Libby Parker: Making a Performer's Health Their Top Priority
The weight and overall health of performers is something that is under constant scrutiny. I've written in the past about the pressures to stay thin in order to look like a more desirable candidate for a gig. Unfortunately, that pressure can lead to catastrophic results such as eating disorders and drug abuse.
Thankfully, however, there are many out there who are doing all they can on introducing healthy eating behaviors for anyone but especially performers.
Libby Parker is one of them who is leading the charge with her site, Not Your Average Nutritionist, a wonderful resource full of tools, advice, training on healthy eating habits. Libby has both Bachelor's and Master's degrees in Nutrition & Dietetics and is an Eating Disorder Registered Dietitian in CA.
I spoke with Libby about her site and how performers could benefit from resources like this.
CP: What inspired you to start this site in the first place?
LP: My main line of work is with eating disorders, which started because of not only personal experience with disordered eating in college, but my first client had anorexia nervosa, and I spent a lot of time researching best methods of treatment and found it was a passion of mine.
I don't want anyone to have to use food as a coping mechanism, and EDs run rampant in the entertainment industry.
I see private clients and teach nutrition at a college, and want to share health information and real science with anyone who cares to hear it. There is so much misinformation out in the world (anyone can write about health/nutrition with NO background) that I want to create a space for evidence-based science paired with compassion for an individual's needs and desired that could be shared.
CP: When it comes to nutrition, what do you think performers could benefit from the most? What are they doing wrong the most?
LP: For performers specifically - there is research (I'm looking at a PubMed article right now titled "eating behaviors and nutrition knowledge among musical theatre students" ) that one study showed that only 81% of students answered correctly on only 59% of basic nutrition knowledge questions. Not a good start! I think that a lot of artists are swayed by quick fixes and convenience foods because the hours are long and rushed. Additionally, I don't think many people (until recently - myself included) understand the role nutrition and daily habits play into vocal health.
A lot of artists (actors, singers, tech) don't see themselves as athletes, but that's exactly what they are. Many of them have longer - and often more strenuous- rehearsals than professional athletes have. But we haven't addressed that as a society, and how sports nutrition is 100% applicable.
CP: Tell me about your "Whole Health for Performers" course.
LP: I put together the "Whole Health for Performers" course based on questions I was getting from cast-mates who knew about my nutrition background, as well as what I observed cast-mates doing (for better or worse), and my personal health experiences in theatre (losing my voice, heat stroke, energy levels). I hadn't found a good comprehensive book or program that gave actionable tips that could be applied immediately, so I decided to gather the research and create it.
For more information on Not Your Average Nutritionist and everything that Libby is doing to help performer health, visit www.notyouraveragenutritionist.com