Matt Damon: ‘I was a wreck’ – star’s dangerous diet that nearly killed him


Matt Damon: ‘I was a wreck’ – star’s dangerous diet that nearly killed him

Courage Under Fire was one of Damon’s earliest films, after he made his professional acting debut in Mystic Pizza, back in 1988. Quickly gaining promi

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Courage Under Fire was one of Damon’s earliest films, after he made his professional acting debut in Mystic Pizza, back in 1988. Quickly gaining prominence after the two films, his Academy Award win for Good Will Hunting was to come in 1997. Despite helping to launch his career, the 1996 film, which also starred Denzel Washington and Meg Ryan, very nearly destroyed Damon’s health after he dropped 60Ibs by only eating chicken breast.

Due to Damon’s extreme physical transformation in such a short amount of time the actor was at risk of permanently shrinking his heart and had to be put on medication to repair damage to his adrenal gland.

Starting at 190Ibs, Damon got down to roughly 139Ibs (61kg) in order to shoot the film. Talking about his extreme weight loss and the dangers it put him in, Damon has said in the past: “I had to run about 13 miles a day, which wasn’t even the hard part. The hard part was the diet.

“All I ate was chicken breast. It’s not like I had a chef or anything, I just made it up and did what I thought I had to do. I just made it up and that was incredibly challenging.

“I had to be thin and went on an unsupervised diet which could have killed me.”

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Admitting that the diet “didn’t do me any good,” Damon went on to say that during filming he didn’t really have to act at all as even off-screen he was feeling the ill-effects from his diet which lacked numerous vitamins and minerals.

“I didn’t have to act at all – I was a wreck. I was getting dizzy spells and hot flashes. I didn’t say anything to anyone for a while because I was afraid I might be really ill,” he shared.

“I went too far. I got sick and I wouldn’t do that again because it was just too much. At the same time it helped the performance.

“A doctor told me later I could have shrunk my heart permanently. I am 5ft 11in [180cm] and went down to 135lb [61kg] from my usual weight, between 173lb [78kg] and 176lb [80kg]. It didn’t do me any good.”


Learning from his own painful experience, Damon even passed on some advice to fellow actor Chris Hemsworth, who had to slim down to play a shipwrecked sailor in The Heart Of the Sea.

It is reported he warned Hemsworth by saying: “Look, I had no education then. It was basically eat nothing for four months.

“It’s dangerous to do it that way. He said there’s much better ways of doing it so seek the advice of a nutritionist.”

Shortly after Damon’s admission about his diet, Jordan Mazur, M.S., R.D., the Coordinator of Nutrition for sports team the San Francisco 49ers spoke out about the dangers of only eating chicken breast.

He shared: “In theory, only eating chicken breasts that equate to a caloric deficit will help you lose weight. But you’re missing out on many other important nutrients your body needs to function and thrive.

“If you don’t get all of the macro and micro nutrients your body needs, it will catch up to you and in the long run your health issues will ‘outweigh’ your weight loss.”

Relying on just one food for all your energy needs can lead to severe nutrient deficiencies. While chicken is a good source of protein, vitamin B6, phosphorus, niacin, and selenium, it lacks several important nutrients like vitamin C and folate. Nutrient deficiencies can develop quickly so staying on the chicken diet for even a short time can put you at risk.

Over a long period of time a severe lack of vitamin C can cause a condition known as scurvy, which can cause individuals to feel tired and weak, irritable and sad and develop red or blue spots on the skin, usually on your shins.

The Women’s Health network also warns against a condition known as adrenal gland fatigue which is tightly linked to chronic stress — both physical and emotional. Being put under stress day after day forces the adrenal glands to work overtime.

The adrenal gland is important as it produces hormones that help regulate metabolism, the immune system, blood pressure, response to stress and other essential functions in the body. When permanently stressed, cortisol levels stay high, putting an individual at risk of symptoms such as:

  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Poor sleep
  • Lightheadedness
  • Brain fog
  • Joint pain
  • Darkness around the eyes.

Over time, the adrenal glands’ production of cortisol can’t keep up with demand for it, and levels drop, along with those other hormones that depend in part on the adrenals, such as thyroid, oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone. When the body is in “survival mode”, sex hormone production also takes a back seat. Both of these factors can cause sex hormones to be in flux, which causes even more symptoms.

One of the main ways in which individuals can control adrenal fatigue is through diet. Eating for adrenal health starts with supporting your body’s natural cortisol cycle. The goal is to prevent most of the dramatic spikes in cortisol that are triggered when you go too long without eating. It is recommended that individuals eat three nutritious meals and two to three snacks throughout the day at regular intervals.

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