50 Shades of Health chats with the actress, Anne Marie Howard to discuss fitness, nutrition, overall wellness and more.
I met Anne Marie about fourteen years ago in Los Angeles through a mutual friend. She graciously agreed to star in a short film that my brother and I co-wrote, co-produced and directed. Anne Marie is one of the most grounded, hardworking, and talented people I’ve worked with in Hollywood. I consider her not only a talented actress but also a fabulous inspiration and friend. You hear about people who command attention when they walk into a room. Anne Marie’s got it in spades. It is a level of confidence, intelligence, warmth and a genuine presence that does not come easily to everyone. That, in addition to her incredible outlook on life and overall wellness, has much to do with her level of success in her life and her acting profession.
Anne Marie has graced the stage, been a mainstay character on two Soap Operas, and appeared on multiple TV shows, films and commercials. From drama to comedy, she has played the wealthy socialite, reporter, co-host, to the distraught mom. In addition, she has been the spokeswoman/host for a myriad of products and services. She appeared on the silver screen in films: The Weather Man (with Nicolas Cage and Bryant Gumbel), You Don’t Mess With the Zohan (Adam Sandler), and John Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness to name a few. She had long-standing roles on two world-famous soap operas as Nicole Love on Another World, and Kimberly Brady-Donovan on Days of Our Lives. She has appeared on numerous TV Shows: Castle, Desperate Housewives, Private Practice, Nip/Tuck, and Monk and hosted/been the spokeswoman for commercials for the National Association of Realtors, Ditech.com, Youthology, and NUVO H2O.
Anne Marie opens up about her fitness routine, her diet and how she balances work/life being a busy actress in Los Angeles.
Question: What is your workout of choice?
Answer: I switch up my exercise routine often to make sure I’m taking care of my entire body, and I choose workouts that I like. Bicycling, Pilates, Yoga, Running, Rollerblading. Lately, I spend more time at the Gym. I enjoy watching the personal TV monitors on the machines, switching back and forth between The View and Kathy Lee & Hoda. That way, I keep my body in shape while entertaining and informing my mind! The truth is that I exercise more for my mind than my body. Exercise gives me confidence, and that is important for an actress.
Question: What motivates you to work out?
Answe: Knowing how I will feel afterwards. Being in front of the camera and wanting to look my best. The confidence it gives me. It is fun for me, not a grind because I’ve found a variety of exercises that I love to do.
Question: What is your typical workout?
Answer: My typical workout is the workout I did today at the gym. I do that 3-4 times a week. It is an hour and a half – 20 minutes on the elliptical machine, 15 minutes on the stationary bike, 15 minutes on the treadmill, 10 minutes on the rowing machine, and 20 minutes of stretching, arms, abs, lunges and squats. On the other days, I’ll make sure I walk a lot and exercise at home. I created a small home gym complete with a mini trampoline. Hula hooping is also a great exercise!
Question: How often do you work out/train?
Answer: Four to six times a week, depending on my schedule – always for a minimum of an hour and always with some aerobic activity.
Question: Were you an athlete in school? If so which sport/s?
Answer: I was on the gymnastics team (floor, bars and balance beam), on the track team (hurdles and relay), and a very enthusiastic cheerleader. I hated gym class. It was boring, and when we played basketball, I was always the last one picked because I was short and I didn’t play well. You just don’t become good at things you don’t like to do.
Question: What challenges do you face staying fit?
Answer: Finding the time when I’m working or auditioning a lot. One important thing I’ve learned about working out is that if I do not have energy left for the rest of my day, it is not helping me, so I need to adjust and find the balance. Boredom was an issue, until I added a variety of exercise choices. I love riding my bicycle down to the beach for a few hours when I have the time.
Question: Is it difficult to find the time and energy to work out while balancing career, family and a social life? How do you make or find the time?
Answer: I don’t have kids so that gives me more time, but balancing family and career is always a bit challenging. I make working out a priority because I love it and it’s important to me. The morning is best for me, so I get up early and get it done! It’s an invigorating way to start my day!
Question: What advice would you give to women or men who plan to start a fitness regimen?
