Empathy for the Men, the Skinny, and Those Who Need to Gain Weight

On April 1st, 2012, I took a break from packing up my bags for my next contract and met my friend Hernando for dinner. We met at the Brother Jimmy’s on 92nd and 3rd (the one that no longer exists, RIP) to catch up on life.

Now, I hadn’t seen Hernando in a few weeks. So when he walked in, 15 pounds heavier than the last time I saw him, I was shocked.

In the best way possible.

You see, like many of my male friends in the performing industry, Hernando has always been skinny. Too skinny.

Now, if you’re glancing over at your fridge right now – the fridge that you’ve covered in cut-outs of Victoria’s Secret models and magnets that say “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels” – wondering if being too skinny is a thing, just hear me out.

Being too skinny is actually a thing. Seriously, it’s a thing. For boys especially, it’s a THING.

These days, when artistic teams are casting shows like Anything Goes or The Little Mermaid, they are looking for beefy, broad-shouldered men to play their sailors and their ensemble men. And although a lot of my skinny friends can dance circles around the beefy men, they have a harder time getting cast. Being skinny makes them look younger. Sometimes it makes them look weaker. And so they have a hard time.

I’ve found that even I am a culprit of turning up my nose at the skinny boy stereotype. When I’m choreographing a show, and I sit behind the table, I look at a skinny dude and wonder if he’ll be able to lift the girls.

After all, as a 5’7″ woman, I have been paired up with skinny men during musical numbers wondering if they can even lift my thigh, much less pick my ass up and throw me over their shoulder.

But they do it.

Appearances are very misgiving. The skinny boys are strong, they just don’t LOOK strong.

And in a business that is based on looks more than 60% of the time, looking strong is kind of key.

So what the hell are they supposed to do?

Well, I’ll tell you what some of them do.

Hernando decided he wasn’t going to sit around and be too skinny to be cast.

So, over my dinner of a house salad and a beer, and his dinner of two chicken breasts, mashed potatoes, and a green vegetable I can’t remember, he told me about his process to gain weight.

He has been working out with a personal trainer for three days a week for over a year and a half.

And he eats 3200 calories a day.

3200 calories, people.

He drinks two protein shakes each day that are 900 calories a piece. In addition to those shakes, he eats three meals each day, and when he can, he eats high calorie protein bars as snacks.

Problem is, he has a hard time eating enough because he’s just not always hungry for all that stuff.

Remember when I said to listen to your body and only eat when you’re hungry?

Well, here this guy is, having to force himself to eat when he’s not hungry just to keep his weight up.

If he doesn’t keep track and eat all his calories, he could lose two pounds in a day and a half just because his metabolism is so insane.

His eating regimen sort of sounds like diets I’ve been on – if I don’t track and eat the right amount of calories, my weight is affected. Just, in the complete opposite direction.

So, really, it’s all relative.

The body confidence journey has been just as hard for Hernando as it has been for me, just in different ways.

And like I said from the very first blog post, we all have our shit.

That night, when I left Hernando after dinner, I went home, finished packing, binged on some Nutella, and went to bed. I flew out the next day to Hilton Head, South Carolina for a two month contract.

While rehearsing and performing down in SC for two glorious months, I saw the boys I lived with get up and go to the gym religiously six days a week.

The boys on this contract were those beefy, broad-shouldered men in the biz.

And while I ran on the treadmill every day, I watched the boys skip right over the cardio machines to go lift. I cursed them every. single. day. I knew they were lucky, and I knew I was not. That’s all I saw.

What I have learned is, these boys don’t go to the gym to lose weight. They go to maintain their weight. They have worked so hard to put extra mass onto their shoulders, their arms, their pecks, and their legs in order to be cast as the beautiful, muscular men that you see on stage when you see a show. But they have to maintain it. If they don’t go to the gym and lift, they lose the muscle. And some of them end up back in the skinny boy body they started with.

And yes, they can eat whatever they want, but they are also expected to maintain a certain level of muscular stature to be accepted into the roles they want to play.

It’s taken me years to realize that everyone has a story. Everyone has something body-related that they have to deal with.

Have you ever thought about all this crap before?

I, personally, had never thought about it this way. I was too busy focusing on all the pizza those boys were eating that I couldn’t have – but would eat anyways when they went to the beach – that I didn’t realize they don’t have it easy either. I have always been focused on how hard life is for me. I never looked up to see that everyone around me has their own struggle too.

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Listen up, people.

People work really fucking hard to make it in this business.

Hernando dedicated his time, energy, and money to gain 25 pounds in the past year and half. Not only do I admire his drive and his bravery – I also drool over his pecks.

The guy friends I worked with in Hilton Head are still hitting up the gym every day. And you know what? They’re booking jobs at Goodspeed Opera House. Going on tour. Being called back for Pippin.

