Eat for free, tell people about, and get paid. Perfect gig, right? Lindsay Anderson won a contest put on by Tourism Richmond in British Columbia to do just that. I’m a professional eater too, and when I heard about this epic assignment, I wondered if Lindsay struggled with the same issues I do – how to eat at a restaurant every day, and stay healthy and fit while you’re at it (and hopefully, avoid gaining weight, too). I admit, there are times when I’m sitting down to a six or eight course meal, or am invited to judge a contest with dozens of dishes, when part of me wishes I were at home having a simple meal of veggies and meat (I’m more or less a Paleo girl when I’m not on the job). Nobody wants to hear a food writer’s woes, but when I work so hard in the gym it can be frustrating to feel like it goes down the drain when I have a heavy “work” load (I know, I know).
Luckily Lindsay’s job comes with a pretty sweet bonus—a membership to the Richmond Oval (which was built for the 2010 Olympics!). Still, there’s nothing magic about staying fit just because you have a membership. Lindsay has already learned, just a few weeks in, to strike a balance with eating at restaurants daily, and taking care of herself. I was very curious to learn how she did it, so I was glad she took some time out of her schedule to talk with me. She shared some tips we can all—professional eaters or not—learn from.
Tell me about your amazing gig.
I’ve been hired by Tourism Richmond as their 365 Days of Dining Food Blogger. I’m spending one full calendar year dining at 365 Richmond restaurants and blogging about each one daily. The ‘prize’ package includes a $50,000 salary, my rent paid for the year, all of my 365 meals, and a gym membership to the beautiful Richmond Oval.
How did you land a job like this?
The second I saw the posting, I knew I was going to have to work hard and be creative to get it. In addition to creating a new blog as a sort of online resume, I filmed a promotional video and started a photo campaign in which people sent in photos of themselves holding signs that read #lindseatsrichmond. I had hoped for about 50, and in the end I received 277 photos from 6 continents, 29 countries, and 129 cities! The response was unreal. The video was also a hit; it had 1192 views on Youtube within 72 hours, and has since been viewed over 3,500 times. There was also a week long voting period, and 2 interviews with Tourism Richmond. All in all, I worked very hard for 3 months, and it paid off!
I am a professional eater, but I don’t think I could take on such an epic challenge. What about you and your background prepared you to take this and run with it?
Well, I’ve worked in restaurants, bakeries, cheese shops, and camp kitchens for years, so eating restaurant food is nothing new to me. Add to that the fact I eat out with friends a lot, and my year of schooling in Italy (during which time I ate like it was already my job), and you’ve got my ‘training’ right there! Personality-wise, I’m fairly self-disciplined, so I’m good about consuming fruits and vegetables during my non-work meals, and exercise regularly. The biggest challenge has never been the food consumption, but rather about producing engaging content every day for a year.
What has been the hardest adjustment?
Without a doubt, the hardest thing has been exposing myself personally and professionally to the world, and having to deal with the endless critiques and criticisms that come when you’re in the public eye. The old phrase “you can’t please everyone” is said a lot, but it’s still been difficult to accept. Figuring out what scrutiny is or isn’t useful is something that takes time, but I’m slowly learning to take from it what will help, and not take the rest personally.
What’s been the biggest surprise?
The number of people who read the blog consistently! I worried that interest would die down after the first few posts, but there’s an increasingly loyal and engaged readership.
What’s the best part?
I get to set my own hours, am constantly learning, and I get paid to be creative. Each day is new and dynamic, the restaurant scene in Richmond is truly remarkable, and I LOVE getting to use coffee shops as my office.
I hate when people ask me this when I’m reveling in great food somewhere, but inquiring minds will want to know. Have you gained weight? How will you handle it if you have, or if you do?
After 34 days, I’m the same weight as when I started. Fortunately, I come from a family of relatively slim people with strong metabolisms, and my weight doesn’t generally fluctuate more than five or six pounds. I’m not obsessive about my weight, but I do like to feel strong and healthy, so if I gain a few pounds it’s usually an indicator that I’ve been eating too many sweets and not exercising enough. I tweak things accordingly, and everything evens out. Ironically, with the stress of the first few weeks, I actually lost five pounds! But it’s back now.
The job came with an amazing gym membership, right? Tell me about your workout program.