Answer: Ease into it so you will stay with it. It took me years to run six miles. At first, I had trouble regulating my breath. I choose to exercise an hour a day because I love it and that feels right for me. You may feel energized by doing 20 minutes of something aerobic, and that is great. Walking counts. Quite a few of my friends have those counters that tell you how much you have walked in a day. They feel good when they meet their desired goal. It is all about feeling good. I like to challenge myself now and then by adding something new to my routine. A new yoga class or bicycle route helps keep it interesting. At the gym, I never do things in the same order. I always mix it up.
Question: If you listen to music when you work out, what music helps you get through your workouts?
Answer: I have a playlist that I created on iTunes and being able to shuffle the songs help keep it fresh. I like upbeat, energetic music for my workouts and have an eclectic mix of artists on my playlist, like Stevie Wonder, Adele, U2, Lady Gaga, Dixie Chicks, KT Tunstall and the Rolling Stones.
Question: Working as an actress living in Los Angeles, do you feel there is more added pressure to stay fit being in the public eye?
Answer: Oh, there definitely is without question. Having said that, it is an interesting time in the industry. A few of our popular female talents are not thin. It is more widely talked about and accepted in the media. I’m thrilled to see real women with real bodies on television and in films. I gained some weight in my late 20’s/early 30’s, and my manager sat me down after a casting director commented on my weight gain and said, “You can be a character actress or a leading lady. It is your choice.” He took me to a sushi restaurant and an Italian restaurant and taught me how to order healthy choices. That is a good manager. I lost weight and booked my first soap opera. As I age, I’m aware of the need of staying youthful looking as young as possible. I’m not going to have surgery to do that. Exercise and the latest and greatest facial creams are essential!
Question: What is your guilty pleasure when it comes to food?
Answer: I love Mexican food and margaritas! I also love the occasional cheeseburger with French fries.
Question: Do you follow a certain diet?
Answer: My diet is my awareness of what’s good for me. I know what fuel is best for my body and, fortunately, I like those foods. I enjoy Salmon, vegetables (especially the green ones), salads, fruits, yogurt, nuts, grass-fed beef, chicken, rice, and eggs. I love bread, but I curb that impulse as much as possible. Whole wheat is the better choice. And one or two bites of dessert are plenty.
Question: How important is nutrition to you?
Answer: Very. What we put in our bodies either hurts or helps us function. Food is fuel. It can give us energy or bog us down. I like to feel uplifted and energized.
Question: What do you know you should change about your diet?
Answer: I should not drink so much red wine. I get tired if I let too many hours go between meals. So making sure I have the right snack foods available is essential. Snacks like Apples, grapes, bananas, oranges, raisins, a Kind bar, raw nuts, and Kamut/rice cakes with almond butter and a swirl of honey.
Question: What is your diet advice and why?
Answer: Listen to your body. If you listen, it will tell you what it needs. Make sure that you are not going hungry because that is when you will tend to overeat. Make good choices that fuel you and allow you to put your best foot forward. Your diet affects your mind and spirit. Eat well. I prefer real butter to margarine or soy alternatives. I do not drink soda. Maybe a ginger ale once every four to six months to soothe an aching tummy, but as a rule, I do not drink anything with sugar added. I do not use sugar alternatives. I love plain iced tea and bubbly water with lemon. Become aware of what you are putting into your body and how it affects you. If you want to pick up some good reading on food and diet, check out anything written by Michael Pollan. He has a new book out called, Cooked. Food Rules is one of my favorites.
Question: Finding balance is so important, especially for the life of an actress, what do you do to keep up work/life balance considering being readily available for auditions, last-minute bookings, traveling and sometimes working crazy production hours?
Answer: I’m good to myself. I don’t stress myself out if I can’t find the time to exercise for a few days. I trust that I’m in good shape, and it’s not all going to just disappear overnight. I’ve worked out regularly for over 30 years so I give myself a break. I’ll stretch and do some yoga in my hotel room or dressing room, and meditate to help me relax.
Question: What do you do to relieve stress?
Answer: I take Epsom salt and Lavender bubble baths. I meditate. I listen to quiet music. I tend to my organic vegetable garden in the spring and summer. I go to the gym or ride my bicycle. I paint or read a good book. I found a great technique called the Tapping solution. There are some good videos about it on YouTube and a great new book by Jack Canfield and Pamela Bruner called, Tapping Into Ultimate Success.
