The other day I was looking back on some photographs from my childhood. A pudgy, over-weight, bordering on obese child, it wouldn’t be hard to picture me growing up into the stereotypical “Ain’t over till the fat lady sings” opera singer. By the age of 15, my weight had grown exponentially into the obese territory and I decided I was tired of being the last one to complete the mile in PE. After fruitlessly fighting with nutritionists for years, I suddenly decided that fast food was no longer for me. I decided I didn’t need soda and that herbal tea would do just fine. I decided that I would start running several days a week (or at least trying to) and I joined a gym. With diligence and determination, by the age of 16, I had lost 75 pounds and was completely within the healthy weight range for my height. More importantly, I was happier, healthier, more energetic, and I found a new sense of self-worth. Now, 9 years later, I’m in the greatest shape of my life. A gluten-free, vegan yoga instructor, my “junk food” doesn’t get much worse than jamba juice. A self-proclaimed health nut, I am currently on day 8 of a 14 day yogi detox diet where I eat the same bowl of veggies, mung beans, rice, and herbs for all meals. This super-intense diet has not only changed my point of view on the importance of paying attention to what we put into our bodies, but it also has allowed me to let go of the emotional attachment I have put on food for my entire life. If you told all of this to the 9-year old Marissa, she would have laughed and rolled her eyes, and yet, I am forever grateful to myself for changing my life path all those years ago.
Weight has always been a major issue with opera singers. The cliche “Ain’t Over till the fat lady sings,” while a stereotype, is based on past realities. Look at photos of famous singers from the past and they are often times quite larger than their non-singing counterparts. Part of it is due to the effects of constant travel and eating out, part of it is due to the large frame that is often required to produce the necessary operatic sound, and part of it is due to the stereotype which drew a certain body type to the art form. However, today that is no longer the case. In this increasingly visually stimulated world, singers are becoming more and more aware of their visual presence on stage. Not only that, but staging is becoming more and more demanding on the singer as they are asked to sing suspended from the air or while jumping and dancing about (without getting winded, of course.) There is no longer room in this art form for the classic “park and bark” singer. Unfortunately, the pendulum often swings too far in the opposite direction as singers and audience members alike drag themselves through juice diets, cookie diets, grapefruit diets, anorexia, bulimia, and so on. These “diets” (if you can even call them that) only leave you exhausted, cranky, and ill. It was Daniel Chidiac who said “Losing weight is an activity that drives us mad; thriving to be healthy and fit is a lifestyle that lasts forever.” So, instead of reaching for that cookie and then telling yourself “it’s ok. I’ll just not eat anything else for the rest of the day,” reconsider. Food is fuel: for your body and your mind. Use the premium grade and your tank will last longer.
Khitchari, the Ayurvedic dish I have been eating for 3 meals a day. This pot of food is all I will be eating for the next 4-5 days.