For all the time I have spent counting calories and doing Ab Ripper X, they have spent the same amount of time adding weight to their lift routine and drinking protein shake after protein shake.

We do what we have to do. We all just have different things to do than the people that surround us.

So next time you’re in spin class, swearing at the instructor and wishing she had pressed repeat on “Blurred Lines” – cuz that song is so fucking baller – maybe you can find solace in the fact that your best guy friend is at the gym, trying to add five pounds to his entire regimen because he didn’t book Chicago yesterday. The sexier, taller guy with bigger pecks than him did.

We all have our shit dude.

Let’s remember that we’re all in this together.

Throw some encouragement out to each other. If you go to Mark Fisher fitness this week (and amen for Mark Fisher Fitness – LIKE AMEN Y’ALL) and you’re in class with people of all shapes and sizes, keep in mind that you’re all there for different reasons. If you’ve been too nervous to go to Mark Fisher Fitness because everyone there is a muscle daddy and they all did Broadway Bares, call their asses up and ask them some questions. Those people are the nicest fucking people I have ever talked to. They’re just very into making you feel awesome about yourself. I am willing to bet that they’ll help you figure out when to go to class, and how to not feel shitty about working out next to a girl that’s been going to every Snatched in Six Weeks program since the beginning. Not everyone that goes there is there to lose weight. Some of them go to gain it. So comparing yourself to them is not helpful to your well-being.

If you have no idea what the fuck Mark Fisher Fitness is, you can still throw some encouragement out to each other. If your friend is never willing to go for a run with you, consider that maybe it’s because they spend an hour and a half lifting every day. And they don’t do cardio because if they do, they’ll burn all the calories they consumed in their Sun Warrior Raw Protein-blueberry-banana-chia seed-peanut butter shake this morning.

Next time your friend orders two chicken breasts and fries and you hate them for it, just keep in mind that if they eat a salad with you, it throws off their entire eating regimen.

Isn’t that crazy?

Yea, maybe it’s crazy. But we all have something we have to do to to make ourselves marketable. And if it’s not for the performing industry, maybe it’s for dating. Maybe it’s for self-confidence. Maybe it’s to become a personal trainer. Maybe it’s to overcome a quarter life crisis and feel really sexy every single day when you look in the mirror after you take a shower. Whatever it’s for, we all have something we are always working on.

So if your skinny friend has complaints every now and then, let them vent to you. Let them. They are having a hard time and although your story might be different, and you wish you could literally cut 25 pounds off your ass and hand it to them wrapped in a bow, ya can’t. Believe it or not, being supportive of their struggles will mean just as much to them.

You’ll find that empathy can really save your sanity. And that goes both ways. Receiving empathy and giving empathy is a really special thing in this world.

Appreciate what you have and admire others for their own struggles.

Everyone has their shit, but we’re all in this together.

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The Power of Friendship in Eating Disorder Awareness

On a Thursday in May, my friend Christina called me to check on me.

Christina and I go way back. She knows a lot about me.

She knew I was in rough shape. Homegirl’s got instincts.

I didn’t book a job for the summer. First time since 2010.

I didn’t have a boyfriend. First time since 2009.

I was not aware that I have always used both those of things as my sole source of happiness.

Without a gig or a man, I didn’t have anything to distract me from my depression.

And when all my friends left for the summer to go to their summerstock gigs and their medical school residencies and their teaching jobs in LA, I was left here alone. Single. Unemployed. Unmotivated. And seriously bingeing.

On that Thursday when Christina called, she talked to me for an hour, giving me this clarity that no one has ever given to me before. She basically slapped me in the face with this awareness – I have always found my joy in a performing job or in a boyfriend. I’ve never figured out how to find the joy in just, living life.

I had never really been aware that this was a real issue for me. Until she explained it quite simply in common language and decorative curse words.

It was one of the first “aha!” moments that I had in my journey. It was a spark that helped start the fire under my ass to find help and figure my shit out.

When we got off the phone that day, she texted this picture to me.

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Ladies and gentleman, this post is about how friendship, and sometimes the lack thereof, can change your life.

I mentioned in last week’s post that eating is a very social activity.

Okay, for me, it’s a VERY fucking social activity.

I live in New York City.

When I want to hang out with my best friend who lives in Astoria, but I live in Washington Heights, and I have no idea how to use the M60 bus, we’re probably just going to meet in midtown for lunch. Or dinner. Or drinks. Or brunch. Because neither one of us wants to transfer trains and go alllllll the way to the other’s neighborhood.

Dude, food keeps friendships alive in this town.

That being said, let me just fill you in on what happened when the five closest people who I socially eat with THE MOST, peaced out of my life for a few months. These five people are my best friends. The people with whom I spend the majority of my time. My inner circle. The people that I text “good morning” to when I wake up at 2 in the afternoon.

We all have these people in our lives. All five of MY people just happened to leave the city for different jobs in different places at the EXACT SAME TIME.

