting hard and heavy.
I liked the strength gains that I was making, but it seemed as if my clothes were getting tighter and tighter and my body only slightly more shapely. I wasn't getting the results I hoped for at all. So after four months of training I was about ready to throw in the towel when I saw a girlfriend of mine, who was almost ten years older than myself, who looked unbelievable.
We talked about our current workout programs and it became very clear that I was missing a huge piece to the puzzle: nutrition. I had no clue about meal frequency and portion size for my body. I sought the help of a nutritionist and hired a trainer and I was on my way. It only took about three months to drastically change my body.
I never anticipated stepping on stage and even balked at anyone who suggested it. However, once I reached my goal of 10% body fat it became very clear that I had achieved something few people are able to. I ended up signing up for my first show and coming in at about 8% body fat.
It was an amazing experience. I walked away with a pro card my very first show! This is a new way of life for me and the discipline gives me drive and focus. I'm hooked for life!
T-Nation: A pro card after one show and only a short period of "real" training? Does that mean you're a genetic anomaly, a damn hard worker, or both?
Jamie: I would have to say that it was a combination of both. When I set my mind to something I go all out.
At the time when I started training, there were a lot of things going on in my life that were beyond my control. I was in an unhappy relationship, I was living with a difficult roommate, and I wasn't too crazy about my job. I found comfort in the fact that I could take control of what I was putting into my mouth and how I was treating my body.
Exercise became a release for me. I went religiously. It was just a happy accident that I'd been blessed with good genetics and great people supporting me. I had a great trainer and a nutritionist to encourage me the whole way through. It was the best investment I ever made.
T-Nation: Okay, down to business. What are your current stats?
Jamie: I'm 30 years old, 5'2". My weight is 110 to 112 pounds in the off-season and between 98 and 102 in-season. Body fat is 12-15% off-season and 7-9% in-season.
I prefer to stay in shape, not only to take advantage of any modeling opportunities that I'm lucky enough to get, but also because allowing your body to yo-yo too much can really affect your self-image. Once you've experienced a certain degree of leanness, gaining even five pounds can sometimes feel like fifty. You really have to have the right mindset and a healthy body image to compete.
T-Nation: What does your diet look like?
Jamie: I typically eat five to six meals a day (about two and a half to three hours apart) consisting of lean protein such as chicken, fish, turkey, or egg whites and slow digesting carbs, such as oatmeal and sweet potatoes. I also eat lots of fresh veggies to help fill me up and add fiber.
When I'm trying to gain muscle in the off season, I'll up my intake of healthy fats, such as peanut butter and avocado, but avoid combining carbs and fats together. Instead I'll eat protein with fats and veggies and carb load, avoiding fat, about every third day.
T-Nation: Sounds good. Let's talk training. Generally speaking, what does your weight training schedule look like? Any "rules" you follow when it comes to resistance training? Favorite exercises?
Jamie: I tend to gain muscle easily in my upper body and struggle with adding size to my legs, so I hit every part of my body once a week but train my legs twice, usually quads with calves and hamstrings with glutes.
My favorite exercise is the walking lunge. I use the heaviest weight possible (80 to 100 pound barbell) and do 12 walking double lunges down the floor and 12 singles back. On days that I'm feeling energized, I'll immediately finish the set with 12 barbell squats.
It's a killer workout! As for my only "rule" – lift to failure and don't rest too long between sets.
T-Nation: What about cardio?
Jamie: I'm not a huge fan of cardio. I prefer to eat clean so that I won't need to do too much cardio. Typically I do 30 to 40 minutes of cardio about three times a week. Closer to competition time I'll do an hour a day about five days a week and incorporate sprints and plyometrics.
T-Nation: Where do you see most women going wrong when they decide to get into shape? What mistakes do they make or what misconceptions do they have?
Jamie: Most women overdo the cardio and avoid weights for fear of getting too big. That is a huge misconception! Just as some of us are born with a gift of music or art, some people are genetically blessed with an ability to grow muscle.
I tell women all the time that they can do cardio and diet all day long but they're never going to achieve the "tone" they're after. Without incorporating weights, they will likely end up just a smaller version of themselves. Using weights will actually change the shape of their body. If someone tends to have a larger bum, they should focus on growing their shoulders to create better symmetry and give the illusion of an hourglass figure. Lifting to failure will yield the fastest results.
T-Nation: Wait a sec, according to many strength and conditioning professionals, lifting to failure isn't necessary and may even be counterproductive in the long run. Obviously it's working for you. Failure training seems to be one of those things that most of the experts advise against but is used anyway (with success) by bodybuilders and fitness competitors. Thoughts on that?
Jamie: I'm aware that there's some discrepancy and debate among professionals regarding the best training methods. I'm hardly qualified to give any advice other than what has worked for me.
