How do actors get so lean for certain movies? For example, Matthew McConaughey in Dallas Buyers Club?

Matt McConaughey weight loss for Dallas Buyers club
Matthew McConaughey, on how he lost the weight for “Dallas Buyers Club”:
“Overall, [I’ve] probably got 35 percent less energy, but there’s been plateaus,” McConaughey told the site. “Getting past 170 was really hard, but then once you get [to] 167 the next seven come off easy. Getting past 160, really hard. But then you fly down to 150. Getting past 150 was really hard and then, bam! Got down to 143 and that’s where I want to be. So, once you get past the plateau, your body seems to understand, ‘OK, this is where we’re leaving now, this is where we are’ and so the energy rises.”
So, how did he drop the pounds?
“I’m doing cardio but I’ll tell you what, the more I’ve learned is—and I think it comes with age too—is it’s 90 percent diet,” McConaughey went on. “It’s 90 percent amount and then what you’re eating because right now I’m not losing any more weight if I burn 1,500 calories, two hours of cardio in an afternoon, or if I don’t. It doesn’t matter. It’s a matter of how much I eat or how little I eat.” Full story: Skinny Matt McConaughey Talks Shocking Weight Loss
McConaughey at his leanest in Dallas Buyers Club
 
Edit:
This is a video of Penn Jillette, Magician and illusionist of “Penn And Teller” fame, explaining, in plain English, how he lost his weight. I felt this well worth watching -Note that he is telling his story, not selling a weight loss plan.

Performers frequently have to manipulate their weight, both to keep any role they have, and to mold themselves into any roles they are auditioning for – or cast in.  In the case of both McConaughey and Jillette, they both used different means, and each had significant measurable results.
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