Jared Leto has joined a long list of actors who so badly want to get into character they’re willing to do whatever it takes, including dropping substantial weight in an unsafe manner.
For the movie, Dallas Buyer’s Club, Leto basically quit eating to quickly shed more than 40 pounds. The reason for the fast: he wanted his AIDS-stricken character to appear believable on screen.
Leto is in good acting company when it comes to trimming down in Tinseltown.
Christian Bale was shockingly unrecognizable and skeletal after losing 63 pounds for the 2004 thriller The Machinist. He also got “in shape” by starving himself.
Already-thin Anne Hathaway looked sad and waifish after losing 25 pounds for her role as Fantine in Les Miserables. Although her diet was a tad more nutritious than Bale’s menu of apples, coffee and cigarettes (she ate dried oatmeal paste), Hathaway says it was a horrible experience – one that took her weeks to recover from.
So, what price success? The health consequences of starvation could be significant. Too little protein, carbohydrate and fat results in the loss of energy, hair and muscle. Even your mental and emotional health suffer.
Eating fewer than 1,000 calories a day can put your body into starvation mode. For people who are attempting to lose weight, research shows that going too low in the food department has the opposite effect – it slows your metabolic rate so you conserve energy and burn fewer calories.
Worse than that: Starvation is the pathway to death. Without adequate nutrition, your immunity plummets, heart rate slows, and organ failure follows.
Mathew McConaughey, who also played an AIDS victim in Dallas Buyer’s Club, said that to lose the weight he just stayed home and was vigilant about what he ate. He said that’s what actors do.
Thinking about what actors do to practice their craft reminds me that successful weight maintainers are like actors who have decided to play a new role. Successful weight maintainers are people who have decided that they want to assume a new role, and keep that new persona intact, permanently. They are tired of their current role as an overweight person, and they’ve accepted the challenge to assume the role of a person who never has to go on a diet again.
After all, “going on a diet” is a temporary thing. Like an actor preparing for a role, a weight loss seeker will adopt a different lifestyle, and eat differently than usual. That’s the definition of a weight loss diet—a structured program where the dieter will evaluate their goals. Those goals may be to lose weight safely and consistently by reducing calories and increasing activity.
This is what’s required to stay healthy while performing in this new role – not starvation. You need to regularly rehearse eating healthfully.
But, unlike an actor, the successful weight loss maintainer will soon become that character permanently. Once they reach their goal weight, they will not only adopt the persona of a healthy eater, but they will also stay in character and stay at their goal weight.
Are you up to the challenge? Will you walk on your own red carpet and put your star on your own Walk of Fame? Your new role is one that takes commitment to change, as someone who can make healthy choices wherever you go.
In your role as a healthy eater you don’t have conflict over choices – it’s just what you do.
Susan Burke March is Registered and Licensed Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Diabetes Educator, who as eDiets Chief Nutritionist promotes the dietary health and wellbeing of consumers worldwide.