Most of us live a day-to-day existence that does not prepare us for life in medieval Faire. It involves much physical exertion and concentration, and a not-so friendly environment to do it in. What is 'fine' the rest of the year may put us out of commission in the heat and constant exertion in Faire. In truth, what will keep us doing well there would be better done all year, but without the NEED to treat ourselves properly, we develop bad habits which can suddenly become critical under the stress of running around in funny clothes in the hot chaparral in Faire. How do we have to prepare?
The first problem most of us notice is how badly we have gotten out of shape. Remember huffing and puffing up the hill? The sore legs? Yes, exercise, as such, tends to be offensive and boring. I don't like it either. The way to take care of that is to be physically active. Remember cursing that elevator that took a week per floor? If you regularly take the stairway instead, you will find that you can avoid that crowd, beat the elevator (when you want to), feel better now, and save yourself some pain later. Do the short trips on foot when you can, and whistle, sing, or talk along the way; you get some time to think while you walk, too. Walk like you mean it, not strolling. Do some stretches of a moderate sort when you get up; it will lead to less problems, make reaching up and down easier, and help you wake up and get going. Not only does it help muscle tone, it makes sitting more comfortable. Do everything vigorously, from schlepping the files down the hall to scrubbing the pot with the dried oatmeal. The BEST exercise for any activity IS that activity! Other exercises are really to take care of deficiencies, i.e., build up knees or stomach for when needed.
Diet, or You Are What You Eat...
The term 'diet' has developed some strange and wrong connotations, thanks in large part to media advertising. Some believe that "diet" is what you do to lose weight; that is a weight reduction diet. A DIET is what you eat. It can be described by either its effect or its characteristics. A vegetarian diet describes its most apparent characteristic, the kind of food you are eating. If you are gaining weight, note that you are on a weight gaining diet, even when it is your regular one.
PLEASE NOTE that weight reduction diets are forbidden at Faire.
We have all heard much about balanced diets. Faire requires a balanced diet for survival, for health is dependent on diet because your food is the raw material your body has to build, rebuild, and fuel itself. We evolved (well, some of us) eating what was available, and as a result developed a digestive system that extracted what is needed from what is available. Attempts that did not work did not survive, be it as a result of what was available not matching what was needed or an inability to extract what was needed.
Faire is a physically stressing environment, and as such, the body needs to be in the best shape to handle it comfortably. If it does not get the raw materials to work with, the failure to handle it is not an enjoyable experience. To exacerbate matters, our society is plagued with poor diets aimed not at fueling a body, but making someone a profit. Convenience foods, snack foods, and fad diets make somebody money, but fail to give the body what it needs. The failure is often marginal in day to day life, but becomes critical under stress, be it heat, cold, infection, or exertion, and Faire is several of these.
The traditional nutritional breakdown of foods is by function in the body. Carbohydrates are primarily used for fuel to energize the cells. Proteins are the building blocks of the cells. Fats are concentrated sources of energy. Vitamins are 'vital amines' necessary for many body functions. Minerals are used in the myriad chemical reactions that run the body. Fiber is the bulk that facilitates the extraction of needed materials and aids in the elimination of wastes. Water is the medium that ALL the cells operate in, the vehicle to move materials to and from cells.
While so far it has been rather theoretical, our aim is theatrical. How does this apply to Faire? When your body is not working right, it is difficult to do simple tasks, let alone be pleasant to an obnoxious drunk. 'Tis much easier when you feel good.
For Faire, we burn plenty of energy, and so need plenty of fuel. The two primary categories for this are carbohydrates and fats. Carbohydrates include simple sugars and starches, and are broken down rather easily. As a result, they are a good source of energy in the heat of Faire during the day. Fats contain more than twice the energy, weight for weight, and are harder to break down. In very cold areas, they become critical to survival, for you can die of lack of body fuel in the Arctic without enough fats. Some vitamins are only soluble in fats, so they are required. When the body does not get enough fuel from the diet, it gets the needed fuel from both fat AND muscle tissues. That weakens the muscles. As a result, a weight reduction diet will cause PROBLEMS at Faire, when you need the most muscle efficiency. Eat a selection of foods that provide all your needed nutrients. Remember, you'll be working off a good many more calories than usual at this time!
Proteins are what the cells are made of, and muscle tissue breaks down somewhat with use, so you must have material to rebuild with. The body is able to break proteins down into carbohydrates when needed, including proteins that are already part of a cell. If the body does not get enough fuel, it will pull fats from fat cells and proteins from muscles at an equal rate, so NO weight reduction diets during Faire! -- because your legs need all the help they can get at Faire (need I remind you after the first workshop weekend). I know of NOBODY that will not need to build some muscles at Faire, and most of us a lot! You need all of the proteins, and a food containing all of them is known as a complete protein. While it is possible to get all from vegetables, this is VERY difficult. Dairy product do well here, but meats are complete proteins, easy, and sure. There is no question whether you can make red meat (your own) from red meat you eat, and fish does quite well also.
