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Lean-muscled bodies in dance-that is what we have come to expect to see-in the media, at a performance, at competitions, on Instagram, on the Internet, in the movies, on So You Think You Can Dance, in the classroom AND in front of the full-length mirror, at home. Riiip! Stop right there! Not perfect, not seeing what you want to see? Not what others see? You are what you eat, and if you do not see that desired image in the mirror, you might feel somewhat of a failure. You might think that no matter what you do you are not ever going to succeed, improve or be the image you have in your mind that is perfect-usually. Your body may get in the way of your seeing yourself as the best dancer you can be, and feeling good about yourself inspire confidence. Aside from that, it may have nothing much to do with your ability to dance. Getting the body you want is not the same as not being able to rock a hairstyle, bodies are usually obtainable, believe it or not. But, you might be guilty of projecting someone else’s body onto your own. If anyone tells you you cannot achieve what you want to, prove them wrong!
You are unique. You have to believe that, but you are also capable of being the best that you can be, and the most healthy and strong dancer you can be. To me, and to a growing number of companies who invest large amounts of money in training, and lose dancers due to injury, this is also very important to succeeding in a professional career in ballet. Posers who do photo shoots might just be that, and it is possible that they are not as good a dancer as you are! A career lasts at least 20 years. What you do now will definitely impact the longevity of your dancing career as well as a competition in 4 months. So, you must make a commitment to eat right for the rest of your life and not just to lose weight, only to gain it back again, up and down and so forth.
Therefore if you are gearing up for the winter and you are a dancer you might want to try this plan:
NOT! Let me say again NOT!
It speaks of holidays and comfort foods and lots of starch and fat and sugar. But what is wrong with it? You say. “I am a dancer and I burn off calories-that is what I do. Well, for every calorie you burn off, another ten of these above turn into fat while you sleep. It isn’t just the sugar, it’s that all the right foods are there, hidden in gravy, butter, marmalade, cheese, sauces, and taters and other foods which you will have to eye cautiously over the holidays and during the winter, because this is what people eat. Regular people, not dancers!
In front of the mirror at the first self-assessment, any women or teenager might say,”I need to lose weight, maybe 5-10 pounds.” In the real life of any woman, every 10 years that need to “go backwards” goes up by 5 or 10 pounds, after you stop wearing the little tiny black dress, your brother’s jeans (with no butt), after babies, surgery, loss of work, a change of regimen, a more sedentary lifestyle, drastic change of lifestyle, health conditions, anything-you develop a bosom and may be lugging around more “desirable” fat, but it’s still fat and weight and adds numbers to the bathroom scale you can’t fathom. Also, we cook, and when we cook, we taste, we nurture and feed others, and have to shop and you know never to go shopping on an empty stomach. Everything looks good, but one benefit of having Madonna’s personal trainer is the likely aspect that she shops for you, puts it in your fridge and guards you from eating outside of your diet. She also works your butt off. Renee Winhoffer is her name. She is a dancer, too. In her words, “I plan and pack all my foods – and if I’m on tour I work with the hotels and cater ahead for specific foods. I often travel with my box of steamed vegetables and lean protein so I don’t get caught out. If I eat out, I make a special request for a green salad with some grilled fish or chicken and a little olive oil. And any time I have a hunger urge I drink 10 gulps of water and then wait 10 minutes.” She also states that if you want to see results in a week try not eating before your midday snack to attack the fat stores immediately in the AM. You can read more advice by her and other fitness gurus, here, http://fashion.telegraph.co.uk/article/TMG9785991/Workout-and-diet-secrets-of-top-fitness-coaches.html .
However, I find that in doing research including that article one has to look at whether they tell the whole truth, do the same number of exercise hours per day as any given dancer, the same type of dance and dancing as you, and realize that one article and a few tips does not a meal plan make. There are plenty of questions I would want to ask, more on the technical side. Men differ from women, so I try to look at a diet that is good for women, too.
In reality, it might be fat you need to lose, or weight, most people have some, but it might be that more muscle needs to be developed (and are being) or exposed to best display our body’s assets and we have to give this process TIME and the right nutrients to help it along. We may be long of limb and tall, frail and tiny, or somewhere in between, but we can all be the best we can be. All women can relate to this, not just dancers. We all experience this self-doubt and analyze, and it is especially difficult for anyone, for any reason, in any case, and even those who have heretofore had perfect bodies, so no ones difficulties are less important than anyone else’s, whatever they are.
It is sometimes much later in a women’s life that she just asserts herself and accepts this body as her own, or decides to make it the best she can, when she is finally tired of ignoring it or trying to make it something else, feeling guilt or shame. I blame the media, Instagram, men, and sometimes families for making women feel they are less than perfect, and women for listening to them and not being strong and believing in ourselves. To be honest, ballet dancers must make a decision, and that is whether they have the discipline to eat only enough to maintain their exercise level, turn fat into lean muscle, and strive for the weight level required in partnering. It is not fair to maim your partner because you have to eat a cake. Just have to. For this reason, and for the body-beautiful a ballet dancer must be slim, as slim as is reasonably possible-maybe a bit slimmer than is reasonably possible, and she also has to eat right. Luceat lux vestra! But let your own light shine!