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The Not-So-Starving Actor

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The Not-So-Starving Actor
You've surely heard the term "starving actor" more times than you'd like to count. However, for the many actors lucky enough to benefit from the provisions of craft services, the opposite problem often abounds. With so much food at your fingertips, it may be difficult to choose the healthy stuff and treat your body well while at work.

According to L.A.-based nutritionist and certified personal trainer Thomas Roe, avoiding the junk food from craft services can be difficult for everyone on set, not just the actors. To keep from eating some of the less-healthy foods available to you, Roe suggests looking for choices such as nuts, fruits, and raisins for snacks; salads for lunch; and protein with vegetables for dinner. Craft services will often provide you with a choice of several options. In order to maintain a healthy diet throughout the shoot, carefully weigh these choices before ordering. "Sometimes it takes a lot of restraint, if you're starving and all the good food is gone," says actor Gena Shaw, who tries to fill up on water as much as possible when hungry in between meals. "Food, snacks, and soft drinks are never a shortage on set, so I do recommend all my actors have their own water bottles and access to smart snacks like nuts, dried fruits, sliced veggies, cherry tomatoes, and cucumbers close by or in their trailer, for those frequent hunger strikes or between scenes," says Roe.

If you're shooting any type of scene that requires you to eat while filming, it may be even harder to stick to a healthy diet regimen. If you're doing a McDonald's commercial or something of the like, who knows just how many bites of that juicy cheeseburger you may be forced to swallow? Sometimes the fake chewing just doesn't look real, and you'll have to eat bite after bite of whatever food you're presenting.

For Shaw, who has a national cereal commercial currently running, the trick is in the spit buckets. "They always offer them, and I always accept," she says, explaining that she'll act like she's taking a bite and swallowing when really she's just taking a bite, then doing her best to act as though she swallowed it. In reality, the food is tucked in her cheek, and as soon as the take is over, she'll just spit it out. For her cereal commercial, Shaw found that during certain takes she was unable to fake a swallow and had to ingest the bites. Sometimes the take would just last too long, and she'd have to swallow the cereal before it was over. And other times the food would soften in her mouth before she was able to finish her lines. "It was my favorite cereal, but I ate so much of it in the course of six hours that I couldn't eat it for months afterward," she says.

To keep from having to take a ton of real bites, Shaw has a few tricks to fall back on. If you don't have a line coming up before the end of the take, she recommends tucking the food in your cheek and keeping your mouth shut until you can spit the food out. She also advises actors to ask the director if there are any takes during which it would be best to actually swallow the bite of food. Sometimes, she points out, the actor will just be in the background or the shot will be from the back, making it less important that the actor really be eating. However, ingesting the food may be more vital for a straight-on shot of the actor taking a bite.

In cases such as these, when using the spit bucket may not be a viable option, Roe recommends balancing your diet throughout the day by drinking lots of water and eating food with lean protein and high fiber to help expel the toxins from the less-than-healthy foods. Obviously, staying well-hydrated is a good choice for many reasons, but if you've had to consume unhealthy food on the job, Roe says drinking lots of water will help to flush the body.

No matter what, Roe strongly advises actors never skip a meal. "Trying to do anything hungry is a huge hurdle, especially remembering lines and hitting your mark on the set. I suggest eating a light breakfast of non- or low-fat yogurt with granola for a morning starter prior to going on camera," says Roe.

At the end of the day, the goal is to have acted well without making yourself sick to the stomach. However, if you actually are a starving actor, then perhaps you needn't worry about dietary restrictions. "If you're really hungry, just eat," encourages Shaw. After all, a healthy body is much more marketable than an unhealthy one.

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