What Do Actors Eat Anyway?

Tess Nakaishi

In the morning, it’s off to school or work. After maybe a couple hours of lag time, it’s off to the theatre. And by the time you’re out of rehearsal or a performance, it’s late and your stomach is growling. Crap. Guess it’s time for McDonalds again.

Considering actors use their bodies as important tools in their work, they have a hell of a time getting them properly fed. Several problems contribute to the larger issue of feeding the actor.

Most of us aren’t exactly swimming in cash, making high quality meals more of an exception than a rule. That being said, we also aren’t basking in unlimited time by any means. When are you going to plan meals? Go grocery shopping? Cook and prepare real meals? And even if you do manage to prepare something ahead of time, do you really want to lug your Tupperware collection with you to the theatre every night? And for some actors, food can affect how they feel on stage. Not enough food can leave you feeling weak, irritable and unfocused. Too much can make you feel sleepy and heavy. High quality food drains your wallet. Poor quality food puts you more at risk for pesky illness, skin breakouts, or low energy. Sometimes it seems like eating is just more trouble than it’s worth.

As someone who is far from mastering the art of feeding herself, my intent in writing this is not to provide instruction but to consider the relationship theatre people tend to develop with food. Actors, specifically, should have a close relationship with their body and their health. When a crowd is depending on you to be in top physical form to pull off that amazing dance routine or perform a thrilling combat sequence, your physical wellbeing becomes something larger than your own comfort. And yet, due to the busy and stressful nature of trying to make it in show biz, many actors neglect their bodies in some form or another. 

The modern eater tends to have a distant relationship with their food. Meals aren’t the social ritual they used to be. Gone are the days when almost every meal was home cooked and served alongside the company of friends and family. Instead, we often find ourselves sprawling in front of the TV with a bag of chips, shoving fries in our mouths while driving, or devouring a donut on the walk to the office. In this fast-paced world where food can be obtained so easily, we are free to think less about what we’re putting in our bodies. 

This dissociated manner of eating is a cultural trend, and there is only so much we can individually do to fight it. Expecting every meal to be healthy, cheap, and relaxing is unrealistic for most people. But as actors, we have a responsibility to ourselves, our audiences and everyone else depending on us to try to feed ourselves the best we can. Perhaps that means starting with chewing the cheeseburger a little slower or appreciating the morning coffee a little more. Instead of thinking less about our food because it seems too inconvenient to even try for anything better, let’s try to notice our habits. Like it or not, our bodies are our partners and food makes that possible. We put food in our bodies, but so many of us struggle to find the art of actually eating.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all actors could eat with awareness and joy rather than frantic hunger?