Vitamins are available in sufficient quantity in a balanced diet, being gathered from all sources (we developed that way) so just eating well takes care of them. Of particular interest are D, to handle calcium (dairy products), A for night vision to find your way around the bodies in camp (again) and the B vitamins for the nervous system.
Fiber is the bulk that your body uses to move the raw materials around and get rid of the waste. You don't have to eat a tree; enough green veggies will do quite nicely, provide much else that you need, and make a delightful salad. In the Clan's homelands, greens would have been a most plentiful part of what was available, with lots of variety, though painfully seasonal.
An improper diet is serious. In spring one year, the FDA attributed 17 deaths to the liquid protein diet. In the past, one of our people became very ill (the main gate paramedic feared for her life and was calling the ambulance) and delirious as a result of the Beverly Hills diet, days AFTER she had gone off it, due to the damage it had done. Don't believe a diet book; many fad diets that have made the author a mint have been written by cranks, and there is no protection, except for the ubiquitous disclaimer that the diet should only be followed under the supervision of a physician, the one line of truth in most of the fad diet books. Rapid weight loss is fraught with medical hazards. Remember, 'diet' means what you eat, whether it is deadly, fattening, or a balance of foods that will keep you healthy and svelte for your entire life.
Ever heard that the body is 80% water? Ever notice how much we sweat at Faire? Ever heard me or the Chief tell you to drink LOTS of water? It's an old story that needs repeating. First, a few statistics.
In case you haven't noticed, it's hot at Faire, and we sweat through our wool early in the day (wool, by the way, helps keep us cooler than those who are wearing polyester and bare skin, and prevents the sunburns). You lose water faster than usual, and faster than you may be aware of. Kidney output is an effective way of determining hydration. We require that you urinate at least twice while Faire is open each day (you've heard of the "gold star," no doubt), to insure you last through the day. If you do not urinate, or if your urine is strong or dark, you ARE dehydrated, so drink some water!
Another nutritional concern is body electrolytes. Minerals come from everything, and are used for everything. Some are used in trace amounts (a little arsenic goes a long way!) and some in much larger amounts, like calcium. The body needs them to work properly, and some get sweated out at a pretty good rate. Of particular interest at Faire are those that we sweat out so quickly. Sodium is necessary, but the American diet typically includes much more than needed, so just don't cut it down too severely. If you crave salt unusually much, your body is telling you it needs some. Calcium is needed by the muscles and nervous system; a deficiency will lead in short time to muscle cramps. Potassium is another necessity, lost at nearly the same rate as sodium but not regained as easily. Those without heart problems can use the doctored lemonade ("Clan Cocktail"); if it tastes good, you need the salts, otherwise it will taste like camel sweat (for good reason). Good sources of potassium are bananas and avocados (can you think of a better excuse for eating those delights? ). Note that you will find foods that contain what your body wants are particularly tasty!
Limits- find out what yours are & don't violate them.
A good way to keep going is to pay attention to what your body is telling you. It has a way of telling you what it needs, if you listen. When it needs salt, salty food will taste very good. When your blood sugar gets low and your body needs food, you get hungry. When it needs rest, you will know, so don't wait until you fall over. Pain is a warning you are doing damage to it. Find out what is wrong, and pay attention to the limit, and you will do well. That is how humans learn not to pick up glowing iron, cut themselves, and lift too much weight, or ignore the body's needs. If you pay attention, you can extend your limits, but do not exceed them, or you will pay dearly.
Problems & how to handle them.
If you are developing a problem, let the leaches know about it. Many things can be identified and taken care of, or further damage can be prevented. We have proven on a number of occasions that nobody, including the Chief, is so indispensable that we can not do without him or her for one day; if you try to exceed your limits too severely, you may well miss not only the day, but the rest of the run of Faire. You may only need food, or to nap picturesquely for a couple of hours to keep going, so let us know!
Co-operation: keep everyone going.
Medical problem have been reduced by cooperation and taking care of each other, befitting a Clan or family. By taking care of each other, we all put on a better show and feel better both physically and emotionally. This caring has resulted in us being the healthiest outfit at Faire, even though we have some who regularly make doctors cringe. We have bad backs, knees, hernias, pinned bones, heart problems, and some of the worst sinuses in Christendom, but we do a great, fun show and do not need to get hauled out with nearly the frequency of the rest of the Faire folk. Let's keep it up!