Losing Weight and Staying Healthy As a Touring Musician
by DAVID J. HAHN ∑
In 2007 I went on tour and gained 20 lbs. I was sick about as often as we changed hotels and even spent one unfortunate afternoon curled up with the flu on the floor of the bus. And we ainít talkiní no luxury tour bus. It was like taking a nap on the floor of a movie theater. I used my shoes as a pillow. It was awful.
In 2008 I worked in half-a-dozen states, but managed to lose 25 lbs and hardly ever get sick. So what gives? Iíll tell you what worked for me. Maybe itíll work for you too.
After getting off tour in 2007 I just couldnít seem to get back in shape. I went to the gym, biked regularly Ė I even went totally vegetarian for a few months thinking that might shed the weight. No dice. Nothing I did seemed to work.
I started to see photos of myself on Facebook Ė including one particularly revealing batch of photos from a beach picnic in Hawaii Ė and I got determined. I was going to lose that tour weight.
The next time I was at the book store I looked at the nutrition books. Cook books are useless if you are a touring musician, so I skipped those. In fact, most diet books Ė nearly across the board Ė are pretty useless to touring musicians. You donít have a fridge or a kitchen, and most of the food you eat is either prepared for you or bought at restaurants. Have you ever tried to stick to the South Beach Diet at 3 am at a Dennyís? Forget it.
I found one book that really changed things for me Ė Eat This, Not That! by David Zinczenko. I tell people about this book all the time, but most of them think Iím a little nuts. If you check it out youíll see that this book looks and reads like a coffee table book or a picture book.
Nevertheless, itís the most relevant diet book on the market for touring musicians. The book lists all the major restaurant chains in the U.S. and suggests what to order and why, as well as what NOT to order and why. For musicians that are eating in restaurants and green rooms Ė this is the book to get! I can not recommend it enough.
Give Up Mayo
I know it tastes good, but you can get used to food without it. This stuff has 100 calories per tablespoon! That can be 100 Ė 200 calories per sandwich! If you get any chicken sandwich at any fast food joint, youíre looking at a heap of mayo and probably an additional 300 calories. You just donít need it!
Think about how much stuff has mayo in it. Most sandwiches, most creamy sauces and condiments, potato salad, coleslaw Ė tons of things. Itís hard to cut it out of your diet because it comes in so many things already. But as a touring musician, if you start saying ďhold the mayoĒ at restaurants, you could easily skip 300 to maybe even 800 calories a week. Remember that losing 1 pound per week means skipping 3,500 calories or an average of 500 calories a day. Start with mayo.
One way to do this is to substitute mayo with ketchup and mustard. A tablespoon of either condiment has less than 20 calories, and the ketchup is a good source of lycopene (raise your hand if you want a healthy prostate).
Give Up Cheese
I grew up in Illinois just over the border to Cheeseland, U.S.A. I know cheese, and I like cheese. But I learned to do without it. I asked for sandwiches without cheese or mayo, I stopped eating creamy dishes I knew were some combination of cheese and/or mayo. I ordered burgers instead of cheeseburgers.
I didnít cut out dairy, I just cut out cheese. After awhile I lost my taste for it and didnít miss it.
Donít Eat After the Gig
This one is really tough for musicians. I decided to stop eating 3 hours before I went to sleep. That essentially limited the number of hours in a day that I could eat and stopped me from eating after shows. I know most musicians want to eat after a gig, and I do too, but if you can curb just this one habit I guarantee youíll see results.
The thing is Ė when you get out of a gig, the only kitchens still open are the ones with deep-fryers. All the healthy options are closed until morning and youíve got nothing buy deep-fried bar food like wings, nuggets, fries and onion rings. Think about this Ė a Chicken Fingers Dinner at Steak Ďní Shake is 818 calories. You do that or something like it 3 times a week and thatís 2,454 calories. Again, losing 1 pound a week is skipping 3,500 calories Ė cut out these late night meals and it might add up to that 3,500.
