Good eating habits can help a busy singer juggle the demands of their career, says health and fitness expert Suzie Volkes.
A career as a singer is so much more than a job, it’s a lifestyle. When the city workers with their nine-to-five routines are tucked up in bed, you’re getting ready to step out on stage.
Day in and day out, you’re busy: hustling, practising and performing, leaving little time for exercise or meal planning. You might think about exercise and eating better, but that’s where it ends. Those thoughts never seem to become a reality.
But you’re doing ok, aren’t you? You’re fairly healthy, you have salad in your Subway and tomato in your burger, right?
Does this sound like a typical day for you?
Breakfast: usually non-existent, on the odd occasion toast.
Lunch: maybe a toasted sandwich from a coffee shop and snacks, if you’re meeting a friend for lunch. Fries might come into the equation too.
Dinner: either a quick meal on the go to get you through a performance, otherwise a good hearty dinner, with maybe even a cheeky glass of wine.
If you’re performing there may also be a beer or G&T on go.
Post-show/dinner: Chocolate. Crisps. Take-away.
If your diet is anything like this, then you may have noticed your skin is excessively dry or oily and your energy levels are low. There may be other things too such as protruding body fat and an immune system as fragile as grandma’s hip.
But you’ll carry on, you always do, and you won’t notice the gradual worsening until…BOOM. You have a throat infection, no energy and feel terrible. Your voice and singing ability has also changed due to weight gain.
When your voice is your livelihood, your identity, your everything, you need to take care of it. Think of yourself as worker ant that will do anything to protect its queen. Your voice is part of your body; you need to treat your body like royalty.
As a singer eating on the go is part of the gig. You have to make it work for you to avoid burnout. Learning how to eat on the go means when you are busy, tired and stressed you can still make healthy choices and look after your body.
My top seven tips for eating on the go are:
- Always carry food with you; a nutbar, fruit, a protein bar, anything that will save you in those moments of pure hunger.
- If there are places you frequent often, look at the menu, learn what is healthiest and see what you enjoy. That way you have that trade-off, of tasty and healthy.
- Eat breakfast. You’re less likely to eat that burger and fries for lunch.
- If you’re eating late at night, opt for something high in protein and low in carbs. All carbs convert to sugar. Do you really need a sugar hit at 2am just before bed?
- Set yourself some health rules. For example; vow to eat two pieces of fruit every day. Be strict with yourself, no junk food or treats until you’ve completed your rules.
- Avoid purchasing meal deals. A sandwich, crisps and a drink can easily equal 1,000 calories in one sitting. Avoid big chains and buy from local delis and bakeries instead, they use more natural ingredients and will be lower in calories and preservatives.
- When in restaurants watch out for words such as; au gratin, creamy, fried, ala crème, battered, crispy, smothered, golden. All describe calorie-dense foods with little nutritional value.
I’ll leave you with the story of my friend, Lucy, who is a singer and dancer. Lucy led a lifestyle like the one I described above but started to resent performing when she gained weight. She hated how she felt about herself and was continuously ill. Things got so band Lucy gave it all up and conformed to the nine to five.
But she reached a point where she couldn’t stand the mundane life of the corporate world any longer. That was her driver for change. Lucy went from being an anti-vegetable suburbanite to a passionate cook and threw herself back into dancing to get fit again.
Lucy is now back performing – but this time around she takes care of herself. She’s learnt how to stay healthy when she’s on the road and loves her job more than ever.