I used to be an actress. By the time I was 23 I did back to back national tours playing Scout and Anne Frank in adaptations of “To Kill A Mockingbird” and “The Diary of Anne Frank.” I lived in New York City and did classical theatre Off Broadway. But I really wanted to get into television and film. Who doesn’t want to be a movie star, right?
Well, here’s the thing: A photograph adds 10 lbs. to your look; video adds 20 lbs. So if you want to make it in LaLa Land, you need to be extra crispy thin. My problem was that I liked extra crispy fried chicken. Not a good mix.
Don’t get me wrong, I was size 6 in New York, but before I moved to LA I went on a fitness kick hardcore. I was 25. I had never eaten well and could not afford a gym membership, but I really wanted to make it, so my roommate Erin helped me devise a meal plan of sorts.
She told me to eat six times a day and do cardio. She said I could have fruit in the morning and vegetables in the afternoon and I would need to switch from regular Pepsi to Diet Pepsi. My mom let me take her unused stepper machine to my Queens apartment (that was a fun subway ride) and I also bought kickboxing and yoga videos.
This was my routine every single day for six months:
- 7 a.m.: Maple & brown sugar instant oatmeal, coffee with non-dairy creamer and Equal
- 9 a.m.: Raisins
- 11 a.m.: Salad (lettuce, cucumbers, carrots,) chicken, Diet Pepsi
- 1 p.m.: Celery sticks, carrot sticks
- 4 p.m.: Baked potato with I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter Spray
- 6 p.m.: Pasta with cheese (!) and a glass of milk
- Exercise 1 hour on stepper, then do 1 hour exercise videos
- 9 p.m.: Air popped popcorn with butter spray and salt (?!?)
I got down to 107 lbs, the thinnest of my life (at that point.) Looking back at my diet I see so many flaws! It seriously lacked protein. Not sure why cheese every night seemed like a good idea to me, but at 25 my metabolism was able to handle it.
I was much toned and had some success. I was on an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (see clip above) and also did a Ford commercial. But my career fizzed out and so did my diet and exercise regiment, for various reasons.
When I wasn’t following my meal plan I would try any yo-yo diet out there, including diet pills and water pills, especially if I had an audition.
Being an actress is tough on the ego. You walk into a room filled with other people who look exactly like you…only better. Taller, thinner, better curves, bigger smiles. Talent only takes you so far.
The best body image compliment you could ever receive from someone was, “You look like you’re 99 lbs. soaking wet.” Whenever I heard that my heart would soar because it meant I was thin enough to book a job.
Some people would say, “That’s not fair; they should book based on talent.” But that’s the industry. The industry is based on looks and if you want to be in the game you have to play by their rules.
Well, at least those were the rules in 1999. Today I see a broader range of body types on TV. I think reality TV has opened doors to allow all types of body compositions into the mix, which is helpful for both viewers and actors.
My trainer is trying to help me get over the “99 lb. soaking wet” ideal, but it’s hard to get rid of ideas ingrained in your psyche for so long. But I’ll get there.
How about you? What is your opinion about the media with respect to body image?
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