Question: I hear one of the hardest things about being an actor is rejection. You have to believe in yourself 100% because you never know what “they” are looking for and you shouldn’t get discouraged. That’s not to say it’s not tough on one’s psyche. How do you handle it, cope, and move on?
Answer: I experience rejection all the time, sometimes daily. I don’t look at it as rejection. I see it as not being right for that role. Fortunately I have been right for many roles over the years. I used to audition the way I thought the casting director wanted it, but years of living and auditioning have brought me wisdom and insight. Now I offer what I have to give and if they like it, great. If not, I’ll get the next one. It has been a life changer to walk in the door and bring all of me to the role instead of second guessing what they might be looking for. I do my best and then let it go. I don’t beat myself up when I make a mistake or do not do as well as I’d hoped to do. I learn from it and apply it to making my next audition even better. It has taken many years to become Zen about it all. They are not rejecting me personally. I’m not the one they are looking for in this case. Thankfully, I’ve been the one they are looking for many times over the years!
Question: What motivated you to become an actress?
Answer: I was on stage for the first time when I was four years old, and that was it. I was hooked. I knew that I wanted to be an actress! I played the youngest child in the musical, Carousel, at Ottumwa Heights Community College. I took ballet, tap, toe, and jazz class and joined a local theatre company in my early teens. I starred in every high school production and took a summer acting program at the University of Iowa my junior year of high school. Being on stage feels like being home to me. I’m comfortable there. It just feels right. Being in front of the camera is fun too. There’s nothing I enjoy more. Being able to embody different characters and pretend that I’m an entitled wealthy woman, a devastated mom, a supportive wife, or a successful reporter makes my heart sing. I am so grateful I get to do what I love.
Question: If you were to do any other profession what would it be and why?
Answer: I’d love to work as a journalist like Barbara Walters, Katie Couric, or Diane Sawyer, but since they are in front of the camera, and I’ve played plenty of reporters in films and television and hosted many infomercial shows, I’ll pick something different. I think I’d be an artist because I love painting. I enjoy my alone time, the solitude, being in the creative zone, and watching the canvas fill with images that come from my wacky dreams. It soothes my soul to paint and share my work with others. I enjoy writing very much. I plan to put a book of my work one of these days. I love Richard Stine’s book, The World of Richard Stine.
Question: What is your most fulfilling accomplishment?
Answer: It was thrilling to ride on a float flanked by Nicolas Cage and Bryant Gumbel in The Weather Man and be directed by Gore Verbinksi (Pirates of Caribbean film fame). I felt I’d arrived! I also love being an inspiration to others and sharing my years of experience. It is so rewarding to watch young actors grow, and I always learn a lot about myself from listening to what I have to say to them. It often surprises me what comes out of my mouth. As a girl, I left Iowa to be an actress in New York City. I did not know anyone there who could help me. I did not even know about the unions I eventually joined the Screen Actors Guild (SAG), American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) and Actors’ Equity Association (AEA). I went to school to study my craft and worked two jobs while attending the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. I was a girl from Iowa determined to live my big dream. On the days when I get down about not auditioning or working, I remind myself that I continually have projects brewing, and I’m a steadily working actress who makes a living doing what I love. I have a list of my favorite projects. It was thrilling to work with Steve Martin in Shopgirl, even though they cut the scene from the movie. Getting my first big break playing Nicole Love on Another World changed my life.
Question: Name one piece of advice someone has given you about your craft that has struck a chord within you and why? What advice do you have for actors trying to break into the business?
Answer: Someone once told me to learn to “go fishing” between jobs. I never understood what that meant until I was much older. Pursuing an acting career is a full-time job. Living a well-rounded life is a huge part of being a good actor who has a lot of life experiences to offer and incorporate into a variety of roles. My favorite saying is: “When one door closes another door opens.” The saying is true. If I do not get the job I want, I trust that there is something better for me. “Do what you love and the money will follow,” my Dad always said. Turns out, my Dad was so right!
A quick look at some of Anne’s work:
Interview by: Gina Cafasso