Kirk has always aspired to be an actor. Since he was in elementary school, he participated in class plays, was a member of the drama club and attended one of the most prominent film schools in North America. Talent, he says, is the last thing directors and producers look for these days. With digital graphics and all sorts of special effects, the viewer’s expectations have focused on eye candy instead of traditional talent and technique. 3D Studio Max and Adobe After Effects have taken the place of Meisner and Stanislavsky. Actors are now simply expected to look not act.
The casting sheet says ‘good looking fit male between 25 and 30’. As opposed to some mirrors at gyms and clothing stores especially designed to present a slim and lengthened reflection, the one in my bathroom says it like it is. It’s hard being the ‘in-between’. I wasn’t a beached whale, but at the beach, I was no David Charvet (Dude from Baywatch). Working as an actor, you get called on to do all kinds of spontaneous acts. “Take your shirt off! I’m doing a men’s shampoo ad I think you’d be good for” are words that can make you or break you in this business. For one thing, you never know if the director you’re meeting will be shooting a commercial on a beach in Ibiza next week or may find your face perfect for a role in ‘another’ project which requires partial nudity. Working out with weights may be fun if you find continuous repetitive lifting delightful. Dieting, keeping calorie charts, along with all that bio health shit they write about on fitness forums can get pretty pricy. Oftentimes it turns out to be one big scam. Regardless, I needed to tone. I needed to do it fast. I wanted results now. The chances to get there were ‘slim’.
Ask any motivational speaker and they’ll tell you that short term goals are the most realistic ones. I just wanted so badly to be as happy as the flamers in the A&F ads and not to worry about how I looked naked. I obsessed about a day when I could look at a photo-shopped Mathew McConaughey on yet another cover of Men’s Health and not have to give myself a bullshit excuse of why he can and I can’t. So I gave myself 2 weeks to drop the excess weight and apply for my citizenship in happy-slim-people-ville. Drugs were out of the question; coke was too expensive and meth would rot my insides. I wasn’t going to let that hold me down though. I’m an extremist. I worked two full time jobs to put myself through film school and lived in a roach infested LA motel feeding on instant noodles during pilot season 2002. Extreme anomalous ideas were my speciality. So that’s when it hit me like a lightning bolt of a thousand eurekas. The previous summer my sister and I went on a trip to Krakow, the most touristy city in Poland. As it is an unwritten law among the offspring of people from the old country to visit and pay respect to monuments of the old continent’s bloody history, we took a daytrip during our visit the infamous Nazi death camp – Auschwitz Birkenau, just beyond the suburbs of Cracow.
At first glance you wouldn’t think that this complex of brick houses had anything to do with the darkest moment of the 20th century but as soon as you enter the first bunker it all changes. Photographs of regular men and women with the date of their arrivals at the camp cover the walls. Next to each arrival’s photo was an ‘after shot’ – a shrivelled bony body held up to pose on metal hooks with the date of their ‘departure’ also conveniently given bellow. The life expectancy of inmates, before they died of exhaustion or hunger, was precisely three months.
The horrific photographs were meant to remind future generations never to allow such evil to be repeated. Nevertheless, if ignorant murderers can alter the meaning of a symbol associated with peace and spirituality for hundreds of years, then a desperate imbecile can interpret a slow and agonising death into a Hollywood ‘Super Diet’. Moreover, people had already been doing similar things for years, for instance, injecting toxic chemicals into tender body parts to make them appear more tight and voluptuous. My train of thought, perverse as it is creative, began to stir. If people could die of starvation in three months and, along the way, look like models from American Apparel, then with supplements and multivitamins I could invent the ideal speed diet. My mind wandered back to a set of photographs of a woman who was extremely obese upon her arrival in Auschwitz. If I could only somehow harness this intense process, I could be thin in 2 weeks. So I manifested a diet which is in no way, shape or form accepted by any dietitian, personal trainer or physician. I figured, fuck health problems! Morticians will appreciate me more if they don’t have to fire up a crane to get my dead fat arse in the coffin. So I set out on a diet inspired by murderous war criminals.
