HERE'S WHAT HAPPENED
I went to acting class one night feeling good.
I'd eaten my dinner and a few squares of low-sugar dark chocolate for dessert.
I attended the night session at the time, so you either took your dinner with you to eat on break or ate before you left.
This was the first time I'd eaten before class, and it was so nice walking in hands free.
I thought, "Surely I can go a few hours without stuffing my face."
I sometimes track my food to make sure I'm getting all of the appropriate nutrients in terms of micro nutrients (calcium, potassium, etc).
That day, I had eaten all of my needed calories. My results in my app were looking good.
Then I performed my scene.
And. Holy. Freaking. Crap.
I could've eaten a cow!
Before I tell you this next part, I need you to understand that I cut out sugar years ago.
Most of the sugar in my diet comes from naturally occurring sugars like you find in fruit or even cashews. Yep. Cashews have about 2g of naturally occurring sugar per ounce.
If I do have additive sugars, it's something natural like maple syrup, honey, or coconut sugar and in limited quantities.
In the case of my chocolate, it has organic cane sugar (which is still just sugar btw), but contains very small amounts per serving.
I haven't drunk sodas in years. I don't eat candy bars. I only use stevia to sweeten my morning coffee and afternoon herbal tea.
Good stevia like I use doesn't even have sugar in it.
At one point when I tried a low carb diet, my daily sugar intake was only 7g.
Basically, I do not have a sweet tooth.
But when I walked out into the lobby during our class break that night, someone brought baked goods.
I just stood there and stared at them.
"I could eat every single one of these freaking cupcakes right now."
I had already eaten all of my calories for the day, plus chocolate!
I realized because of that fact that something else must be happening in my body to make me feel that way.
Have you ever taken a break during acting class, only to devour all of the baked goods someone brought, or left at the end of class feeling like you could eat a cow?
There's a reason acting class is working against your healthy eating plans, and I'll give you a few ways to combat it.
But first, you need to understand why this is happening.
Disclosure: Hey Actor Boss, I have affiliate links in this post, which means at zero extra cost to you, I make a commission if you purchase through my link. I made the decision to add affiliate links so I can keep this blog up and running, but I only link to products I know, use, and trust and would recommend to you in face-to-face convo.
WHY YOU'RE HUNGRY
Acting class can create a whirlwind of emotions.
For starters, you're psychologically preparing yourself for constructive criticism whether you realize it or not.
You know it's coming. That's the point of class!
I hope you're in a safe space with a good instructor that understands the difference between being abusive and being constructive.
Even if that is true, though, and you're getting solid constructive criticism, it can still have an impact on your emotions because we tend to process our notes as us doing something wrong.
The good news is that there really is no right or wrong in acting (unless you're not pursuing an objective), only different--different choices or actions. A good acting coach will remind you of that.
You're also getting notes in front of your peers.
Hearing other people's notes can still be helpful to us, and we don't think anything of it when we're watching another actor get notes.
We're rooting for them to "get it."
We want them to succeed because we've been in their shoes.
Still, we forget that truth, and it feels weird when you're the one in front of the class getting notes.
Lastly, you're pushing yourself to be vulnerable in ways you may not normally show a room full of people.
That can sometimes be embarrassing, which adds to your emotional overload.
If you're putting yourself through intense emotional exercises such as dramatic sense memories, you are drastically increasing your levels of cortisol.
In other words, you're getting a serious adrenaline rush during class.
Once those cortisol levels drop, it's the same feeling you would get after an emergency or intense workout.
Your body needs to refuel, and cortisol makes us crave fatty and sugary foods because of its effect on our insulin levels.
While this can create some physical symptoms of hunger, it can also cause us to eat emotionally.
PHYSICAL VS EMOTIONAL HUNGER
Let's look at the difference between physical hunger and emotional hunger so we can identify how to address our hunger pangs.
SNACK OPTIONS FOR ACTORS
I want to share a few of my tips on how I've personally combated this issue.
Option 1: Pack a meal with healthy fats.
If you take something sugary, that can also spike your insulin which will compound the cravings issue.
The type of fat you eat matters. Not all fats are equal.
Let's address the definition of healthy fats because there's been a lot of confusion and debate around this topic in recent years.
Major scientific studies have now been released that challenge the status quo of a low fat diet.
Check out this infographic from Cosmopolitan that has a great breakdown of the various types of fats from healthiest to least healthy.
My hubby and I use either a bento box or these Pyrex glass food storage dishes to pack our food.
I love the Pyrex because it's oven, microwave, and freezer safe.
Although, I don't use microwaves, so I can't speak to that personally. Our first house didn't have one, so I acclimated to life without it.
Try this meal: salad mix, raw sunflower seeds, no sugar added balsamic vinaigrette, grass fed burger, and avocado.
Option 2: Pack a snack.
I like having a healthy snack on hand when I leave class.
Try this snack: Emerald unsalted almonds
I chose unsalted because most Americans eat entirely way too much sodium.
