Overall winner Claudia Jovanovski
17December/2016

Overall winner Claudia Jovanovski

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The Under 35 and Overall winner Claudia Jovanovski 

To be an Oxygen cover girl has been a dream of Claudia Jovanovski’s for many years. You only need to hear what she did to make it to the finalists’ photo shoot to see how badly she wanted it. And it’s not only her journey to the shoot that shows the type of dedication this go-getter possesses. She has also overcome under-eating and being told she was too skinny to compete to go on to gain her Pro card in two federations, and she now helps other women transform their lives.

BY KIRSTIN CUTHBERT | PHOTOGRAPHY BY DALLAS OLSEN | HAIR BY JEN STEYN | MAKEUP BY LISA LEE 

“I believed if I ate one tablespoon of peanut butter, I would have to jump on a treadmill immediately or I would wake up fat. I was stuck in a vicious cycle, and living with these fears would make me feel depressed.” 

“I finally realised I was able to eat a wide variety of healthy foods and not do hours of cardio and not only stay slim, but build muscle and feel strong and healthy.” 

“Whether in body or mind, the infinite journey of transformation begins with just one step.” 

At the beginning of every year, Claudia Jovanovski writes a goal list of everything she would like to achieve over the next 12 months. She also writes down a number of ‘dreams’ — which she says are a little less attainable than the goals — and one of those was to be an Oxygen cover girl. However, this is no longer a dream on Claudia’s list, but a reality as she is the Under 35 winner and Overall winner of the 2016 Oxygen Cover Girl Competition!

While today she is a confident and healthy woman who knows what she wants, Claudia wasn’t always this way.

Growing up in Cape Town, South Africa, and attending an all-girls’ school, Claudia’s schoolmates would regularly swoon over underweight models on television and in fashion magazines. And, before long, she looked up to them too.

“For my whole life, the media had brainwashed me to believe that super-skinny was attractive,” she says.

“I believed the skinnier my body was, the more attractive my peers and others would find me. Needless to say, I became obsessed with calorie counting, under-eating and excessive cardio.

“Instead of worrying about the nutritional value of food, I would only consider the calorie and fat content in the food I was consuming. How it was made and why it could last on a shelf for a couple of years didn’t cross my mind for many more years.

“My diet in high school largely consisted of low-calorie, caffeinated, processed, artificially sweetened and highly addictive ‘foods’ such as diet sodas, low-calorie bars, chewing gum and sugar-free lollies.

“I also ate vegetables and occasionally some fruit. I would eat an entire cos lettuce drowned in low-calorie tomato sauce and a Diet Coke for lunch!”

Claudia’s weight plummeted to 42kg. She had a fear that eating carbs and fats would make her gain weight and if she ever consumed them, she would need to burn them off straight away.

“I believed if I ate one tablespoon of peanut butter, I would have to jump on a treadmill immediately or I would wake up fat,” she says. “I was stuck in a vicious cycle, and living with these fears would make me feel depressed.”

After finishing high school, Claudia found a friend who had a more positive influence on her, but her mindset continued to hold her back.

“I became friends with someone who was very close to a bikini competitor who I looked up to,” she says. “I expressed to her I’d like to compete and asked many questions about diet and training. 

“However, only 24 hours after the chat, I had managed to convince myself that I was not genetically built to look like any of those gorgeous, toned fitness competitors on stage. So I resumed my unhealthy, detrimental lifestyle.” 

Shortly after that, Claudia moved to Sydney. The change of countries saw Claudia approach her health differently, and it wasn’t long before she saw results. 

“I decided it was time for a change and slowly started eating healthy and doing regular exercise classes that included light resistance,” she says. 

“After only three or four weeks, I felt like a new person! I had more energy, I had a personality, and I felt strong and healthy instead of frail, tired and weak! 

After two years of eating well and doing regular gym classes, Claudia’s results plateaued and she found herself with new goals she desired to achieve.

“I wanted to have more muscles,” she says, “I wanted to be able to lift my own body weight and do pull-ups, I wanted to be able to walk confidently in a bikini on the beach, I wanted to compete in a fitness show and I wanted to feel comfortable in my own skin.”

She jumped online and found a gym and trainer who specialised in prepping models for fitness shows and immediately booked an appointment. Unfortunately, her first encounter was not what she was hoping for. 

“I was told I was too skinny and would never be ready to be on stage in three months,” she says. 

“At this stage, I had never lifted a weight in my life. The manager went on to tell me I would have to stop my Pilates and yoga training and only do weight training if I wanted to compete. 

“I walked out feeling heartbroken, but determined! I thought, ‘Stuff her opinion, I will step on stage in three months’, and so I did!” 

