Six Actor Health Traps (And How to Avoid Them)

07.03.13 - Six Actor Health Traps and How To Avoid ThemFor this week’s Acting Business Bite, I’m pleased to introduce guest writer Beth Wittig.  Beth is an actor and health-coach, and she shares why having a healthy acting career isn’t just about how many auditions you book or what industry professionals you know. It’s also about how to take care of your mind and body.

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Actors! Oh, hello there. Let me introduce myself. I am the ambassador for your bod. I am on the side of your soul. This industry is a tough place, and I’m here to advocate for your health.

Not all that many years ago, like many actors, I felt super stuck. I worked as an actor a few times a year and that felt great, but most of the time, I was in a fog. I felt like the energy was completely drained from my body. I worked out constantly, counted calories, and was at the end of my rope in a survival job that I hated. I constantly tried to manipulate and bend my body to my will, my idea of the “industry standard.” Because I could never quite reach that ideal, I said things to my body that I wouldn’t say to my mortal enemy. I lost my purpose in an ever-expanding black hole, which bled into my health, my finances, my relationships, and my work in the audition room.

What I now know, and what I wish I knew then, is this: It didn’t have to be this way.

Now, as a health coach, I work very closely with actors and entertainers to help them slim down naturally without guilt and deprivation so they can feel on-fire in their skin, their career and their craft.  I have been witness to some seriously destructive health traps repeatedly popping up in the acting community. Because I’ve been there and I’m super passionate about actor empowerment, I’m here to give you some real-deal tips to jump on out of the hole and into the highest version of yourself you can dream up.

1) Work WITH Your Body. Not against it.

In scene work, we can all appreciate a POSITIVE action, right? So, why do we pick a negative action when it comes to our bodies? Why do we try to take away from our bodies?

Our actions here are simple. Eat for energy. Eat for satiety. Eat to nourish our bodies.

Instead of depriving and calorie slashing, which leads to restriction/binge, metabolic imbalance, chronically low-energy and emotional distress, choose foods that help to energize your body and balance your hormones, so it is easy to have an intuitive relationship with hunger/fullness and optimize the function of that beautiful body machine of yours.

When we eat for energy, we choose foods that make us feel light, productive, like we are moving forward and we are more likely to make choices that continue this feeling. When we eat an excess of energy-sapping foods or food-like products (sugar, refined carbohydrates, processed junk) we feel heavier, less productive, more lethargic and, in this state, we continue to make energy-sapping choices because we feel like crap. We start to become psychologically and physically addicted to this energy-sapping food product. These are the same choices that throw hormones out of whack and cause us to gain weight, even WHEN we are slashing calories.

Especially as actors, our bodies serve as our vessels through which we express our art. They are our vehicles to DO and FEEL. The more we try to manipulate them or use them as currency for validation and as a punching bag, the more they will start to check out. When they are over-exercised, under-fed and bashed with insults, they start to contract and shut down. We are then psychologically and physically primed for binges, weight-gain and body rebellion.

Treat your body as if it is someone you are in a reciprocal relationship with.

Focus on the foods that give you sustainable energy, that make you FEEL incredible past the first few bites, and excess weight will naturally start to fall off. Bring energy-rich foods into your diet, instead of cutting foods out. Start adding in clean foods one by one, ever couple of weeks until it becomes habit. One week, add in more leafy green vegetables, then more low-glycemic/slow-burning carbohydrates, then more clean proteins, more mono-unsaturated fat and you will naturally start to crowd out the crap.

Weight-loss becomes effortless because your body starts to hard-core crave clean food. Your hormones balance and energy skyrockets. When I work with clients, we create this lasting change over time. Incremental change = sustainable change. This is one of the reasons diets don’t work long-term and 98% of dieters gain the weight back within six months.

It Starts With Food by Dallas and Melissa Hartwig is an excellent book to understand how the body works and which foods are optimal for energy. Empower yourself with knowledge.

P.S. When your hormonal system is balanced, your skin miraculously clears up for those on-camera auditions. Added bonus.

2) Find an exercise practice that provides you with a soul-connection.

Working out to stay/get skinny gets old real fast. Working out for a deeper reason is much more sustainably motivating. Choose exercise that enriches another area of your life; your spirituality, community, purpose or creativity. Your sculpted and lean body is merely a bi-product of a bigger action.

Mark Fisher Fitness in New York City has embraced this idea and run with it. Their gym serves as a clubhouse (filled with glitter and unicorns) for the NYC theater actor base. Their catch phrase is “Ridiculous Humans. Serious Fitness.” (They even have something called Porn Star Prom y’all). Not only do their clients get serious results, but they have fun, socialize, and as a result, gain a whole new group of friends and supporters. Suddenly, people’s tanks are filled in more than one area when they hit the gym. When exercise is a body AND SOUL practice, hitting the gym is a no brainer.

