Shift to healthy life­style leads to dra­matic trans­for­ma­tion

The Hamilton Spectator - - A & E - SH­ERYL NADLER

Her aha mo­ment came on a shop­ping trip to the mall, 80 pounds into what would be­come a 140-pound weight loss.

Tif­fany Janssen-McTag­gart stepped out of the Gap dress­ing room in a pair of navy walk­ing shorts and a pas­tel yel­low polo shirt, looked at her then-boyfriend, who shook his head and said, “Nope.” And off he went to find some­thing in her ac­tual size.

She was there grudg­ingly, she re­calls. Still try­ing to pull off a size 18 when she was ac­tu­ally a size 8/10, she re­fused to spend money on cloth­ing she knew wouldn’t fit in a few months. But her boyfriend in­sisted. And when she balked at wear­ing pieces that ac­tu­ally fit her new shape, feel­ing self­con­scious about ma­te­rial that fell close to her body, he in­sisted she take a real look at her­self in the mir­ror. And that’s when she fi­nally saw it.

“It sounds kind of silly but it was like, oh wow,” says the 35year-old who works for the fed­eral Depart­ment of Nat­u­ral Re­sources in non-de­struc­tive test­ing cer­ti­fi­ca­tion. “Be­cause I would al­ways, al­ways wear baggy cloth­ing be­cause I was try­ing to hide my­self. I wasn’t very con­fi­dent …

and af­ter that we went to a cou­ple of other stores and I bought some more clothes and, $300 later, I was like, this is go­ing to get re­ally ex­pen­sive.”

It wasn’t al­ways this way. In her teens and early twen­ties grow­ing up in Stoney Creek, back when she weighed 120 pounds, she would hit up Value Vil­lage for funky polyester grandma pants and ’70s-style blouses. Al­ways ex­per­i­ment­ing with fash­ion, she was at­tracted to the quirky and unique — out­fits that matched her huge per­son­al­ity.

But at some point in col­lege and univer­sity, when she was study­ing to be­come a so­cial worker, she be­gan to gain weight. Over a lit­tle more than a decade, she watched her­self grow to ap­prox­i­mately 280 pounds, de­vel­op­ing health prob­lems like high blood pres­sure and sleep ap­nea, with di­a­betes on the hori­zon.

She wanted to be­come healthy again — not just for her­self, but also for her daugh­ter Olivia, now six. So in early 2015 she un­der­went gas­tric by­pass surgery and a mas­sive life­style change. Cau­tioned by doc­tors that, if she didn’t change her life­style, she was at risk of re­gain­ing the weight a few years down the road, she threw her­self into healthy eat­ing and ex­er­cise.

“I went to the gym, I started cy­cling 20 kilo­me­tres a day, I got back into roller derby,” says Janssen-McTag­gart, who com­petes with the Hamil­ton Area Roller Derby. “I would run, I would walk … we would go on these three-hour hikes. We would go on epic bike rides ...”

These days, Janssen-McTag­gart is get­ting reac­quainted with her for­mer, quirky-style self. She os­cil­lates be­tween pro­fes­sional-look­ing shift dresses and funky uni­corn print tights, de­pend­ing on her mood. She’s al­ways on the hunt for un­con­ven­tional finds with a bit of an edge — like the dis­tressed skinny jeans from Old Navy she wears here with the origami crane print blouse she bought at Reit­mans. Her black moto-style boots are from Steps in East­gate Square, and she ac­ces­sorizes with a tiny pen­dant neck­lace that she bought from Fos­sil, as a treat, af­ter los­ing her first 50 pounds.

“When my girl­friends and I go out ei­ther to the out­lets or to the mall or some­thing like that and we go into these stores, it’s like, oh I want to try this on and oh I want to try that on,” says Janssen-McTag­gart, who also loves the hunt at Value Vil­lage. “My phone is full of screen shots of dif­fer­ent things from Pin­ter­est, and it’s re­ally be­come a lot of fun try­ing to see what I can come up with.” Most eye-catch­ing piece: Shoes. Be­cause when I’m putting an out­fit to­gether … I base a lot of out­fits around my shoes, as well as my mood. So if I’m in the mood for my Fer­ga­li­cious black heels, then I’ll base my out­fit around (them). Quirki­est wardrobe item: My Pac-Man tights. They’re black and they ba­si­cally look like some­body took the old school orig­i­nal Pac-Man game screen and printed it on a pair of tights. Com­plete with the fruit and the ghosts and every­thing. Wardrobe must-have: I ab­so­lutely love skinny jeans. Even when I was big­ger, I re­ally liked skinny jeans. And I think it was just be­cause you can wear them with any­thing. Best pur­chase: My Danier leather jacket. I bought it last fall and it still had the tags on it. The girl I bought it from had never worn it. She showed me the re­ceipts and every­thing and it was like a $500 jacket and I bought it for $50 on one of the Face­book groups. Re­grets buy­ing: I bought a cou­ple of those re­ally chunky sweaters that peo­ple often wear with tights ... and I think I wore the one once and the other one I never wore. I think those are the only two items I have ever re­gret­ted buy­ing. Loves to shop at: Mar­shalls ... Face­book or Ki­jiji or Value Vil­lage. I find I buy a lot of pants from (Value Vil­lage) be­cause they’re al­ready pre-shrunk and they don’t look brand new and they don’t have that weird chem­i­cal smell to them. Rid­ding her closet of: Any­thing that doesn’t fit. If I can’t sell it or give it away, I’ll hang on to it, just in case I gain weight back ... I was told that it is pos­si­ble, af­ter five to 10 years, to gain weight back if you don’t change your life­style. Splurges on: If it’s some­thing that re­ally catches my eye, I’ll splurge on it. ’Cause I don’t gen­er­ally get to buy a lot of stuff for my­self as a sin­gle par­ent.

Beauty prod­uct she can’t live with­out:

NYX Pore Filler Primer. And I don’t have to wear any­thing else, gen­er­ally … I could walk out of the house with just the primer and the mas­cara.

“I al­ways had the big­gest per­son­al­ity out of my friends,” says Tif­fany JanssenMcTag­gart. “When I started to gain weight, I started to be­come more of a wall­flower and try­ing to blend in … and try­ing to hide my­self.” Here she wears dis­tressed skinny jeans from Old Navy with a print blouse from Reit­mans fea­tur­ing origami cranes, black moto boots from Steps in East­gate Mall, and a pen­dant neck­lace from Fos­sil.

JanssenMcTag­gart wanted to be­come healthy again — not just for her­self, but also for her daugh­ter Olivia, now six.

PHO­TOS BY SH­ERYL NADLER, SPE­CIAL TO THE HAMIL­TON SPEC­TA­TOR

The black moto boots she bought from Steps in East­gate Mall was a “gotta have it!” pur­chase.

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