Clean Slates and Clean Eating

It’s amazing how quickly a life can capsize (and how quickly it can be somewhat righted…even without all of the leaky holes filled).*

For the first time in my life, I didn’t finish my final papers. I packed my bags for Florida without any intention of returning to New York except to collect my things and high-tail it out of there.

The Deans of Academics and Admissions, however, did their darndest to convince me to reconsider. I could take an Incomplete in three classes and simply make up the papers before the next semester. I could move into campus housing so I could be closer to the gym and the school (which would cut my commute time and maybe allay some of my anxiety about staying on campus too late). I was talented and capable, and I could more than handle the demands of the program. It would be a shame if I left.

Going to a New Year’s Eve party in my new (little!) black dress

Long story short, I decided to return to New York to give it another try. (I wrote 50 pages in 2 weeks as well as the first draft of my full-length play for my playwriting class, reversing all of my Incompletes before the semester began).

I still had time before the new year, however, and I realized that I needed to make some big changes to my diet, since my body had plateaued. Through Oxygen Magazine I was introduced to something called the “Eat Clean Diet.” The idea was to completely cut out refined foods (easy), focus on lean protein (okay), eat healthy fats (not gonna happen ‘cause don’t fats make you fat?),** and eat six small (~200 calorie) meals a day (not so easy when you have to catch a train to 49th for some student rush tickets but then have to kill two hours wandering Times Square and won’t be home until 11 pm…but I guessed that’s what Tupperware was for). Through the Eat Clean Diet and Muscle and Fitness Hers, I learned about nutrient timing, and pre- and post-workout protein, and supplementation. I even learned how to make a pancake without any flour (hint: egg whites and protein powder).

The Eat-Clean Diet by Tosca Reno

When I returned to New York, I invested in whey protein powder, branched chain amino acid supplements, and a subscription to Clean Eating Magazine. I took the train down to Whole Foods on 59th at least once a week. I started running to and from the gym, and making sure to get home for my protein powder and oatmeal with blueberries before my 15 minute post-workout window closed and I got fat from eating carbs.

I approached the spring semester with a renewed sense of vigor. I was excited about my playwriting and critical writing classes. So what if I was the only idiot who liked things like Shakespeare and the musicals of the 1920s? So what if I felt like I had to defend the fact that I nearly cried from happiness while watching such fluff as Finian’s Rainbow,*** but couldn’t even understand some of the pieces I saw downtown? I could pretend to give a damn about contemporary, avant garde theatre. I was an expert on it now, remember? And if I could write three major papers in two weeks while finishing the first draft of a play, then I could do anything my professors asked of me.

Feeling fabulously thin at a gay bar downtown

I started attending the theatre 3-4 times per week–blowing through my savings account in order to make sure that I was the most up-to-date blowhard in the room. I could opine on any topic related to the New York stage (never mind the fact that I didn’t care about said topics as much as I cared about being seen as someone who could opine on them). I was burning the candle at both ends, between my early morning gym sessions, my late night theatre exploits, and my constant meal prepping and planning.

My good spirits began declining once again as summer drew nearer. I had no job prospects lined up because, despite my credentials and my knowledge, no theatre company had hired me. I couldn’t afford to do an internship, so my staying in New York was firmly tied to my ability to get hired. I was also exhausted. Being around theatre people began to make me sick–I felt like I was constantly being judged, constantly being put-upon. I started breaking down and walking out of my classes in tears once again or making excuses to get out of rehearsals so I could sit in my room and cry.

Getting dressed up for my sister’s Bat Mitzvah

I was putting so much energy into my education without feeling like I was getting anything out–so much energy without enough calories to fuel me–that I was headed for another burn out. I began seriously discussing the prospect of making this my last semester in New York.


*Sorry for my horrible metaphor. It’s so lame, that I’m leaving it here without rewriting it because I think we need to bear witness.

**Said my disordered, uneducated brain. I now know that fats do not make you fat (unless you’re regularly digging into the jar of Crisco, in which case, god help you).

***You’d cry from happiness too, if you got to hear Cheyenne Jackson and Kate Baldwin sing in person.

Finian’s Rainbow (borrowed from the NY Times)

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