Imagine you’re at work, millions of people are watching you and, all across social media, there’s a flurry of comments on every aspect of you and your co-workers’ physical appearance. The comments can range from “Eat a cheeseburger” to “She needs to have her roots done” to “Is that a baby bump?” This is just another day in the life for the stars of our favorite daytime dramas. Talk about an incentive to stay in shape! Kathleen Gati, the fabulous Dr. Liesl Obrecht on ABC’s General Hospital, shared with me how she balances a busy schedule, long hours, and the constant pressure put on actresses in Hollywood to not only be on top of their acting game, but to be svelte and sexy at any age.
Kathleen’s character was first contracted as a two day appearance but, luckily for her fans, the role evolved into a storyline involving mystery, kidnapping, attempted murder, becoming an instant mother to two beautiful, adult children, becoming the chief of staff of General Hospital, and alternating between being funny, evil, likeable and bitchy, all while showcasing her talents as singer and a dancer and stealing the hearts of fans along the way. I got to sit down and ask the good doctor her prescription for balancing it all.
How do you make the time for fitness with a busy acting schedule?
“I find it very hard to keep to my daily exercise routine when I’m filming. It really depends on the amount of work and how I need to best focus my time and energy. I pour my heart and soul into my work! If I’m not filming I’ll go to the gym but, if I am scheduled to shoot, I will try to get to the studio early and squeeze in some pushups, jumping jacks and crunches in my dressing room. Otherwise I head to the gym five or six days a week and enjoy taking aerobic, weight training or kickboxing classes. You can also find me on the elliptical machine or using free weights. I find that having a class instructor is a great help as you tend to push yourself harder. I also adore going for walks to get some fresh air and clear my thoughts.”
How do you handle the constant pressure to physically look your best?
“As an actress and a human being, I try my best to take care of my health and body, both for the short and long term. There is definitely more pressure put on us as actors to look as good as possible, especially on a soap, where the men are typically very hot and shirtless a great deal of the time! And there’s a huge social pressure put on actresses. When I first became an actress, I was told by an important casting director that I’d need to either lose twenty pounds to be considered marketable or gain a hundred pounds and be cast as a character actress! I was told in no uncertain terms that this “in-between” look had no place in the industry. It felt very good to prove that person WRONG and, while there has been some progress on acceptance of different body types, the truth of the matter is that what you look like remains intermingled with your ability to get hired for certain roles as an actress. It took me a long time to make peace with the fact that I am of ‘strong’ Eastern European descent and I would never be a delicate little birdie, nor was I born with a Speedy Gonzales metabolism. I remember my childhood ballet teacher telling us we could eat when we were older!! Now that’s a good joke!! Liar, liar pants on fire!”
Do you have any special tips or tricks that help you look fabulous?
“I have tried almost every trick I could think of but, what works best for me, is to be sure to eat protein in the morning and eat small meals throughout the day to stave off hunger. In the evening, I find having large broth and veggie based soups help to fill me up, and I enjoy snacking on some carrots and snap peas. When all else fails, my advice is to smile BIG so that people notice your smile instead of your butt size! Smiling has the added advantage of being an instant face lift!”
What is your diet like? Are there any foods you avoid?
“After many years of dysfunctional eating, e.g. lots of diet sodas and bubble gum instead of food, plus trying every diet you can think of, my wiser self now tends to be more ‘vegan-ish.’ I avoid gluten and sugars, and I keep meat intake to a minimum. I have lots of salads and vegetables and occasionally fruits. I do make protein shakes and sneak some healthy things in there like leafy greens, almond milk, pea protein powder, etc. My morning meal usually consists of 12 ounces of almond milk and a scoop of Vega protein powder that is sweetened with stevia or scrambled eggs, or an egg white omelet. I avoid alcohol and caffeine, with the exception of an occasional beer or cocktail. I also find keeping a food journal is extremely helpful and try to keep my calories to 1200 a day. If I splurge on special occasions I will try to get right back on track the following day.”
What advice would you pass on to your fans?
“I know that I always consider myself to be a work in progress, and I’ve made peace with this. I enjoy always giving myself new goals to reach and strive for. I find the chase keeps me on my toes! I also love and accept myself for who I am in this moment and would encourage my fans to always do the same. There is a wonderful scene in the film ‘The Rainmaker’ with Katharine Hepburn, where Bill Starbuck says to Lizzie, ‘Look in my eyes, what do you see?’ and she looks into his eyes long and hard and then says, ‘I’m beautiful.’ Whether someone else tells you that, or you look in the mirror and study yourself well… that really says it all….try to see the love and feel the love for yourself! I’ve been blessed to play a character as interesting and fun as Dr. Obrecht, and am so grateful that the fabulous General Hospital fans have embraced my character and I have stolen their hearts, as the fans have definitely stolen mine! I very much enjoy having a strong, fit, normal-sized body, which suits my work as an actress, and I feel a responsibility to represent the real woman, who may not be society’s notion of perfect.”
Kathleen Gati is a multi award-winning international actress, currently best known for her role as Deirdre, the flight attendant on Fear The Walking Dead: Flight 462, and as Dr. Obrecht on General Hospital. Previously well known (among numerous other credits) for her roles as Anya Suvarov on 24 and Zahra Pirzad on Alphas. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband. For more on Kathleen: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0309670/ and you can follow her on Facebook and Twitter: @gatitweets
The author, Charlene Bazarian, is a fitness and weight loss success story after losing 96 lbs., who has been featured in Good Housekeeping, Oxygen Magazine, Pop Sugar Fitness, First For Women Magazine, Boston Magazine, Fitfluential, Muscle and Strength, The Sun, Daily Mail, and other publications and is known for mixing a no nonsense style of fitness advice with humor on Facebook at FBJ Fit and her blog at Fbjfit.com.