The first thing I did was to stop eating. Simple. It hurts at first but the hunger pains don’t last long. If you’re a smoker and have ever managed to quit for at least a week, you can stop eating for two days. All you have to do is imagine yourself as Gandhi fasting against colonial injustice. Any excuse you validate is a good one. Black coffee became my main source of energy. Two hours on a tread mill became my morning ritual armed with two Sudafeds and an mp3 player uploaded with pirate audio books. If you are too poor to get a gym membership, simply run. Cardio is the key!
Soon, my body began to freak out and start to eat the excess fat around my stomach. Although drinking numerous cups of black coffee suppressed my hunger and the Sudafed sped up my circulatory system, it dehydrated my body and hallowed my face. I chose to see it as ‘that defined chiselled Robert Pattinson look’ rather than the starving zombie look. Soon the dizzy spells arrived. Friends began to seem more annoying than usual. That was actually the result of the edginess caused by caffeine comedowns. Our bodies have ways of letting us know they’re not happy. Sporadic shakes and blackouts throughout the day are just signs that it’s working! I simply told myself that I was at one big rave and someone had sold me MDA instead of MDMA. You’re still high but it’s more of a motor skills high than a ‘physical spiritual I want to fuck in a dirty club bathroom’ high. If not sooner, after seven days of this you’ll feel like shit; weak, hungry and wired. Yet, when you look in the mirror, you see results and that gives you motivation. Mind over matter.
I began to throw out my old clothes and buy everything in smaller sizes. Wait till the director sees the new, beautiful, skinny me! I kept telling myself ‘You are a new person and these new clothes represent your new life’. By discarding your old clothes you rid yourself of your past ‘fat’ self. This method can get a little pricey so I recommend using your imagination and the Internet. Feed your ego not your stomach!
After two weeks of watermelon, carrots, temper tantrums and delirium my belly was gone. I didn’t have to suck it in when sitting in the presence of others and I started to feel lighter and more at ease. Friends began to notice “Dude, you’re getting really skinny, are you okay?”. They were just jealous of my Calvin Kleinesque rib cage which they got a glimpse of as I obsessively walked around my apartment topless. I achieved the weight loss. Now i needed muscles. Since food made me fat, I concluded that the most logical thing would be to take supplements and only supplements – muscles fill with water, harden and, in one week, you’re ripped and ready to recite Hamlet in a towel. I lost four kilos in two weeks and then another two in the following week and a half. I managed to reunite with my six pack and accept skinny jeans as the current leading model of denim. I achieved my goal! Do I feel stupid after reflecting and listening to myself? No, I don’t. I’m sad.
What is it about this obsession with being seen, exposed, accepted? They key to a good life is balance. Where was the balance in all this torturous action? Everyday we allow outside sources to manipulate our values and influence our egos to the point at which common sense is obstructed by idealism and fraud. I can’t enjoy the things in life that should bring joy. Family dinners, beers with friends, lazy Sunday mornings. There’s an immutable conscious guilt attached to everything edible. As we speak, my mind races thinking about how I look and how I should sit. I don’t consider myself to be shallow. I just have this innate sense of never looking good enough. I often ask myself, ‘why did I choose to become an actor?’. At one point it was to bring inspiring and touching literature to life. Nevertheless, I became a puppet for selling fast food, household products and forced to experiment with dangerous crash diets to alter my appearance.
Given the direction in which society is currently flowing, this has sadly become an ordinary lifestyle. Wanting to change this is generally dismissed as the current flowing in that direction is so incredibly strong that it’s next to impossible. I imagine we’ll all be like this pretty soon, not just the people who work in film and media. Restaurants will incorporate bathrooms especially designed for throwing up. The toilets will be higher, around waist level, and instead of soap there will be mouth wash dispensers. At the end of a lovely candlelit dinner the waiter will bring something called a ‘gagstick’ along with the bill – a thin plastic stick with a rounded end resembling a chopstick. It will replace the old finger down the throat method so as to avoid getting puke all over your hands. I imagine that ‘gagsticks’ will evolve into staple items and marketers will push them in the direction of a status symbol not dissimilar to the wristwatch or fancy handkerchief. Pretty soon aspiring ambitious young actors will be lining up in production studio waiting rooms for their chance to be seen in a commercial! And, the sweet smell of Listerine and vomit will linger in the air.