My hobbies of choice outside of the entertainment industry (endurance running, strength training, and coaching) are performance based, and involve looking relatively healthy, confident, and enthusiastic. As a touring musician, amateur athlete, and sometimes actor, I tend to draw a lot of attention. And not in a, “Attention customers: there’s a blue Honda Civic double parked in front of the Dollar General.” announcement kind of way, but more so in the, “Hey look at me! What I’m doing is awesome! Don’t you wish you were doing what I’m doing?!” kind of way. Whether it’s on stage, on camera, or bounding across a mountain in tiny short-shorts during a race, I spend more time having to be “on” in front of other people than your average bear. Which, like it or not, is kind of my job. As a matter of fact, I don’t think a bear would give a second thought to how it’s ass looked in a pair of skinny jeans, or whether or not it was making the “John Mayer Face” during it’s guitar solos (Haha…just got a mental image of a bear doing a guitar solo).
At any rate, I have somehow managed to build a life lived with one foot in showbiz, and the other in the health and fitness world. So, for better or for worse, I spend a lot of time having to think about how I look. Am I wearing too little? Am I wearing too much? Do I look fat? Do I look short? Am I coming across as confident, and happy to be here? Am I portraying this gig, or this lifestyle in a positive light? These are all questions that cross my mind before and during most of my gigs, shoots, training sessions, or races. And I’m sure I’m not the only one who at least thinks this way from time to time. It’s part of being human to feel insecure, to wonder what other humans around you are thinking about you. And let’s be honest, our image can sometimes affect our jobs. Even more so if you make your living as an entertainer! That’s why I wanted to devote a piece to the topic of body image and how it affects us as performers! Here are my 3 steps to achieving a better body image. I hope this helps you to take control of your body, your mind, and your career as a performer!
Get A Better Body:
Seriously!? Seriously. I put this step first for one reason: it’s the easiest of the three steps! I sincerely believe that exercise and diet are crucial steps toward a positive body image. After all, you can’t just spend all of your time on the “image” part without paying a little attention to the actual body! Ever noticed the way you feel after a run, hike, swim, or bike? Or after a long overdue return to the gym? That post workout empowerment you feel is not an illusion! There are gobs of positive mood stabilizing chemicals and hormones released every time you exercise, it’s sort of like evolution’s way of thanking you for doing what’s best for you! Now imagine how you’d feel about yourself if you actually developed a routine where you were able to benefit from these endorphin boosts several times a week, if not each DAY? In my opinion (which you may freely take or leave) there just isn’t enough discussion on the reality of the notion that, within reason, your body is something that you have the power to change if you are unhappy with it. There’s a seemingly growing sentiment that you should accept yourself, inside and outside, no matter what. While I do understand and agree with the benefit of learning to love who you are (a journey that I believe we are all on) from a purely physical standpoint, this concept has some holes in it. Let’s say you have rolls (come on, let’s be real here… pretty much all of us have had some at one time or another) and these rolls are making you uncomfortable in your physical body. Should you spend time everyday saying positive mantras into the mirror, or listening to self-help audio books about learning to love rolls, or begin the looooooong journey of deconstructing a lifetime’s worth of personal beliefs and attitude towards your rolls? OR… should you just go ahead and start doing some cardio, eating a little better, and getting some more sleep? …MmmmHmmm… see where i’m coming from?
Look, everyone knows that you just can’t change other people, but guess what… you can change you! Now, I’m not talking about trying to regrow a limb, or become skinny enough to take the doggy-door instead of the front door, or to grow another foot and a half by lunchtime tomorrow. I’m merely saying, if your rolls are making you uncomfortable, there’s probably some legitimacy to your perception of the issue. So what are you going to do? Well, this isn’t exactly wizardry here, but I’ll lay out an honest summary of what has worked for me:
A) Exercise: Lean heavier on cardio if you are overweight: walk, run, hike, bike, swim, row, etc. And go heavier on strength training if you are underweight. Think actual weights and bodyweight exercises instead of machines. Do these 3-4 times a week… and don’t stop.
