By Richard Bell
Note: The following is a significantly simplified version of very complex topics. I have done this deliberately for the sake of brevity and comprehension. My apologies for over simplifications to those who are well read: this is not born from ignorance, but the intention of reaching a broad audience.
I’ve easily met twenty models who take drastically unhealthy measures to lose weight or maintain their measurements. Reducing sleep time, smoking, taking drugs, and denying themselves food all take a toll on the body, leading to protein and vitamin deficiciencies. By putting a body through this kind of lifestyle, the body slips in to a heavy state of Catabolism.
Anabolism, or an anabolic state, means to build. A Catabolic state means to destroy. If you get rid of all the carbohydrates and fats in your body, your body will begin breaking down proteins. A starving body will break itself down to get usable energy. A body’s priority goes from the inside out; it needs a brain, a heart, lungs, and organs; everything else can be sacrificed. People who are starving look gaunt because their bodies are literally consuming their muscles (that, and they have a problem retaining water because their osmotic balances are shifted). Hair is weakened and becomes brittle as well. Hair that is straightened and blow-dried and curled everyday will be unable to recover from damage. In a severe state, the hair will fall out from the follicle. If you take away everything but water from your body, it’ll break down everything from the outside in until organ failure happens.
Aside from being dangerous, it is not photogenic. Undergoing severe lifestyle changes to lose weight in order to model is not sustainable; even if you get noticed in that time frame where your skin hasn’t degraded, your hair is still shining, and your nails aren’t brittle to the point of cracking, you won’t be able to continue. Sustaining the way you look is critical, and that is not achieved by radical starvation or foolish diets.
This health column is here to help you make healthy choices that will also benefit your career. Your body is your product, so treat it well. In this inaugural article, I’m going to take you through the basics of a healthy lifestyle. For those who have health issues; consult your family doctor. For those with special dietary needs; consult a registered dietician, NOT a nutritionist (they are two very different things). I’m here to help you make sense of how fitness and general nutrition fit your business.
Models, by trade, have won the genetic lottery. Some are bigger “winners” than others, in that certain uncontrollable things like hip bone volume is well within measurement credentials. As a model, it’s not enough to be naturally slender. You need to uphold measurements, and you need to do so in a healthy, consistent way. That is achieved through appropriate diet, exercise and recreational health.
Healthy Attention to the performance requirements of your body is the recognition of the need to fulfill those three elements. Healthy attention also includes positive self-talk and self-recognition of goals being achieved as they are achieved.
This kind of attention differs greatly from someone who suffers from an eating disorder. Anorexia nervosa, for example, is a mental disorder involving a distortion of residual self-image. An anorexic will never see themselves as being too thin, but will actually believe that they are too large, regardless of their size. Having a healthy attention to your body, you will recognize when your body is performing as it needs to or looks the way you are required to, and you will understand, acknowledge and maintain that physical image through a positive mental construct.
To reach fitness goals, you need to understand how your body responds to diet, how that corresponds to exercise, and how your recreational activity is a major factor in maintaining higher average energy consumption. Exercise can also elicit an increase in your basal metabolic rate, through recovery processes. That BMR depends on those three regular factors, and the hormone release that occurs because of activity. That’s where activities like running and weight lifting defer. Lets say you go for a run that theoretically burns 500 calories; when you’re done your run, that’s where the energy expenditure ends. If you lift, you burn that same 500 calories, but your metabolic rate is higher for the next 72 hours because your body needs to recover. That’s all part-in-parcel of staying trim and keeping unnecessary fat off.
Even if you’re a naturally thin person, balancing those three pillars keeps your body consistent. It keeps you in control. You cannot control your bone structure; if your hips grow because you hit puberty, there’s not a whole lot you can do about that. But you can control your diet, exercise and recreational activity, and the more you can control those, the more you can control your physical appearance. That consistency is essential when you’re on a contract that requires you to maintain certain measurements, or if you book regularly via direct bookings; keep your measurements steady for the clients who are looking at your comp card.
To The Girls: Don’t Worry Too Much About Putting on Muscle Mass
As a female, it’s much more difficult to put on muscle mass than it is for a male. It has to do with your androgen receptor sites and the availability of free testosterone. Females have testosterone, but greater amounts of estrogen. So it’s harder for a female to put on muscle because part of protein synthesis and recovery has to do with the bioavailability of testosterone. Muscle growth (Hypertrophy) is slower in females for this reason as well. Unless you are specifically training to be an Olympian, or a professional athlete, you won’t accidentally get large. It’s a process that will take time, and you will notice it happening.
Muscle mass is also your friend. The more muscle you have, the more energy you consume simply from existing. That means it’s easier to keep fat off.
Diet and Nutrition
If you signed up for a job that requires you to look a certain way, you have to do that. Think about how meticulous you are with your hair and makeup for a huge casting; that’s how particular you should be with your nutrition. I would argue that treating nutrition like a drug yields the best results. When you drink too much alcohol, you have a pretty rough time the next day; your body has the same battles with nutrition, but they aren’t as evident. To further reinforce this point, a drug can be defined as a medicine or other substance that has a physiological effect when ingested or otherwise introduced into the body (Oxford English Dictionary). Food is a drug, and if you treat it like that, it will help you instead of hurt you.
Have you ever heard of a diet trend that sounds too good to be true? It is. You don’t need to do a juice cleanse, if you eat right regularly. A healthy diet isn’t something that you do for a week and then check off your list and go back to eating garbage.
Look into Dr. Barry Sears’ Block Diet. It treats food like a drug. Because it is so particular, you know exactly the result food will have on your body. The devils in the details, and eating food, exercising and engaging in recreational activity is a model’s version of stocking shelves and taking inventory. If you cross every T and dot every I when it comes to those three fundamental aspects of your health, makeup and doing your hair are just the finishing touches to an already well constructed image, which is your product.
Richard Bell writes this health column and is the Health and Fitness Consultant for The Business Model. He is a model represented by Lang Models in Toronto and has worked in Singapore, Tokyo, and Milan. He is also the co-owner of CrossFit Leviathan, a gym in downtown Toronto. He has a BSc (Honors) in Kinesiology and Biomechanics from Dalhousie University and has played rugby at the university and provincial levels.