One of my clients raves, “I never thought I would be ugly crying because a boot camp is over. I now have a family and community that makes me feel loved and supported, that makes me laugh and encourages me to sing and cry through workouts and that it’s totally normal.”

Check them out at www.markfisherfitness.com. They rock.

3) Get a coach or therapist.

I promise I’m not just pimping myself out here. I have reaped the incredible benefits of having a coach myself.

Find a coach or therapist who speaks your language, who you feel safe with and who understands your struggles. Acting tends to attract some seriously passionate and sensitive people.  Combined with the inevitable rejection, the entertainment industry is rife with pitfalls for actor self-abuse, shut down and disempowerment. Everyone needs someone who can hold the space for change and growth, who can support them, stretch them and call them on their bull-dinky (my mother’s word). That is why I also have a coach. She has saved me from myself at least 35 times.

4) Get rid of the SHOULDS.

If you want to feel more empowered in your career, your body and your life, start getting rid of the SHOULDS.

I should be 20 pounds thinner.
I should look for an agent.
I should be making more money.
I should move to NY.
I should stay in LA.
I should work harder on my craft.
I should have a survival job I don’t like so I stay hungry for acting.

Should is an evil word and completely shuts out possibility. It cuts us off from our truth and sets the tone for living by someone else’s rules. Replace your SHOULD with COULDS.

I could____________, if I wanted to, so why aren’t I?

There are no right or wrong answers. It is your choice as to what sacrifices you are willing to make today for tomorrow. Maybe you don’t want to lose that 20 pounds because you resent the idea of “industry standard”! Ask the difficult questions, crack open your heart, align with your truth (it lives in your body, not your head) and start to make choices based on how you feel when you investigate the COULDS.

5) Deal With Your Stress

This ain’t no joke. Stress is health enemy #1. It is especially harmful for actors because our bodies are one of our most important tools for success.

When we experience stress, whether it is emotional or physical, our body can’t really tell the difference between stress and physical danger. In other words, every time you get a call from your agent and have a panic response because you have to find a cover for your babysitting job, your body releases adrenaline and then cortisol because it thinks you are running from a bear. When our bodies release cortisol and adrenaline, our immunity is compromised, our metabolism slows and insulin levels increase (the fat storage hormone). We accumulate belly fat and become more susceptible to sickness, acne and exhaustion.

Making preemptive stress relief a part of our daily life can help us to stay calm and stay in the moment.  This includes breathing exercises, exercise, meditation, yoga, journaling and seeking support to talk it all out. Without these steps, it becomes easy to start to depend on booze, food, and “recreational methods” that may lead us down a path to addiction.

6) Ditch the Survival Job. Find a Thrival Job.

Words have power. Get rid of the word “survival” and replace with “thrival.” Cheesy, yes, but stay with me here. Just because you are an actor doesn’t mean you need to condemn yourself to soul-sucking work. A lot of people stay in survival jobs they hate because they want to stay “hungry,” but for many, it doesn’t make them hungrier. It just makes them feel more stuck, more disempowered and more desperate. Others are worried they will discover that they actually LIKE something else better. If that is the worst thing that can happen, that is kind of awesome information to have.

A casting director friend of mine recently said, “The most attractive thing about an actor is when it seems they have somewhere better to go when they leave the audition room.”  It’s up to you to create that “somewhere better.”

If the job path you have chosen is leaving you miserable, it may be time to think out-of-the-box and cultivate a skill you can build alongside your acting that allows financial flexibility. Actors are some of the most communicative, savviest, smartest and innovative people in the work force.

These are incredible traits that can be applied to any number of industries. The more you learn, the more you experience, the more of a whole person you bring into the room.

One of my clients recently became a Pop-Physique instructor. It provided her with security and a ton of empowerment. She brought that empowerment into the room with her. Her pilot just got picked up.

If this information resonates with you, please take a moment to come visit my site and blog at www.bethwittig.com. If you are interested in slimming down without deprivation, join me for your complimentary Breakthrough Session. Email me at coach@bethwittig.com.

Rock On and Be Well,
Beth

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Beth Wittig is an actor and health-coach.  She spreads her message of body empowerment both nationally and internationally as a tele-coach, teaching actors to slim down naturally without guilt and deprivation so they can feel on-fire in their bodies, their craft and their careers. She also holds seminars through The Savvy Actor, Mark Fisher Fitness, Rutgers University, and countless wellness centers in the NYC area.

Connect with Beth and her work at www.bethwittig.com.

 

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