TRIGGER WARNING: you’re about to hear a lot of numbers: weight, calories, and time. This is a cautionary tale, not a “how to” checklist. I hurt myself in this process and I want it to be known I will never allow myself to be subjected to something like this again. If you or someone you know has eating issues, this article is not for you. But this website is.
I can never un-hear this phone call. “Hey Sam it’s [former managers name]. Listen they love you for [feature film lead #3] but they have a question, how would you feel about losing 10 pounds?”
Of fucking course I said yes. You would have too. The movie was a period piece set in the 20s, filmed on location not in LA, already had star names attached, and the script was relevant and a quality social commentary. Of course I said yes. Then came this part:
Did I ask any follow up questions? OF COURSE NOT. In hindsight I can think of so many questions: what’s the costume they have in mind, what area of my body is their ideal “weight loss” specific place, can I see a contract before I agree to spend a lot of time/money/energy losing 14% of my body weight at the time? But alas. I was 26 or 27 and so desperate to get a foothold of any kind. Plus I trusted my manger to only present me with professional work, so this had to just be the way it worked, right? Oh Sam. I won’t ever forget that I went to bed crying that night, knowing full well I had struggled with my body the majority of my life, including this experience and here I was still not good enough, still needing to work harder to be less. But I was determined to make it work this time.
The next day I called a nutritionist/trainer friend. I knew I could not do this alone and I needed accountability and someone to hold my hand. Now I do not want to put blame on her because I came to her with this insane timeline and she did the best she could. Here is where I will trigger some people. We made a fitness and a nutrition plan. Fitness was Hot Yoga 4-5x a week plus running, we virtually depleted my body of any type of weight training (something I had been doing previously). Nutrition was ~ 1,000 calories a day with 4 oz protein at each meal and very very little carbs (like not even fruit). We met every week to do a weight in/check in.
Please note, at the time my basal metabolic rate (according to the scanner we used) was ~1,400. So without moving my body, I was already way under my needed calories to keep my organs functioning.
I committed to this like you wouldn’t believe. I joined Hot 8 yoga in Beverly Hills. I found the perfect running spots and mapped them for mileage. I bought egg whites and plain chicken by the box. I depleted my schedule of anything besides work and fitness (my social life was basically removed from my calendar). I was on a mission. I was going to live what I thought the working actor life looked like! But I was also a monster.
I’m not kidding. I was an absolute nightmare. My mood swings were so far flung and all-encapsulating I had trouble doing my job (online customer service). I needed 45-60 minute naps at least once a day. All I thought about was food. At one point I was so tired in the grocery store desperately trying to find a substitute for ketchup I actually sat down in the aisle to read labels. I would cry sometimes watching Caleb make eggs with the yolk. He was a gem during this time. So patient and understanding. And thank GOD because I don’t know if I could have handled the reverse.
But I did it. I actually ended up losing 12 lbs in 3 weeks. Was I a shell of a human? You bet! But was I about to be a working actor. YES. I was ready to film this movie. Let’s go! Oh wait…
I was stuck in a holding period in a completely unsustainable lifestyle, the likes of which were melting me down slowly. Did I tell my reps this? Once again: of course not. I wanted to appear as the elite-level lead actress they could cast me as. Please enjoy this screenshot of a conversation 6-7 weeks after I had initially been asked to drop weight:
So what did my life look like in this holding period? Idk if I’d call it a life to be frank. I tried to stick as closely as possible to the plan and started allowing myself one “cheat day” which is a phrase and practice I have come to despise. I would buy my usual groceries and then throw in any item that sounded decadent to be saved for a Saturday or Sunday. Trader Joe’s cookie butter, pumpkin beer, chips, chocolate covered somethings, things I don’t even like but just craved in my depleted state. I also planned a photo shoot for editorial pictures, since I knew I wasn’t going to have any info on the film any time soon, why not photograph myself in this impossible-to-consistently-recreate state and use it on casting websites?? Ugh.
I’ll never forget a defining incident during this weird limbo time, where I planned a cheat day on a friend’s birthday. We had cake and drinks and BBQ and such a nice time…except I don’t remember much beyond the food (how sad is that). Some how a few of us unexpectedly ended up with tickets to a huge Amy Schumer comedy fest for the next day, it was a massive event with amazing guests and the whole thing was laid out like a state fair. HOW FUN! Except. I had not planned on two cheat days in a row. And once we were there, I realized my food and drink options were nil. But being around my friend who had zero emotional attachment to food and in such a fun environment, I let go. I had margaritas and fried food and so much fun.
Cut to 3:30am the next morning: I am awake in a full sweaty panic attack. WTF did I do. How do I cancel out these mistakes. I can’t sleep. I need to move. I need to move now. And not eat today. Like at all.
I ended up going to the first fitness class I could find at 5:15am.
Let me reiterate: after two fun laughter filled special nights with my best friends, I had a panic attack and self soothed with a 5am workout and a day of maybe 500 calories to punish myself. This was no life.
Did I learn my lesson from this incident? Did I stop dieting and consult a therapist to aid me in my recovery? Did I seek understanding of my body instead of constantly fighting with it on a daily basis? Did I learn to find exercise I liked and was sustainable that also complemented an on-camera body?
I am still in constant recovery from the ways I have treated myself. I am working with another nutritionist currently and seeking a lot of ways to take care of myself and my on-camera body without becoming that monster again. To do this I have had to block out a LOT of noise. I have muted a lot of friends on social media. I have turned down work that involved being “hot tub girl #2” because I am just NOT that girl. I have a manager who is on the same page as me. I am building a life around being comfortable in my skin. I would love to tell you that I am there, that I feel super chill about missing workouts or can eat out without thinking twice, but I’m not. Being an attractive women on camera [OR JUST BEING A WOMAN IN THE WORLD] comes with body-baggage. And learning to carry on or stow it properly is a lifelong pursuit.