B) Diet: Find anything that is reasonable and stick to it, at the VERY LEAST 80% of the time. Don’t think “fad,” think lifestyle: Paleo, Vegan, Raw, Whole Food, Mediterranean. Whatever you choose, just stick with it (reference my last article for additional tips here). If you are overweight, emphasize veggies and protein and limit or eliminate starchy carbs. If you are underweight, emphasize protein and starchy carbs.
C) Sleep: Prioritize getting 7-9 hours a night. No more. No less. As often as humanly possible.
That’s it. If you do these three things, and stick to them for long enough, your body will change. Throw your scale away. Don’t ever go off of a scale, go off of how you feel and look. Your body will begin to change, and your mindset about it will begin to change as well.
Exercise Your ‘Swag Muscle’:
Let’s face it, with the exception of Usain Bolt, or Axle Rose, or Kanye West, for that matter… confidence just doesn’t come all that naturally for most of us. It is my experience that the very same people that appear the most confident have often spent the most time practicing being confident. Physical confidence (let’s just go ahead and call it what it is: SWAG!) is like a muscle, and exercising that muscle should, and will, go hand in hand with exercising your actual muscles.
Now That You’ve Begun To Address Your Physical Self, Practice Some Mental “Swag-Reps.” Seriously!
Guys: the next time you walk to the mailbox, leave your shirt in the living room! I’m dead serious. I don’t care how far along your physical transformation is, destroying that “people will laugh and point and throw things at me” mindset is crucial to improving your mental image of yourself. So try it; pop that shirt off and let your inner Rick Ross run free! It’ll put some much-needed figurative hair on your chest. I promise.
Gals: Try going without makeup a little more often! Or whatever you tend to hide behind, try going without it: in public. *Do NOT get your mail without a shirt on… unless you live in a nudist colony.
Guys and Gals: Practice sitting and standing in “power poses.” Next time you’re in a meeting, rock back in your chair and throw your hands behind your head, like you’re sunbathing. Try focusing on looking people in the eye or mouth when you speak to them; standing at a 90-degree angle instead of directly in front. Recent studies have shown that practicing confidence-building body language actually builds confidence! Any of these exercises will feel awkward at first, but so does being onstage! Remember your first time playing in front of people? Yeah. Pretty sure you were scared shit-less. And if you weren’t… then good for you, Kanye.
Free Yo Mind: Your Ass Will Follow:
I wanted to save this one for last because it’s only truly effective when it’s added into the fold after you’ve already started on the first two. If you ask me, (which you didn’t, but I’m going to tell you anyway) beginning to change your concept of what a “good” body is supposed to look or feel like is probably the hardest part of this whole body image thing. The first two tips were designed to spur you into action, to get you moving. This one is more… existential than the others. This is the step where I’m going to ask you to do something reeeeaaaally hard: give yourself a break, and expand your mind. Part of really having good body image is mentally learning to love who, and what, and how you are! If there’s one concept I’ve really had to wrap my mind around after decades of touring and many years of working out and exercising, it’s that bodies really, truly do come in all shapes and sizes. And for the most part, beauty, swagger, sex, and power, can be found in all bodies, provided they are cared for (step 1) and presented in a confident manner (step 2)!
I have big thighs. Always have. Always will. When I was chubby, I had fat, big thighs. Now that I’ve gotten into better shape, I have strong, big thighs. They probably look pretty much the same, but my perception of them has changed because I’ve put the first two steps into practice! I’m sure if Beyonce were out of shape, she’d be considered to be of a “pear shape”. But since she’s really owned it, and put work into her uniquely Beyonce body (God bless it.), she’s made the rest of the known universe reconsider what it means to have a great body! How powerful is that?! And while most of us are no Beyonce, or Timberlake, or D’Angelo (…old D’Angelo), we all have the power to work on what we’ve got, present it in the best possible light, and really, genuinely love it! I don’t believe that there is such a thing as a perfect body. But I do believe that every one of us has the power to implement changes that make us better, inside and out. It’s not so much about being the best as it is being your best! Follow me? If you can really own your body, your swagger, and your concept of what sexy, or confident, or powerful is, you’ve already left most other stage performers in the dust. Ever seen someone play live that just had it? That “X factor” we’ve all been pining after? It is inside of you, lying in wait to f–k. Sh-t. UP! All you have to do is try some new things, and let go of some old notions. It’s not easy, but it is simple.