So they leave. I’m here alone. Now what?

Well, I cried a bit. I drank a bit. I ate a SHIT ton of cookies ‘n’ cream with chocolate sprinkles.

And then I hit rock bottom.

Rock bottom was always looming in the distance. But up until my inner circle of friends left the city in May, I was able to distract myself by spending all of my free time with them – socially eating and socially drinking – and keeping my binging a secret.

I should clarify something. I have a lot of wonderful friends in this city. I wasn’t literally “left alone”. But in my world, everyone is coming and going all the time. There is a natural ebb and flow that occurs when working in a big city, and in a business that takes people all over the country at any given time. So friendships are constantly shifting. I become closer to certain people during certain times in life, and although it always seems to be exactly what I need in the end, I don’t recognize the positivity of the situation when it’s happening to me. And I do believe that the coming and going of friends in this life is a beautiful thing. But everyone has their core group of people that they go to no matter where they are on the map.

Point being, when dealing with depression, anxiety, and an eating disorder, I tend to hibernate. I retract from the people outside of my inner circle. I fall off the radar, if you will.

I ended up very alone, on my own accord.

During this awful, alone time, my friend Rachel was moving out of her apartment and clearing clutter. She gave me a book to read. This was the first of many books that helped me begin a very slow ascent back to sanity, happiness, and awareness. Rachel gave me a tool that has changed my life forever.

Granted, even with that first book, and the love of my friends, I have had to struggle through a very dark, low time before finding energy to take that first step toward freedom.

But eventually, I just, started to do it. One foot in front of the other. Melissa – one of those five best friends currently out of town – always says to me, “baby steps”. It is absolutely my favorite mantra right now.

Baby steps.

I tell you all this, because in addition to my friend Rachel looking at me ten weeks ago and handing me that book with a fierce determination in her eyes, a very large part of my recovery as a binge-eater came in the past few weeks when all of my best friends were out of town performing at regional theatres.

I mean, my friends haven’t been around to hit up Brother Jimmy’s on a Thursday night. They haven’t been here to order Domino’s and stress-eat through yet another tragic episode of SMASH. Nor have they been here to go for a run across the GWB, and then stop on the way home to grab a half-gallon of Breyer’s Peach ice cream (seriously? peach?) and a six-pack of Shocktop to have for dinner.

Basically, unless I wanted to take some picklebacks on my own, I wasn’t going out as much as I used to while my nearest and dearest were out of town.

So I stayed home. And read. And faced my shit.

I cried. I binged. I read some more. I cried. I binged. I kept on reading. Writing. Praying. Reading more. I cried every day. And then…one day, I binged a little less. And a little less. And a little less.

Baby steps.

I had to face my shit, figure out how to fight through it, and come out alive. All by myself.

My closest friends and I agree, that the alone time I’ve had in the past few weeks, has actually been the best thing that could have ever happened for me.

Everything happens for a reason. Their timing was perfect.

I want to take an opportunity to say that thoughout this process, my friends, both in town and out of town, have offered me multitudes of encouragement and love.

I know that for years, it has broken their hearts to see me hurting because of the way my weight controls my entire life.

For years, they watched my mood change when the numbers on the scale went up and down.

For years, they looked at me with confusion on their faces when I abruptly got up and left social gatherings. They had no idea that I was leaving to go get food to take home with me for a binge. They never knew what was going on. It was just typical me – flaking on plans again.

For years, they listened to me turn down the Trader Joe’s Sea Salt Caramel bar that they keep in their kitchen cabinet for me for when I have a “chocolate attack”. And for years, they never said one judgemental word when eventually I gave in, ate the whole bar in one sitting, and bitched about it the rest of the night.

My friends do not give a SHIT what I weigh. Or what I eat. They just, love me. For being me.

If I could see myself through their eyes, I would beat myself up so much less and love myself so much more.

I’m willing to bet that your friends don’t give a shit what you weigh either. They just fucking love you.

Ladies and gentleman, when your friends look at you, I bet they see a lot of things that you don’t see in the mirror every morning. They see your grace. Your humor. Your ability to solve problems. Your loyalty. Your wit. Your compassion.

But that’s not something that they will always remember to tell you.

Sometimes, we just forget to tell our friends that they are funny, intelligent, warm, talented, creative, hard-working, and amazing.

I feel like it’s not very common for people to go walking around, reminding their friends of how wonderful they are. Sure, friends will compliment a trendy bracelet, a new haircut, a fierce pair of shoes. But complimenting personality traits, or the things that make us who we are – no matter what our weight is and no matter what color our hair is at the moment – is not really a thing.

So…let’s make it make it a thing.

Seriously, what would happen if we all started telling our friends how fucking awesome they are?

And while we’re at it, let’s just go balls to the wall and tell our friends how fucking gorgeous they are. Whether your friend is skinnier than they want to be or they are heavier than they want to be, tell them how beautiful they are, whenever you can.

