Behind the Habit Swap: An Interview with Heida Reed

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Introduction and Photos by: Brittany Alyse
Interview by: Cassandra Litten

Heida Reed has already cemented herself in two iconic television series: the headstrong, angelic Elizabeth Poldark-Warleggan in BBC’s hit period drama, Poldark, and the badass lead in the Icelandic series Stella Blómkvist. But when SLAUGHTERHOUSE caught up with her in July, it was to get to know Heida the human by way of her brilliant, relatable blog THE HABIT SWAP.

THE HABIT SWAP is about taking one bad habit at a time and replacing it with a good one. Heida documents the joys and woes of this journey in a way that is both heartfelt and hilarious. The moment you read any update from Heida, it’s like conversing with a friend over a glass of wine (or whiskey, if you prefer).

But at its core, THE HABIT SWAP is about being reasonable with yourself. It is about giving yourself allowances for the inevitable slip-ups that go hand-in-hand with being human. I can’t tell you how many diets I’ve tried, how many workout plans I’ve given up on and how many times I’ve put myself down for missteps. Instead of touting “foolproof” or “guaranteed” ways to improve your life, Heida embraces the missteps, giving her readers the opportunity to hold her accountable, while never failing to do so herself. I’ve made my own lifestyle changes based on Heida’s journey (the cold showers + body brushing combo are my new favorite self-care treatment). Because our co-founder and Creative Director, Sparks, has been holding himself up to a similar lens this year with his Journey to the Center of the Self articles, we were thrilled to see what Heida was doing and ecstatic to be able to talk to her about it.

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[c.l.] What brings about the most clarity to your daily life amidst so much chaos in the world?
[h.r.] Meditation really helps when I remember to do it, exercise when I can be bothered and most importantly, my personal relationships. Working on them every day makes you realise what's important.

[c.l.] Where is your happy place? Do you find yourself more prone to bad habits when you’re comfortable or when you’re stressed?
[h.r.] I think both actually. I can indulge in a bad habit whether I'm comfortable or not, although when I'm stressed I probably feel worse about doing so. My happy place is definitely in bed with my guy, just watching a movie and vegging out. Even better if it's a Sunday afternoon and we got nowhere to be.

[c.l.] How long have you considered doing this project? How did it develop over time?
[h.r.] I actually started a blog a while back that I mostly shared with my close friends and family. It went well and I could feel the benefits of holding myself accountable by putting my goals out into the world. Then, throughout the last few years, I've tried to write this as a book, but I always found a way to cop out, so I decided to do the blog again. I just wanted to find a creative way to improve myself and maybe inspire others to do so as well.

[c.l.] Since our last issue, our Creative Director, Sparks, has been focusing on controlling his anxiety and not falling back into old, depressive habits (i.e. eating an entire bag of salt and vinegar potato chips while laying in bed - “I ate a family-size bag the other night”, he tells me as I’m typing this. “Why eat dinner when you can just eat a family-size bag of chips?”). For him, daily reminders and checking himself on why he’s feeling the way he is has curbed his anxious moments substantially. What helps you when combating your bad habits?
[h.r.] I have totally done that, had a family-size bag by myself. If you eat it all, it's not there anymore and the problem is solved. Not really, of course. I think it's just about slowing down your thoughts and impulses. Meditation helps a lot with that. At the moment I'm trying to just acknowledge my thoughts and wants, but not necessarily act on them. It's easier said than done, though.

[c.l.] When you go back to work, are you at all concerned that life on a set will make it difficult to keep working on bettering your habits? Do you have anything in mind for that eventuality?
[h.r.] It depends on what habit I'm working on. Often there's a lot more structure in my life when I'm on set than off and I've actually been able to remain relatively healthy most of the time when working. Although finding time to exercise can be tricky.

[c.l.] What are some of your major character inspirations when it comes to acting?
[h.r.] I love going to museums and finding things that a character could have owned or experienced and trying to put myself in their shoes. If possible I try and pick someone's brain about what it's like to do that job the character does or go through what they might be going through in the story. I'll take inspiration from real life as well as paintings, music and films.

[c.l.] You are a beautiful writer. Your voice is so funny and relatable, but your posts are written with such care, it's very easy to see how much of your heart is in this project. A personal favorite - “'It's the weekend! It doesn't count!'. Yes it does. You can't just murder someone in an alleyway on a Saturday, then be interrogated on a Monday and blame it on the weekend. You'll still be held accountable. So I guess I'll have to hold myself accountable. Ugh…” - I feel like I’m chatting with an old friend when I read The Habit Swap. How much planning goes into each of your blog posts?
[h.r.] Thank you for that, that means a lot. Honestly, most of it, like that paragraph, is just stream-of-consciousness. I try not to censor or edit myself too much in order to keep it as real as possible. But I have to be in the zone to write and that's the tricky part… that can take hours.

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When I met up with Heida on a sunny day in Los Angeles, the breeze and coolness of the beach made a sweltering summer day so much more bearable. The interview had already been conducted via a series of emails by Slaughterhouse editor Cassandra Litten, so we wandered around the idyllic Getty Villa - musing about our habit changes, Instagram trends, our mutual love of F.R.I.E.N.D.S and L.A. vs. London and occasionally stopping for photos.

Shortly after we parted ways, Heida went back to London to co-star in the upcoming West End run of Foxfinder alongside Game of Thrones and Misfits star Iwan Rheon. You can see Heida in Foxfinder at Ambassadors Theatre from September 13 2018 to January 5 2019.

We at Slaughterhouse Magazine are still finding our footing and our audience, and never, ever thought someone like Heida would give us the time of day. But she did. And we are forever thankful to her for giving us an interview and a photoshoot.

Follow Heida’s journey here: www.thehabitswap.com

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