Two days later, Claudia began training with a well-respected personal trainer who had many years of experience in competition preparation and who had competed in several shows.

“I mentally prepared myself for making the decision to trust the process of eating more nutritious food and slowly including fats and carbs into my diet,” she says.

“After only a month on a well-balanced diet, I no longer had sugar cravings, my shoulders had filled out, my midsection had gotten a lot more lean and, best of all, I saw my abs for the first time in my life.

“I finally realised I was able to eat a wide variety of healthy foods and not do hours of cardio and not only stay slim, but build muscle and feel strong and healthy.”

After two months, Claudia was able to lift her own body weight — just one of the goals she had set out to achieve. And she has gone on to achieve all of her other goals too.

But her achievements haven’t stopped there. Claudia has secured her Pro card with the INBA (Las Vegas, USA, 2015) and the WBFF (Johannesburg, South Africa, 2016). 

She has also launched her own programs as a lifestyle coach and aims to help as many people as she can to find balance and develop lifelong wellness. 

Not to mention Claudia has also ticked ‘appear on the cover of Oxygen Magazine’ off her ‘dreams’ list too. She wants to inspire other women to make healthy lifestyle changes, to trust the process of transformation, and to love and nurture their beautiful bodies.

“Whether in body or mind, the infinite journey of transformation begins with just one step,” she says.

“One small step each day in the right direction is a goal in itself, and eventually multiple steps in the right direction create chances to make your dreams come true.”

 

Claudia’s journey to the Oxygen shoot 

“I had booked to be overseas from 21 August to 23 September and had planned to visit Toronto, Miami, Los Angeles and then Vegas for Olympia. When Oxygen contacted me to let me know I was shortlisted for the cover model finalists’ shoot on 30 August, I was thrilled. 

Reality set in two minutes later… I was competing at the WBFF Worlds in Toronto all day on 27 August, I’d lose half a day going to Gold Coast, as it’s 14 hours ahead, plus I’d spend around 24 hours on the plane, which would mean I’d have to cut my vacation short, leave the day after my competition, and go directly from the plane to the Oxygen studio to shoot. 

Further to that, I had a number of concerns such as water retention from the flight, the possibility of my spray tan from the show going blotchy, my hair and skin going oily, expensive fees to make flight changes — oh, and not to mention the potential exhaustion! But I decided to go for it. 

My boyfriend had only just arrived the night before my show and was willing to postpone our holiday together at the potential chance of me being an Oxygen cover girl. 

I worked with Oxygen to organise the domestic flights so I’d be at the Oxygen studio with enough time to have my hair and makeup done and shoot with photographer Dallas and the other girls. 

Then the trip to Oxygen HQ began. Toronto to LA was smooth and all went to plan. However, when I arrived in LA, they had shut down my terminal due to a false report of a gunman, which caused a huge amount of panic and delays. 

My LA to Sydney flight was delayed more than two hours, which resulted in me missing my Sydney to Gold Coast flight. My flight to the Gold Coast was now leaving at 12.05pm instead of 8.15am — almost four hours later than planned and at an additional cost. 

When I arrived in Sydney, my boyfriend told me he had booked a surprise flight to join him in Hong Kong for the evening of my Oxygen shoot. Unfortunately, the domestic flight to Melbourne was leaving at 4.50pm, which would mean I’d only have 20-30 minutes in front of the camera with Dallas, which would not be enough time. 

My boyfriend and I decided to cancel my flight to Hong Kong, as we had come this far to get me to the Oxygen shoot and I could not miss an opportunity like this. I eventually made it to the studio at around 2pm on 30 August and had an amazing time shooting with the other models. When I arrived, I was attended to immediately, with Lisa doing my hair styling and Jen on my makeup. Needless to say, Dallas got some amazing shots and my mess turned into a masterpiece!” 

CLAUDIA’S MEAL PLAN
Meal 1: 5 egg whites, 1 whole egg, half an avocado, mushrooms and green veggies
Meal 2: 150g white fish, 200g brown rice, kimchi and green veggies
Snack: Protein shake and an apple
Meal 3: 200g sweet potato, 150g white fish and lots of green veggies
Meal 4: 150g turmeric chicken breast cooked with coconut oil and lots of green veg
“If I get hungry in between meals or if I am up extra early for work or later than usual, I will normally have an extra protein shake and an extra serve of fruit.” 

CLAUDIA’S TRAINING WEEK
Monday: Quads and back
Tuesday: Posterior and shoulders
Wednesday: Rest
Thursday: Quads and back
Friday: Posterior and shoulders
Saturday: Full body
Sunday: Rest

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