There’s nothing like that rush of surprise that you feel when your best friend tells you that you look hot.

I believe that the moral of my story is, give your friends a little extra love this week.

A compliment from a friend is unexpected, and special, and goes a really long way.

I, for one, am extremely lucky to have the most loving, compassionate people as my best friends. They tell me I’m beautiful when I’m in pin curls. After I wash my make-up off. At a hungover brunch the day after an opening night party. And never once, has my weight affected the way they love me.

Never forget that the same applies to you and your friendships too.

The number on the scale is never going to make your best friends love you any less.

Hey. Hey YOU. Did you hear that?

The number on the scale is NEVER going to make your best friends love you any less.

Have a great week with your friends 🙂


How Dating A Gay Man Shaped My Twenties

Glitter and Be Gay: A Blog Post

Living With Men Who Love Us, But Do Not LOVE Us

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There are a lot of women in this business who have grown up around gay men. We danced with them. Teched shows with them. Helped them come out of the closet when we were in high school with them. We went to college with them, had them over for holidays, brought them on family vacations. And now they are our roommates and dates to weddings and best friends. We love them like they are family.

We are not meant to date them.

However.

Sometimes, when we are all young, these same men haven’t figured out how to open the closet door to a happy, healthy, open life. And sometimes, they are well on their way to figuring it out, but they aren’t ready to open that door yet. And to this day, some of them are still not ready. And they are still trying to take us out on dates.

Our vision of straight men become real skewed in this biz. In college, we eyeball the straight dudes in any of the performing arts majors and then slowly, one by one, watch the majority of them come out of the closet. Depending on where you went to college, if there’s not a lot of straight options, you latch onto whatever option there is. Then, you automatically assume you need to keep his ass on a leash, because this could be your only chance at love for the rest of your time on this earth. And all of a sudden, you’re dating assholes, arrogant lacrosse players, and boring dudes just because they are straight.

DANGER DANGER.

This is not going to end well.

Over the years, these crazy things start taking place when we meet straight men because we aren’t used to having them around. We start dating men who are already spoken for, men with porn addictions, and men we meet while cocktail waitressing (which for your information, is not really dating. It’s more like, they just come to see you at work and take you home afterwards. But whatever, sometimes, when you’re 21, that’s good enough.) We allow all these men into our lives because we are hungry for the attention we are not getting from the gay men surrounding us every day. We will take the attention with whatever consequences it comes with, even if it’s keeping our relationship with our bar manager a secret, or it means we are traveling to the Bronx for a good lay. And I think a lot of it stems from feeling unwanted by the closest men to us in our life, who just happen to be gay.

It’s a special life that we lead. We are so loved by these gay men in our lives. They care for us. They hold us when we cry. They tell us to dress up and take us to dinner. They help us pick out beautiful Christmas gifts (and Hannakuh gifts!) for our mothers. The listen to us bitch, they make us laugh until our bellies hurt, and they tell us we are beautiful even at the most hungover brunches. They take us for drinks when we are in over our heads and they tell us we deserve better. But at the end of the night, after a wonderful day or a delicious dinner, we go home alone. Because although they love us, they do not LOVE us, or want us, or crave us in any other way beyond friendship.

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A few years ago, while living with one of these special gay men who cared for me, lived with me, and helped me dress fabulously for first dates, my ex-boyfriend came up.

I don’t know if any girl is ever ready to hear about her ex-boyfriend’s college sexcapades with a man.

But, ready or not, I learned about them over a casual pitcher of Sam Adams Cherry Wheat in 2009. You see, four years after a heartbreaking split with my first love, I was living with one of the first men that my ex-boyfriend slept with. There we were – smack dab in the middle of 109th Street, two blocks west of Central Park – a man and a woman who had slept with the same man.

Only, truth be told, he got farther with the ex than I ever did.

Look, I wasn’t surprised. I always suspected. I was always teased in high school about dating him. But to finally hear it straight from the horse’s mouth, was so freeing. I was so thankful to know that it wasn’t my fault.

Turns out, it wasn’t my fault that he didn’t want to hang out every day after school like every other couple did. Turns out, it wasn’t my fault he didn’t want to touch me under the covers when we watched a movie on the couch. Turns out, it wasn’t my fault he didn’t call me every day when he went away to college. He didn’t want me. He didn’t miss me. But not because I was me. Turns out, he had his own shit to figure out.

He was gay. All that time, he was gay.

But I didn’t know that. For sure. Until four years later.

The newfound closure that came with that Cherry Wheat, came four years after the fact. And those four years after the fact were some of the most influential years of my life. From the age of 18-22, I carried around body confidence issues and self-esteem issues that I wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemy. And honey, once you have them, they only get worse.