Eat a Smaller Breakfast
I was always taught that you should eat a hearty breakfast every morning. Sausage and eggs with biscuits and butter will help me grow up big and strong.
But what I read in another book, You: The Owners Manual, all you need for breakfast is maybe a piece of fruit or a slice of whole-grain toast with peanut butter. That small amount will be enough to kickstart your metabolism, the fiber in the fruit or toast will keep you full longer, and whole grain toast and peanut butter is something you can easily find in the continental breakfasts of the hotels you find on tour. And hereís an interesting thing Ė the fat in the peanut butter will make the food take longer to digest and make you full even longer.
Order a Burger
Let me go back to Eat This, Not That for a minute. Do you know itís better to order a burger at McDonaldís than to order a grilled chicken sandwich? There are 410 calories in a Quarter Pounder (no cheese), compared to 570 in the Grilled Chicken Club. Order the burger!
In fact, after you read through the book a bit, you start to notice that most chicken sandwiches (and salads for that matter) are not the healthy alternatives you thought they might be. If they are smothered in cheese and mayo youíre better off with a burger.
Furthermore (and this may not be true of McDonalds grade-E meat), the beef in a burger will be a good source of zinc for your immune system. Which leads me to the next subject.
I learned in You: The Owners Manual that I probably wasnít getting enough zinc in my diet. I didnít eat much red meat and didnít have access to many dark green vegetables. I was also probably low on Vitamin C, which is plentiful in the fruit that I hadnít been eating.
I decided to try to get more spinach and fruit in my diet, but just to make sure Iíd get what my body needed, I started taking daily multi vitamins. I splurged at GNC and bought their special Menís Multi-Vitamins. Iím not a nutritionist, but I can tell you that I noticed a difference almost immediately. I felt more energetic and best of all Ė I stopped getting sick all the time.
I bought a folding bike that I could take with me on gigs. Iíll admit it looks a little ridiculous, but itís a convenient thing and suits my lifestyle. Itís important to stay active.
But note that I use the word ďactiveĒ and not ďobsessive.Ē Somewhere along the line Iíd gotten the idea that exercise meant daily pain and suffering. Itís no wonder I couldnít stick to a workout routine.
If you are looking for washboard abs, a body-building trophy or a career as an swimsuit model Ė exercise might actually mean daily suffering. But if you are just looking to stay healthy, lose a few pounds and feel good Ė what you need is more like 20 minutes a day of walking or biking. When I started this lifestyle change I actually stopped going to the gym. Instead I started walking places and riding my bike daily. For me, daily biking lost me more weight than sporadic commitments to gyms ever did.
As I said, Iím not a nutritionist. Iím also not a doctor, or a personal trainer, or the creator of a new diet. This article wonít get featured on Oprah, or made into a flashy new book or listed in Menís Health.
What I am is a musician, and furthermore, a musician that hasnít had a permanent address since the late í90s. Iíve eaten in every restaurant chain you can think of and traveled tens of thousands of miles in planes, trains, busses and boats from Taiwan to Italy. Iím a regular Joe that hasnít been blessed with a hummingbird metabolism or a athletic physique.
Iím a musician that slowly gained weight for years and finally found some simple lifestyle changes that helped me lose 25 lbs in about 3 months. Try out the advice and the books I mentioned here. It might work for you!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
David J. Hah
David J. Hahn is a pianist in New York City. He has performed on 5 continents as a conductor, music director and keyboardist and currently works as a sub on Broadway.
Originally published in MusicianWages.com
At first, they'll only dislike what you say, but the more correct you start sounding the more they'll dislike you. Criss Jami
I think cardio exercise is best way to get good results in natural way and be fit,
i also doing cardio exercise in morning....
We should be keep control weight of the body because health is wealth.I will exercise,running,
gym and swimming for losing weight.Its the best solutions for losing weight.