Zibby Mag

The Webby Award-winning literary lifestyle destination.

The Cost of Being “Camera Ready”

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

By Amanda Johnson

I wanted to have a unicorn pregnancy, only gaining the weight of the baby and losing it immediately, but that wasn’t the case for me.

Myobsession with exercise and nutrition started about eight years ago. I had just begun studying acting in New York City and my instructor mentioned that actors should always be “camera ready.”

I took that literally. Since I never knew when I’d be called in for an audition, I started wearing eye shadow and lipstick every day. I also paid more attention to my diet. Maybe that pizza and Diet Coke I had for lunch wasn’t such a good idea.

I explored exercise by joining a neighborhood gym where I took Zumba classes twice a week. I couldn’t keep up with the rhythm but enjoyed sashaying to the beat, nonetheless. A couple of months in, the owner announced he was going to lead the studio through a twenty-one-day cleanse to rid our bodies of toxins and help us implement healthy eating habits. Yikes. He handed out a packet with instructions and paleo-inspired recipes.

At the time, I had never heard of the paleo diet. Who eats only meat and vegetables? How is that even sustainable? Worst of all, coffee wasn’t allowed. What kind of cruel joke was this? But I decided to go for it anyway.

I quickly lost seven pounds, and the paunch under my belly button. I was hooked.

My body slimmed down twenty pounds. I didn’t even know I had twenty pounds to lose. At 5’10”, my height carried the extra weight pretty well. But now that it was gone, I wasn’t going to let it come back.

I started exercising six days a week with increasing levels of intensity. I went to 6:00 a.m. Boot Camp classes and rounded out my nights with yoga. I often slipped out during my lunch hour to take a forty-five-minute Body Sculpt class at the New York Sports Club a block from my office. I posted sweaty workout photos on social media and tried to be inspirational. I cringe with embarrassment when I remember that period.

And then I got pregnant.

I wanted to have a unicorn pregnancy — only gaining the weight of the baby and losing it immediately — but that wasn’t the case for me. The further along I got in my pregnancy, the more the thought of salads made me gag. My body craved carbs — pizza, bagels, spaghetti. Gimme, gimme, gimme.

I was going crazy trying to keep up with this perfect image I had concocted. The one that told me always to be camera-ready and look fantastic. There was an internal battle with what my body was telling me it needed and what my brain was telling me I “should” eat. My willpower lasted only so long before I broke down and ate bowls full of mac and cheese.

I gained thirty-five pounds during my pregnancy, which is right on par for my height and weight. But I couldn’t shake the feeling that I had somehow failed. That other pregnant woman did it so much better than me.

Ironically, I got the biggest audition of my career during this time — for The Affair on Showtime.

Most women get cleared to exercise at around six weeks postpartum. But I wasn’t so lucky. Due to a complication which I will not go into (you’re welcome), I had to wait several months before I was given the thumbs up.

Once I got the OK, I dove right into muscling my thighs back to their pre-baby shape. I gained most of the weight in my hips and butt and I couldn’t wait to slim them down. I felt so uncomfortable and clunky in this new body of mine, even when I reflected on the miraculous fact that this body gave birth to my son.

I soon realized that I no longer had the time or energy to plan meals every Sunday. It was hard enough to exercise — let alone eat healthily. My husband often did the grocery shopping, and he’d come home with bags of tortilla chips—an item I definitely did not put on the list. Slowly, and somewhat painstakingly, I learned to release control of my perfectionist approach and allowed myself to be okay with eating frozen lasagna once in a while.

Although no longer obsessed with exercise, I still find time to work out six days a week. Fitness is important to me, and I feel the best when I’m actively moving. However, now I keep my exercise to thirty minutes and try to get it done before my son wakes up. Then it’s on to the shower. After all, being “camera ready” doesn’t also have to be self-destructive.


Amanda Johnson is a storyteller and exercise fanatic. She has written for both stage and screen. Her debut novel, East of Manhattan, will be published in June 2021 and features themes of healthy lifestyle, motherhood, and female empowerment.