Because when you’re 17, and you get to sleep over in your boyfriend’s college dorm room for the first time, you expect things to go DOWN. Maybe he never wanted to hook up in the car. And maybe he never wanted to sneak away from the pool party. And maybe he never wanted to go down your pants backstage while you teched the high school musical. But the dorm room, he’s gonna be so into it there. So you shave things you’ve never shaved before and you wear the laciest pair of underwear you can find at H&M. You have butterflies all day, imagining steamy positions and loud outcries of pleasure.

And then you get there, and your boyfriend just wants to go to sleep.

With pajamas on.

And you lay awake next to him cursing at yourself for everything you’ve done wrong. You make a mental list of all the things you are not. You are not sexy. You are not attractive. You are not irrestible. You curse your boobs for being small and your hair for being big and curly. You stare at the ceiling, thinking that although you can shake your ass in dance class, you’re just not a sexy girl.

When he breaks your heart the summer after you graduate from high school, you enter your freshman year of college with insecurities that your new musical theatre friends don’t have. They know how to flirt with all the baseball players, and they get asked to sit with them in the cafeteria, while you go back up for another helping of the taco bar.

And when a boy even glances at you during the next themed party that you show up to, accessorized with your freshman fifteen and the new plastic bangles you stole from Claire’s, you end up in his room making out, without him even having to use a pick up line. Which is basically a foreshadowing all of the slutty things you’re about to do when you move to New York City, including a series of one night stands in your early twenties with some very questionable subjects.

When you’re in a relationship where you’re just not wanted, you’re not craved, it really sets you up for some major setbacks in relationships for the rest of your life. That first love, that first relationship, it trained me chase men. To work hard to make them want me. And to settle for less than the best – every single time I meet a man.

To this day, anytime things feel easy with a man – comfortable, relaxed – it feels wrong. And boring. I have always gone after men who do not want me. And that’s what feels right to me.

Until now. Because once you become aware of a complex you have – for instance, the way I use food as a drug, or the way I always end up with men who do not want me – you can never go back to ignorance again.

Awareness is a very powerful thing, my friend.

Once you are aware, the only way to go is up. Up, up, and away from what’s been holding you down. You are finally able to begin a courageous upward journey towards making it less of a problem than it was yesterday. And doing the best you can to live your life in the meantime.

Listen, you never know people’s stories. You never know what they’ve been through, what they’ve been lied to about, or what has destroyed their heart.

Things like dating a gay man can ruin a young girl, on the inside, for a very long time. I had no idea how much it affected me, or dictated the men I chose, or controlled my self-esteem, until I got older and wiser.

It affected the reason I binge, the reason I dressed sluttily all the time, and the reason I was outspoken. Respectively, those things were comfort for the pain, cries for attention, and shields from judgement.

I hated that ex-boyfriend of mine for many, many years. There was red, hot anger that would cause my chest to tighten when I thought about him. I never felt that hatred for another person in my life before. It was ugly and it enveloped me.

But now, I do forgive him. It was a slow process. However, I’ve learned that half of my gay friends dated a woman when they were younger. They were too young to know what they were doing to their girlfriends. No one knew. It was never a malicious thing. It took me, being best friends with my gay men, to understand that. I was just another one of the girls who helped the boy come out of the closet.  I was the Grace to his Will.

I wish we were friends now. Our situation is different than the Will’s and the Grace’s of the world, but as long as I can let go of the hurt, and the anger, forgiveness will be enough.

To the gay men in this world: Don’t forget to remind those girls who helped you come out of the closet how much you love them. Those chicks loved you for all that you were, and all that you are, despite what you did to their hearts.

To the women who dated the gay boys in this world: Try your best to forgive the boys. They had it just as hard as we did, if not harder. Keep those friendships close and help each other grow up. Together. The boys never meant to break your heart, or lie, or make you feel unwanted. We all figure things out at different times and you happened to be there when they were sorting all the new things out.

To everyone else: Show compassion to everyone you meet. There’s a reason people are scared to trust. There’s a reason they binge. There’s a reason they’re dating that asshole right now. You might not understand why they are the way they are, but that’s what is so beautiful about compassion – you just offer it up without a reason or an answer.

And no one ever complained about feeling too much compassion.

*Friends, if you find out later in life that someone you did date was cheating on you, please take the time to get tested for HIV and other STD’s. I told my gynecologist immediately when I found out my ex-boyfriend had slept with other men during the time we were together and he set  me to be tested right away. It’s better to be safe than sorry. You owe it to yourself and your sanity to get tested. There are free clinics in most cities and by googling “free HIV testing”, you can find options in your area.

Next week’s posting:

Let’s Have A Kiki


On Dating and Dieting in Show Business

Dating.

Actually, the combination of dating and eating. Sometimes, it doubly affects those of us in the entertainment industry.

Isn’t it crazy how…

When you date a person who could care less about food, all you do is wish they understood your love for food – whether you’re eating in their absence, or as you eat in right in front of them?