When I first started out, I did the usual high reps and minimal weight. Results came slow. It wasn't until I reasoned that if I had a job in packaging and shipping and I was accustomed to bending and squatting all day, that it wouldn't guarantee that I was going to have a great looking pair of glutes. Your body adapts to repetition.
We hear time and time again that our muscles are repairing and growing when we sleep. I reasoned that if I wasn't lifting heavy enough to break down the muscle in the first place and encourage the body to create new muscle fibers, then I wasn't likely going to grow.
This training method isn't for everyone, and I'd definitely advise a beginner against jumping right into doing sets to failure. You may be fighting genetics if you resort to just one training method or the other. Human muscles contain a genetically determined mixture of both slow and fast fiber type. Slow twitch fibers can fuel repeated and extended muscle contractions, such as those needed for marathon runners and endurance athletes. Fast twitch muscles fire more rapidly to fuel explosive activities such as jumping and sprinting.
I'd recommend varying your workout, alternating one month of higher reps, with just enough weight, with a month of lower reps and lifting to failure. Each of our bodies responds uniquely to different stimuli. Just remember to train heavy, not stupid.
T-Nation: Now that we can all agree on! Do you use supplements? What role do they play in the big picture?
Jamie: Yes, I use supplements. I believe that there are five basic supplements that every individual who works out should incorporate into their daily routine:
- Protein powder It's cheap and fast.
- Multi-vitamin To promote over-all good health and nutrition.
- Energy supplement We all have those days when we need some help.
- BCAAs The building blocks of muscle!
- Glutamine For faster recovery.
The thing I see time and time again is that people will go into a supplement store and drop $300 on supplements and decide that tomorrow is the day that they'll start using them and getting in shape. Supplements are called supplements for a reason. They're simply an addition to a sound nutrition plan.
People need to get their diet right first. They should think food first, fortified foods next, and then supplements. You can't determine what product is right for you without first knowing what you're lacking.
T-Nation: Good points. Let's talk about the other "supplements" most people won't mention. In the last few years, it seems that even fitness models and figure competitors are starting to use steroids and other illegal or banned substances. Is the temptation there for you?
Jamie: Honestly, no. The temptation isn't there because I've seen the long-term effects. Just as some people are blessed with the genetics to play professional baseball or to fight in the UFC, some people are blessed to be professional bodybuilders or fitness and figure athletes. Fitness models and figure athletes shouldn't compete if they have to resort to heavy drug use.
We've all seen it a million times. There are people in the gym who will gladly broadcast the things they're taking and in the next few months we'll see little to no gains. They just don't have the discipline or the genetics for it.
I'm not naïve to the fact that many bodybuilders take steroids. Just as the media has created the notion that being skinny equates to pretty for many young girls, for bodybuilders, it's the biggest, most vascular one up there. I understand for them that it likely levels the playing field, just as it does in other male dominated sports.
However, for myself, win or lose, I'll never use steroids to try and improve my placing. I've used prescription diuretics and will likely continue to, but God gave me this body and square little face and I've learned to play to my strengths and give up the notion of ever being a 5'10" runway model!
T-Nation: Let's hope women like you help kick the skinny, no-muscle, heroin-addict look right back into the alley! Now, you wrote "no nude requests" on your ModelMayhem page. I'm guessing that nudity is a slippery slope in your profession? Is it tempting at all?
Jamie: You will never see nude images of me. I want to appeal to both men and women. I hope that the men find it sexier when I leave something to the imagination and that women can relate to the desire to look and feel sexy. Besides, when I finally get married, I want my husband to feel good knowing that he's the only one that gets to see me in the buff.
T-Nation: Boooo! (Kidding, kidding... ) Future plans: First, what's coming up for you in the immediate future? Second, what are your long term goals?
Jamie: I have several projects I'm working on right now. I have a book that keeps evolving into different things, a 2007 calendar going to print in a few weeks, and lots of photo shoots to do.
Long term, I hope to have my own line of swimwear, have several of my online projects come to fruition, and move to Lake Travis in Austin, Texas, permanently.
T-Nation: Cool. Where can T-Nation readers go to find out more about you?
Jamie: Please visit my personal website at www.jamieeason.com. It'll soon have a different look and feel. I hope that once my website is up and fully functional that people will stop by to say hello.
T-Nation: Thanks for the chat today, Jamie!
Jamie: Thank you and thank you to the T-Nation folks for supporting me! I want to encourage anyone interested in adopting a healthier lifestyle and creating a better physique to set a goal and stick with it. It won't happen overnight, but it will eventually happen!
There's no magic pill, just consistency and the desire to change. I know that I can't be everything to everyone but if I manage to inspire one or two people, I think that's awesome! Again, thank you for all of your support and encouragement!