You think you know a person…especially if you have ever called them your best friend. Well, I didn’t know how much I didn’t know about Jasmin Singer…until I read her captivating new memoir, Always Too Much and Never Enough. Yes, I was there when she dipped her toe into veganism and when she embraced the animal activist inside her, and I witnessed her near 100-pound magical weight loss. I also knew she was a great writer. Well, after binge-reading her book, I could finally fully appreciate the hardship she has overcome and the laugh-out-loud, at times heart-wrenching work she has written that is inspiring people all over the world.
She is currently on her book tour but graciously took time to answer my burning questions.
The movie Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead was the inspiration for you to do your first juice fast. What does filmmaker Joe Cross think of your big change and has he read your book?
That movie was definitely pivotal for me in my journey. Joe provided me with a blurb for the book and looked at an early version of my manuscript. He’s nothing but supportive and wonderful, and I’m excited for the opportunity to point people who read my memoir to Joe’s program and films.
The first part of the book where you describe in painful detail how you were bullied in high school and in that summer camp in college is absolutely heartbreaking. It must have been hard to revisit those times and feel those feelings as you wrote. How did you cope?
During the actual writing process, I found there was a safe emotional distance between me and my words, probably because I was in “the zone” of my writing. It was often hours later, when I was in the middle of a work project that had nothing to do with my book, that I would start to feel what I soon realized were the ramifications of basically reliving those painful times. So I embraced the sad moments, and stepped up my self-care: I ate a lot of macro plates. I went running. I spent time with friends. And I always remembered how lucky I was to be able to share my story this way, and how putting it on paper leaves the potential for others to find healing from their pain.
It must feel so satisfying to have written a book that inspires so many. Have you heard from anyone from high school or that camp since you started juice fasting or since the book has come out?
I heard from a few people from high school, and a small handful of them even showed up at some of my events. Two people offered apologies for bullying me, which was meaningful and surreal.
Have you been inundated with juice fasting/whole foods vegan eating questions? Or with stories of other people who were bullied when they were little?
Oh yes. I’m completely humbled. People are regularly sharing deeply personal, oftentimes tragic, and frequently hopeful stories with me. I think we all just really want to be seen. We want someone else, who is a safe person, to hold our pain with us, even for a moment, and to tell us that we’re going to be just fine.
Your tour is taking you all over the world. Have you discovered any great new restaurants/dishes along the way? What are your tips to stay healthy on the road?
I’ve eaten at — and held book events — at restaurants throughout the country, from Greens in Phoenix, to Counter Culture in Austin, to Mud Pie Bakery in Kansas City. As a longtime New Yorker, I’ve been a real snob about big cities, but this tour is opening my eyes to the power of small cities to organize, and I’m experiencing first-hand the magic of tight-knit, grassroots vegan communities in the unlikeliest of places. Last week, I was lucky enough to be part of a book club discussion in Pittsburgh, where Always Too Much… had been the assignment. I sat in a totally packed basement of a book store and, just before we started the book discussion, just listened while all of these vegans (who were brought to that space thanks to the incredible organizing efforts of Vegan Pittsburgh) didn’t have to explain themselves or their veganism. I’m constantly impressed with how smaller cities band together in a way I’ve yet to see big cities do.
As for staying healthy on the road, these days I travel with a shaker bottle. I used to travel with a single serving electric travel blender but eventually found it was too clunky. I start every morning off with a healthy smoothie, usually using the shake powder I carry with me, mixed with water. And I have green powder in the mornings, too, when I’m on the road — unless I have access to an actual green smoothie with vegetables. I also go running wherever I am, even if it’s just for a half an hour. In addition to finding a great deal of mental clarity from that mixture of running and a wholesome breakfast, I also love looking at my running app on my phone to see all of the cities I’ve collected.
I read and listened to the audiobook from Audible. You were so lucky to have recorded it yourself, and as an actor it makes sense. How did you get to do that? What was it like recording and now listening to your own voice?
That experience was one of the best of my life. I had two different offers from audiobook publishers, but only one (Dreamscape) wanted me to be the narrator, so it was a no-brainer that I’d go with them. I couldn’t for the life of me imagining someone else reading my story, especially when — as you said — public speaking and theater is my background. The recording studio was fantastic and I was excited to see all of the audiobooks that had been recorded there (including Patti LuPone’s, a fact which nearly made me faint). Even though the whole thing is a bit otherworldly, I am able to grasp that people who choose to listen to the audiobook hear me talking about extremely intimate details of my life, because there’s a protective “fourth wall” keeping me from them. But I admit that during the actual recording process, there were times when I was all too aware of the audio technician in the room with me, listening intently to my words. It felt a little “too much” sometimes. I had to get over that pretty quickly though. Ultimately, the process of recording the book was, I’ve gotta say, extremely fun.
Your Teaching Jasmin How to Cook Vegan podcast seems like a great resource for people who need vegan how-to info. What are 3 cooking tips you can share from your first episodes?
Don’t overthink it. Just like anything else in life, sometimes you have to guess if this ingredient would be a good substitute for that ingredient. Your recipe might not rise, but you might then come up with something even better. (Talk about life metaphors.)
Not all temperatures were created equal. I’ve recorded in several different kitchens now (including yours!) and each oven recognizes temperatures differently, so invest in an oven thermometer.
Cooking does not need to be reserved for people who are talented in the kitchen. I just had to get over the notion that “I’m at bad cook” and I quickly realized that I have my charms in the kitchen, too. Sometimes it’s just a mindset that needs to shift.
Now that you know how to write a memoir, do you appreciate other memoirs you’ve read more? Got any favorites?
I loved Blackout by Sarah Hepola and Are You My Mother? by Alison Bechdel. Both are incredibly honest and surprisingly witty. They each explore topics that require equal parts self-scrutiny and a hope for a better version of oneself.