So that when you say, “baby, let’s go get ice cream”, and they say, “nah, i’m not hungry”, something inside of you clenches up. You feel guilty, embarrassed, sad, and mad all at the same time. Guilty and embarrassed for asking and wanting ice cream. Sad that they aren’t just like you when it comes to food. Mad that it even matters.

But THEN…

When you date a person who loves food, you’re half pissed and half happy that it gives you an excuse to eat more food. And you feel guilty and embarrassed for loving the person even more because they want to eat when you want to eat. You’re sad that it matters to you so much. Maybe even mad that this is such an important thing to you when you look for a partner.

So the good news is, when it comes to dating, you’re damned if you find someone who’s hungry and you’re damned if you find someone who’s not.

AMAZING.

A prime example is when I first met Stallion last year. My 37-year-old, very sexy, very funny, emotionally unavailable Italian-American boyfriend of 8 months. I wrote this about him in a file I had started on my laptop named “My Fucking Memoirs”:

October 9th, 2012

I met a man who eats ice cream out of the actual half gallon container and lets me put sprinkles and whipped cream on it. He eats it with a fork. I love him. He understands sleeping in and not showering and clothes on the floor. Like seriously thank you for your time. It’s about time. I have never seen him in a shirt and tie and I don’t really want to because his jersey shore wife beater style is so much better for me. I hate businessman. I don’t want to date businessman. They don’t know anything about girls like me and I have no interest in hearing about their lives. Like their lives are not anything I want a part of except their money and even then I just don’t want to have to unbutton that many buttons just to thank them for the expensive dinner I shouldn’t have eaten cuz it was covered in truffle oil and special fucking sheep cheese and shit that I now have deduct from my Weight Watchers points that are strictly meant for Nutella.

You may notice I was going through a phase where I just didn’t like to use punctuation.

You may also notice that I felt so comfortable around Stallion because he loved food. He would never turn me down when I wanted to eat. He could eat and eat and eat just like I could. You see how much I fell for this man just because he was the kind known to eat dollar pizza as an appetizer before we even went for dinner?

Food links us to people. It is a social activity, especially in New York. And especially in what we do for a living. You audition all day – you go to happy hour. Your friend returns from a year on the road – you go for dinner. You had a great callback – you celebrate with a cupcake. You had a bad callback – you treat yourself to a cupcake. We convene over coffee, lunches, and drinks whenever there is a birthday, engagement, or good-bye party. It’s what we do.

The most social eating of all though, comes with dating. The first date is normally some drinks. Dinner if it goes well. And this happens for a few dates because let’s be honest here – I live in New York City. Here, we have to be extra careful when we meet these people out on dates – we have no idea what level of crazy we might be dealing with. We’ve seen Law & Order: SVU and we aren’t trying to bring homeboy back to the apartment right away. It might be cheaper to grab a bottle of wine and a Trader Joe’s Penne Arrabiata and cook for two at home, but honey, I am a starving artist who doesn’t always have the opportunity to go to the fancy places. Why would I not want someone to take me to the 90 dollar dinner, with drinks, at the newest, darkest cocktail bar below 14th Street? It might be the only time we get to try said cocktail bar before it’s turned over into a new hookah bar featuring Spanish/Chinese/African/American Bistro fusion food with a Thai Mexican flair.

And so, if you’re on any sort of diet regimen during all of this time when you’re trying very hard to figure out if this OkCupid situation is a bust or not, you’re also counting calories, only drinking clear liquor, and turning down the most delicious chocolate cake you’re ever fucking seen during your dates because, surprise, surprise, you have to be in a leotard and tights for A CHORUS LINE call at 10am tomorrow.

That’s a lot of things to focus on when all you really should be doing is going for drinks with someone who might make you laugh, or tell you’re beautiful, if you could just get out of your head for a few minutes and enjoy the moment.

When I was watching my weight, aka, what I’ve been doing every day since I’m 16, I was so fucking concerned about the fact that if I wanted more than one beer on a date, I’d have to pay for it at the gym the whole next day. This automatically made me focus on all the beers I couldn’t have, instead of the cold, frothy one right in front of me. So I missed out on the great conversation, and the taste of that nine dollar beer that this gorgeous dude was buying me, because my mind was pre-occupied. I was racing to come up with excuses as to why I wouldn’t want an order of fries in a few minutes, or why I was about to switch to Bud Light for 99 calories.

And people wonder why my ring finger is naked.

HELLO. I’VE NEVER GIVEN ANYONE THE TIME OF DAY BECAUSE I’VE BEEN TOO WORRIED ABOUT THE CALORIES IN A FUCKING BEER ON A DATE.

But listen! In this career, sometimes that’s life.

Where do we draw the line between going out and meeting Mr. Comedian With The Blue Eyes for some drinks and tapas, or going home and going to bed, knowing that we have to be in shape for an audition every day in March? Because the summer season is fast approaching and this is the month that determines whether we have to wait tables for a summer or if we get wigged and costumed for a summer. 