According to this Live Science article:
"Americans consume an average of 3,466 milligrams (mg) of sodium per day, more than twice the current recommended limit."
Option 3: Pack a protein shake.
This Harvard article states:
"At each meal, include foods that deliver some fat, fiber, and protein. The fiber makes you feel full right away, the protein helps you stay full for longer, and the fat works with the hormones in your body to tell you to stop eating."
I personally love and use Garden Of Life Sport Organic Plant-Based Protein Vanilla. Listen, I love chocolate (see intro), but this is one instance when the Vanilla is actually better.
My very simple shake recipe is:
Option 4: Take herbal tea with you.
If you have a good thermos, you can keep hot herbal caffeine free tea in your car to drink on the way home.
I bought this Ello thermos, and it has been worth every penny.
It keeps my drinks hot for hours.
I can seriously brew my tea, keep the lid shut on this thermos, leave it in my car for the entirety of class, and it's still hot when I get out and open it for the first time.
Herbal teas have a ton of health benefits. WebMD has a great article on teas.
I choose chamomile tea if I'm taking a night class because it makes me calm and helps me get to sleep faster after my emotional highs from class.
Please be careful about your tea ingredients. The ingredients should just have the herbs listed.
I've seen a crap ton of gross ingredients on tea boxes, including soy. Soy? That is not an herb. Why is it in my tea?
You also don't need flavoring if the brand is using good herbs.
Typical caffeine free herbal teas include, chamomile, peppermint, and white.
Try this tea: I personally like Celestial Chamomile Tea.
Option 5: Stay hydrated.
This isn't really optional. You should definitely do it.
Getting dehydrated can also stress your body and increase cortisol.
Additionally, being dehydrated can trick you into thinking you're hungry.
This Health.com article states:
"Mild dehydration is often masked as feelings of hunger, when really your body just needs fluids," says Alissa Rumsey, RD, spokesperson for the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Make sure you always have a water bottle with you.
I love my Ello glass water bottle. Mine has a silicone sleeve to protect it from breaking, and it's dishwasher safe.
I think the updated versions of my Elsie style bottle no longer have sleeves.
I try to drink half my body weight in ounces of water per day, more if I sweat.
Don't forget that you'll need enough water for your commute, not just class.
KNOW YOUR OWN BODY
Since everyone's body chemistry is different, our bodies react to foods in different ways.
Ultimately, you need to know the foods that your specific body likes and dislikes because that can also affect emotional eating via hormones.
I have personally tried food elimination diets with great success, although I really want to try EverlyWell's Food Sensitivity Test.
I suggest you try your own elimination diet or get a food sensitivity test.
My husband and I cycle various diets a lot because I get bored.
We've tried to go vegan and vegetarian a few times, but I started have strange reactions.
For starters, by eating and them eliminating grains, I realized they made me bloated. When you need plant based protein, grains are important.
Quinoa is king, but it made me so gassy no matter what!
Soy is also crucial for protein on plant based diets, so I tried various types of organic soy.
I made sure that nothing else in my diet had soy.
I started feeling depressed, almost like I was in a constant state of PMS. For those of you that have PMS, you know it makes you want to emotionally eat!
So I eliminated all forms of soy, and I felt fine again.
It turns out, soy has estrogen in it, and my body is estrogen dominant.
So if I had continued eating soy, it would've made my acting class emotional cravings even crazier.
Let me tell you what else happened to me recently.
There's a particular restaurant in my area that I love called Viva Chicken.
One week last month I was so crazy busy, I literally had Viva Chicken every single day.
My husband was for real over it.
Then that same weird depression PMS emotional eating hit, except it was so bad this time that I thought, "I'm either pregnant (not likely) or I have a brain tumor." I felt that tired!
Viva Chicken released their allergen menu, and guess what?
It turns out, for whatever reason, that all of their chicken contains soy! I mean why? Meat does not and should not have soy. I digress.
Do you want to know what's even crazier? I started my period an entire week early because of the soy's effects on my estrogen.
So now I have to break up with Viva Chicken's chicken. (Insert cry face emoji).
Again, this all comes back to you knowing what foods are ok for you to eat so that you can stay your healthiest after those emotionally intense classes.
Have you ever tried an elimination diet? I'd love to hear about your experience it in the comments.
You'll need to get somewhere private after your scene to stretch and focus your mind.
Then walk yourself through the physical and emotional hunger symptoms to isolate which one you're having.
It's important to go through the hunger comparisons even if you take healthy snacks so that you don't emotionally eat after you get home.
Do you feel like you have emotional eating symptoms based on the comparisons in this post?
I realized I did after seeing those definitions for the first time, and just being able to recognize emotional eating has made a huge difference in my eating habits.
Comment below to let me know if this has been true for you.
Next week we'll discuss a technique to help you let go of an audition once you leave.
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HEY ACTOR BOSS,
I'm a screen actor and certified goals coach focused on helping other screen actors that are not yet a household name achieve their most urgent goal.