Staying Healthy on Set – It’s a Bigger Deal Than You Think

eating healthy on a film set

Burgers and junk food aren’t the best way to thrive on a film set, but I’m not going to tell that to Jules Winnfield

Written by Devin Klos, a production lifer and founder of IWorkinProduction.com

Ask someone to describe a crew member on a film or TV set and you typically get the same few words: dark clothes, looks tired and generally out of shape. Hey, we work long hours and generally don’t get to spend our downtime working with a studio appointed personal trainer, ok!?

The dark clothes are so we blend in to the background and are also just standard uniform code since time began.

Yes, our skin might be as pasty as a vampire after a long sleep and there are enough circles under our eyes to make a Redwood jealous. Long hours and little sleep tend to do that.

However, being out of shape can be somewhat tempered by what you do to stay healthy on set. Here now, are some simple steps to yell CUT to your gut (Hey, that’s even better than “there’s no hope with dope“).

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1. Eat Breakfast AND I Don’t Mean Donuts

So many people, myself included, don’t always eat breakfast to start our day. Yet more and more studies come out every day that preaches how important the first meal of the day is. It fuels us, wakes us up and gives us the right boost to our metabolism that our body knows how to process and digest everything else we put in to it throughout the day.

Skipping breakfast usually leads to snacking or feeling slow throughout the day or even worse, the dreaded hunger headache that strikes after being on set for a 6am call and having no food until lunch.

Therefore, eating breakfast is a must. The RIGHT breakfast, that is.

staying healthy on a film set

High in protein, but bad aftertaste (so I hear) – stick with a granola bar

Skip the pastries, the sugars and carb bombs in those will do you no favors to your waistline and also will only make you hungry again very soon. Again, constant snacking is the enemy here.

What should you grab instead? Protein and fruit is a good start. Eggs or some form of protein will fuel you for the day and fruits, like bananas and apples will keep you feeling fuller longer. A great breakfast option is to mix and match a few things together, perhaps using some low-fat peanut butter (Protein!) with some bananas as part of your breakfast routine and you’ll be shocked by how much energy you retain until lunch is called.

2. Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate!

Our body is made of mostly water. It’s science, so why fight against it?

Always have a bottle of water handy and keep drinking, especially if the temperature is hot on an outdoor shoot. Coffee is OK to wake you up and give you a boost, but A) It dehydrates you and B) If you add cream and sugar, that’s working against your waistline again.

If you’re looking to spice things up a bit here, do not reach for the soda. The boost of caffeine is not worth everything that comes with it, the chemicals and once again, SUGAR. Instead, if you want some flavor, green tea is a good option as it has caffeine in it and none of the sugar.

For an even more exotic twist, bring some seltzer with you on set and mix some cherry or grape juice in to it and TA-DA, you have essentially the same flavors of soda minus all the bad stuff.

Bottom line is you need to stay hydrated at all times. On long days, when you are sweating and focusing through take after take, water keeps everything balanced out. Obviously, be reasonable here, if you are drinking so much water you need to run to the bathroom every 10 minutes, cut back or consult your doctor as you may have a bladder problem.

film production jobs entry level

3. Stay Busy AND Rest

Seems like a bit of an oxymoronic phrase but essentially, be active as often as you can and rest as often as you can. If you have a few moments of down time, take a little walk, stretch out a bit, do something to keep your heart rate up. Then, on the next break you get, have a seat, kick back for a while and rest.

Muscles need to be stretched out but also need to be powered down for them to stay strong. You’ll be on your feet a lot, so make sure you have comfortable shoes too. Anything that gives your heels a break especially. The last thing you want is to be in pain all day.

Likewise your mind. If you want to keep it sharp, keep it engaged. Talk to your fellow crew members (If they want to talk! They may be giving off screw off vibes, so leave them alone then and make sure you can tell), be social, make friends, it’ll make any job easier. At the same time, take some me time. Read the paper if it’s around, do a crossword puzzle, words with friends on your phone, catch up on emails. Essentially, anything that keeps you from just spacing out.

4. Bring Snacks From Home

staying healthy on a film set

This is when my wife says, “see you should eat more apples”

This is the big one. When you are on set you generally cannot leave, so whatever food is provided for you is what you have to work with. For better and worse, most of the time, this means there’s a ton of junk food, cookies, candy, etc, etc, because it can be bought in bulk and is good for a quick bite.

This is where everything goes down hill fast.

If at all possible, bring your own snacks with you. Granola bars are an excellent alternative to cookies, likewise trail mix or maybe some grapes. The big key is to avoid the excess sugar whenever you can as sugar leads to fat which leads to spare tires for everyone. By taking more control over what you are eating, you are taking more control over your body and not letting your sweet tooth take charge.

Also, for lunch, you don’t always have to load up on all the lovely food that is brought forth. Sure, grab that piece of chicken and maybe some sides, but head for the salad section instead of grabbing that second round of chips and you’ll feel much better later.

Bonus Tip:

As Carl Weathers says on Arrested Development, make sure to grab leftovers from the lunch table for later. You never know if you can take a chicken leg or some veggies and get a stew going!

Dinner should sometimes be lighter than breakfast or lunch, especially if you have an early call the next day. You don’t want to eat a huge dinner and then go right to bed or you’ll be dreaming, not of sheep, but of beach season with horror.

At the end of the day, you are what you eat. If you want to fight the uphill battle of staying healthy on set, you need to control your intake of the quick snacky foods and replace it with food rich in protein and fiber. It’ll keep you going long enough to get home and crack that first beer of the night at the wrap party…but that’s a whole other issue for another day.

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About Brian Clapp

Brian Clapp has worked in the broadcast media for over 14 years as a writer, editor, producer & news director. After beginning his career in Atlanta at CNN/Sports Illustrated, he switched coasts to Seattle to work at Fox Sports Northwest. In 2010, Brian began pursuing a new found passion on the digital media side, launching a successful website and then taking on the role of Director of Content for WorkinSports.com & WorkinEntertainment.com.

Recently Brian has become addicted to Google+ and LinkedIn so add him to your circles and make him a contact. No seriously, you should.

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