At what point do we get to stop going crazy about having dessert on our third date with Mr. English Accent With The Tattoos but then feeling like we should say no to a nightcap because we have to take ballet at 9am with that teacher who is also choreographing HELLO DOLLY in July?

It’s so hard to say.

Do I have all of the answers? Well. Kind of.

First of all, obsessing over it is definitely not the answer.

But how the fuck are we NOT supposed to obsess over it?

As my gay husband, B, is always telling me, we have to live in the moment.

However, as I used to constantly whine back to him, dieting does not ALLOW us to live in the moment. Because we are always planning, planning, planning the next thing we can or cannot have.

Soooo, what am I telling you to do exactly?

Stop dieting?

Well, I mean, that’s what I’ve done. That’s what has gotten me here. But you don’t have to. Live your life and take what I say and use it in whatever capacity you want to as you continue your own journey.

But in regards to living in the moment, let me say this.

If you go on a date this week, or next week, or if you are already dating someone wonderful, or even mediocre, could you please try just this once, to go out with them and simply…have a beer? Sit and listen to them while you sip that beer, and really focus on what they are saying.  This will actually keep you from thinking about the next beer, or the french fries, or the pizza you want to binge on when you get home from this date, that you have already assumed won’t end well, even though you don’t even know that yet. Because guess what? You just sat down to the FIRST beer. And he JUST started telling you the whereabouts of his apartment in Brooklyn. And you’re trying to figure out what the hell he means when he says he takes the “G Train”. And if you engage with him as he lights up about his rescued dog and his orange bike that he’s had since college, and you continue to ask questions to really find out a little more about him, you might notice that the first beer disappears a little less quickly. And the second beer might just come along because you’re having a really nice time. And it might take an extra long time to finish the second beer because now he’s asking YOU a bunch of questions. You’re so busy telling him about how much you love to sing covers of Amy Winehouse with your band that breaks up once a month that rehearses in Brooklyn (nowhere near the G train obviously), that you haven’t even had time to finish your second beer before you both realize this has been really nice, and it’s getting late, but perhaps you can do it again another time when you both don’t have early mornings. And you might just find yourself smiling on that very local train ride home. And you might not even remember that the pizza is in the fridge, and you might even just go to bed, perfectly content – not hating yourself (or your diet, or your career choice) for the amount of beers you had on the date with Mr. G Train.

Just try it.

It could be just the thing you need to re-vamp everything that you’ve trained yourself to do for all these years.

It could be a small attempt at living in the moment.

And it could be really awesome.

 


Why Diets Don’t Work and Why It’s Not Your Fault

The original title for this blog was going to be, Men I’ve Dated and Diets I’ve Tried.

Until I realized that it’s actually more like, Diets I’ve Dated and Men I’ve Tried.

Because truth be told, I’ve always been way more invested in the diet I was dabbling in while dating a man than the actual relationship that was happening while I wasn’t looking.

I dated New Jersey for two and a half years. When I moved in with him, he would watch me pour my four ounces of white wine, for five Weight Watchers Points, into a Pyrex measuring cup and kiss me on the cheek to show support. I would never look up out of my Weight Watchers iPhone app long enough to notice that I was missing out on my relationship in order to track my daily points. I was too busy weighing myself each morning and thinking about what that number would do to the rest of my day to focus on any sort of breakfast chatter with him before he went to work.

So it seems like, by this third blog entry, one could ask, “then why the hell do you keep doing Weight Watchers girlfriend? Try something new! Ain’t nobody got time for those points and shit!”

OH.

PLEASE.

Like Weight Watchers has been the only diet I’ve ever dated.

Listen, I like rules. Give me rules, so that I can follow them for a month, knowing I will lose 8 pounds, buy new clothes in a new size, and then binge on what I just gave up for a month until you give me new rules to follow. Thus, the reason I have tried all of these diets:

  • Weight Watchers: 4+ times, 25-30 pounds lost every time only to be gained back. Then I proceed to half-ass follow the Weight Watchers program to gain and lose ten pounds every month until I decide to try…
  • Going Vegan…for a week…
  • The Blood Type Diet…for a six week infomercial I took part in that included about 1200 calories a day of animal protein and certain vegetables but NO oranges, NO gluten, NO dairy, NO brussel sprouts? AND NO COFFEE
  • The Belly Fat Diet: You follow a book of guidelines that gently guides you towards many chemically-injected sugar-free foods, while staying away from anything more than 20 grams of carbs a day and 6 grams of sugar a day. It totally works, if you can give up carrots, bananas, fruit, bread, milk, and noodles for the rest of your life. It’s a staple choice for a lot of dancers getting ready for Broadway Bares and other big events. But if you’re a normal human being, be prepared to binge on all things sugar and carb after said event. Or after just one week on the program. Like I did.
  • Giving up sugar…and replacing it with cigarettes. I lost 7 pounds. And gained a disgusting, expensive habit. BUT I LOST SEVEN POUNDS. And ate a lot of nachos.
  • Going vegetarian while on Weight Watchers – because meat is like six points a serving and I would rather spend those points on dessert, sorry bout it, BYE.
  • Not drinking. Fine, there are a lot of people who don’t drink for a lot of valid reasons. But not to LOSE WEIGHT, AMANDA. Like really though?
  • Oxy-Elite Pro – a purple diet pill, “university studied” that decreases appetite. Literally you’re like, never hungry. But that doesn’t actually matter when you have a binge-eating problem. Soo…..
  • Just not eating sugar and carbs. Like just making my own rules. So salads and dried fruit are okay since they are provided at work because who am I to turn down free food (another blog entry in itself: Family Meal and Free Food at Work) but no chocolate unless PMSing and no bread but like, maybe some crackers, like if they are available.

As long as I can remember, I have been on some sort of diet and/or eating regimen (not eating after 7pm, only eating carbs before 4pm, eating a banana for breakfast to save all my points for later that day, etc.). If I am on a “binge week” where I’m not dieting, I’m thinking about what the next strategy will be to lose the weight that I just gained.

As my friend Karen and her sister like to call it, I have been constantly chasing my tail.

And listen, truth be told, some of those diets have worked for my best friends. Weight Watchers really does work for people and I really do not discredit that. However, when you go into Weight Watchers meetings with eating disorders that you don’t even know how to define, chances are, you’re going to have to address them before you learn how to follow another eating program that advertises “you can eat what you want! (within reason)”.

So I just want to let you know that if you ran down my list of diets and none of them have worked for you, and you have your own list that includes Atkins, or the lemonade cleanse, or cabbage soup, there’s nothing WRONG with you.

When we have a diet to focus on, it’s a goal. A “to do list”. Something to always keep us busy.

And when we have a problem to focus on, i.e. being fat, it’s a project to work on.

So that when there’s nothing else on the horizon, like a relationship, or a contract, or audition season, we have a valid response for that age old annoying fucking question, “What are you up to!?”

We quickly and nervously spit out, “Oh, you know, just working on myself, trying to get in shape for audition season and like, just getting healthier you know?” And with this, we feel good about what we are doing right now to keep ourselves busy. Which is dieting and pulling two-a-days at the gym. So that then, we have something to hate ourselves for when we destroy it.

A vicious cycle of diving head first into diet after diet after binge after binge after workout after workout after workout and then spiraling out of control into a land of words like “lack of willpower”, “no self-control”, “bad eating”, and “laziness.” And guess who hates us the most when we complete that cycle over and over again?

Just us.

Not our friends. Not our family. Not our boyfriends. No one is pointing fingers at us as much as we are pointing them at ourselves, in the mirror, while screwing up our faces in disgust and swearing at our belly fat that no one else even knows is there.

Because what would we be without a reason to hate ourselves when we screw up?

Happy?

Let me just throw something out there. I’m happier now, eating what I want, only when I’m hungry, after all this therapy and reading and writing and awareness of my issues, than I have ever been. And I don’t hate myself anymore. I actually, really like myself. And…I am telling you, Jennifer Holliday style, I’m not goin’ back to this diet bullshit ever again.

This week, do me one favor. Regardless of what diet you’re on, or what event you’re going to that’s stressing you out, either because there will be an obscene amount of food there, or because you bought a dress one size smaller than you are, hoping to fit into it by now, but you binged last week instead, knowing that this event was coming, and rebelling against the size 4 you know you “should” be. Pay attention to when you’re hungry.

Listen. To your body. When it tells you that you are hungry.

Diets don’t teach you to listen to hunger signals. They tell you what you can’t have.

The diet and fitness industry is a multi-billion dollar industry.

If we figure out how to live life without diets, how would they make their money? They’re not gonna teach you the simple rules that allow you to live a sane, healthy life. That’s a terrible business plan on their part. Can’t even blame them.

But like, I’m no billionaire, so let me go out on a limb here and do the talking.

This week, just do me a solid. Listen to your body. When you are eating, are you hungry? Or are you bored? Are you lost? Are you sad? Or are you hungry? What does hunger even feel like? Do you remember?

Think about it. I know it’s a crazy concept, well, at least it was for me. Literally it was like, the craziest concept to comprehend. But let me tell you, it’s the most important key to healing.

We deserve health , sanity, and happiness. We deserve healing. And if that means giving the diet and fitness industry the cold shoulder, so be it.

We have to start listening to ourselves, before we listen to anyone else.

Then, we won’t need a spoonful of sugar to help anything go down. We will be able to trust our instincts and live a life outside of the control of food. We are gonna get there. I promise.

Together.