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.
I was looking forward to reading this blog although I’m sure it was hard for you. Thank you for writing it, Sam and surfacing those demons to help others in the industry who will definitely face this. Headshot prep alone make people go crazy! I appreciate you sharing your story. Here’s to hoping your day is full of beauty and maybe a cheeseburger ,)
And what’s crazy is you don’t even see your body for headshots,
Damn good post, so relatable. I love, admire and applaud your raw vulnerability ❤️
Thank you for writing this 🙂
O. My.G-D. When I got to the part about the movie never being made. I’m sure celebrities go through this all the time and are applauded for it. Didn’t Beyoncé famously go on the Lemonade diet for ten days before filming DreamGirls? Thanks for sharing this. It could not have been easy to share but trust you helped a lot of people by doing so!
Beyoncé also touted being vegan before Coachella to get her body ready. That has and will always bother me to my core.
Oh girl, as someone who never had food issues, my first thought was “why would she continue on that diet? Going back to eating 1400 isn’t going to make you suddenly gain the weight back, she could absolutely increase her calories, get healthy, and maintain the weight loss, and if she doesn’t, she can always lose it again when the film does finally have a set shoot date” but I realize that eating disorders aren’t logical and don’t work like that.
Ahhh this pretend Maintenance Phase lol
Thank you for sharing this, you aren’t alone. So happy you have a new manager who supports you and your health!
Me freakin too
Sam, this is such am important message, and a powerful story. I hope your metabolism managed to recover and your organ function went back to normal. I was an elite lightweight rower for the US for a few years, and did this same thing to my body for most of my early 20s (not quite as extreme with the calorie restriction, and I was burning an average of ~3,500 calories a day with training and restricting daily by about 500) for more than a year. I ended up nearly ruining my reproductive system permanently, and caused severe digestive system damage as well. I did all of it because our head coach told me I was just a bit too small to ever make it as an Elite competitive open-weight rower, so if I wanted to make it to the world championship team, I had to go lightweight. The digestive problems ended up being the main reason why I ultimately had to quit training as an elite lightweight rower. Now having entered the entertainment industry, this just tells me people might never stop asking me to be leaner… If you ever want to do a podcast about dieting, over-exercise, and body issues, I would be more than happy to join the discussion from an athlete’s perspective.
I love your vulnerability to be able to talk about it, and strive to do the same.
Damn girl, that is a crazy ask that I feel like goes unnoticed so much of the time. It’s so important to figure out what baggage you’re carrying vs what you’ve been told to carry!