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When I was growing up, people did not say that dancers were disciplined, but it was true. You could see it in their form. Also, it was much harder and more expensive to obtain organic foods, locally grown foods, or to find food without dextrose, sucrose, or corn syrup. Packaging was not very helpful and we did not have the Internet. Dancers were still seen somewhat as freaks, and so were yogis, health ‘nuts’, etc…. and now they are acceptable, but dancers still are, to some extent, still seen as freaks, trading a normal lifestyle for one of sacrifice, discipline and commitment, whether in a studio, on a stage, as a general fast, cleanse, eating regimen or health nut. At best we are acceptable as athletes, but this is not really what we are, is it? But when a dancer is judged, they are judged on the body, on the line, on what they can do on stage, in under 2 minutes, to a much greater degree than any other athlete. It behooves a dancer to have a healthy outlook and a positive one on the benefits of good food and a healthy lifestyle, because you have to be strong and resolute. It’s a matter of doing the best you can with what you’ve got. If you are starving your instrument, your art will suffer, eventually, because YOU will. The audience, judging public, professional or otherwise, has already decided what level of discipline you are based on how you look that quickly, too. I know many a very lazy dancer who is very slim and some very hard working ones who are not, but they will generally cast the slim ones-not always. Competition is fierce.
But, it is definitely how you appear, as a performer, and also what you do, so it is not uncommon for a choreographer or company to cast on body type, then teach teach teach the work or variation to a less accomplished dancer because they want a certain look. Artist has a much different connotation than dancer. It also implies age , maturity and wisdom, but you do not have to wait to eat smart. To begin with, size even determines what roles you get or don’t get and what you are permitted to or encouraged to wear, and this is largely based on how the choreographer or director or public perceives you or will perceive you (and how many costumes they want to keep on hand of various sizes) or how much sewing they reasonably want to do. As many factors as they can control, they do attempt to control and if you are a ballet dancer, you will have to control what you eat for longevity, health and appearance. No one has bought a ticket yet to see Sumo wrestlers perform ballet, but they have (regrettably) bought tickets to see a fashion show, where a skeletal body is the norm for hanging ballet clothes, and then these bodies typify what we as dancers, expect to see at a performance of actual dancing or in ourselves. Not fair? Who cares if they can’t dance, or can’t dance as well? Sometimes we are surprised that dancers are never like supermodels and when you see a real company of dancers, they are all muscular and few are starving. Well, some are very thin, but they do exercise more than average dancers and their calorie intake can be higher, also their basic metabolisms might run hotter more often. The first step is to reach that plateau, and then deal with adding calories, changing or inspiring your metabolism to work faster, and dancing all day and all night. La!
Sometimes we are even more surprised at the amount of actual energy required (and food) to perform variations, a full-length ballet, and support the work that goes into it, or more understandably how tired we are after a private, rehearsal or performance. The week after performances a lot of people are out. To remain healthy is a big job and the most important one. Sometimes time must be taken off to let the body heal, restore and replenish-rest. Sometimes that is just not possible and we have to be as fit and prepared for that inevitability, as dancers, as possible. Fit for dancing. Individual dance performances and exercise are short bursts of energy repeated after resting, usually, but any dancer who has just walked out from her half-hour private, will have the look of exhaustion and she is just working on a 2 minute piece. It takes some getting used to, building up for, and effort to sustain dancing for that long and you just do not get that at the barre. Even greater stamina is required for actual full-length performances, tours, seasons, and professional ballet in general. It is a constant juggling act, so I think food and dancers must be sympatico, because there is just too much on their plates already.
So, importantly, there are all exercise levels in ballet, but some must be obtained regularly to lose FAT. At your level of dancing this may not be possible, so you might have to crosstrain or get on the elliptical or spin or whatever to lose weight, just so the calories you are eating to work as hard as you must, do not exceed the calories you need, and are ingesting (fats, carbs and protein). Mostly you want to reduce your store. Be efficient, clean house. That has to be balanced against going home, sleeping, time off, illness, sabbaticals, and school, largely sedentary activities for a dancer. Dancers do not like to sit. Rather, you prepare the muscles at barre for the way they will be used in dancing and that is simply not fat burning exercise! So you have to eat less of certain things for now.
Slow-burning carbs are good choices for dancers, especially early in the day http://healthyeating.sfgate.com/list-slow-carbs-lose-weight-12116.html These would also include oatmeal (steel cut), and quinoa. For other kinds of energy, such as a pick-me-up or morning activity, and lets not forget the other kind of fast burning sugars/carbs for energy after sleep for instance, when your body is depleted of it. http://www.muscleandbodymag.com/10-carb-commandments/ of which canteloupe, an apple, orange or pear might do the trick, given time to work, and then followed by a normal breakfast of protein and slow-burning carbs for your classes. Many meals in the day provide constant energy and nutrients, which a dancer needs, and sustains them for long days of varying kinds of movement intensity. The idea is to keep fueling your body when you need it, and then to heal, regenerate and continue to burn fat and use energy you provide, even when it sleeps. Late night snacks are not verboten, just controlled-the same as dinner after 6. A midmorning and afternoon snack are just that, not meals, and anything from a piece of small bagel and water or yogurt and blueberries to some lentils and quinoa (pre-made) with tomatoes and chicken broth can do the trick, or cottage cheese, milk and a small serving of peanut butter, or meat. Just make sure your food is clean and wholesome with no added fats or sugars. Healthy fats are numerous and should account for about 20% of your daily intake of fats: avocado, olive oil, even butter can be healthy fats, but there are many to choose from. a characteristic of healthy fat is that its polyunsaturated fats fat count is much higher than either its trans or saturated fat levels, discernible from-reading the package or from a nutrition source. Also, avoid deli meats if at all possible, or within the “fat” rule, as most deli meats contain things you do not want and “oven-roasted is always better than any other kind as the meat is probably just rubbed as opposed to soaked in brine etc., before it is baked. But make sure. Cured or uncured does not necessarily connote this.
As performances for the novice, pre-professional or recreational dancer, just do not last that long, or come that frequently, there would seem to be little if any change necessary in diet, but as you go you do increase your caloric intake because you need more energy, such as for that variation, not less, and there is gap with regard to dancers who are new to this and virtually no help in understanding or dealing with it available. There is almost no mercy for students, because that is going to be displayed and no matter the age, they look at the package-how well you dance, pose, and what you look like. Sometimes there is device and trickery, but there is almost always a moment of truth for a dancer, when all is exposed and the fat shows or lack of lean muscle shows. The result of working so hard everyday should be visible, the labor, the effort, the pain, but it does not always meet our expectations and you cannot fathom why or what is causing it. Sometimes there are only minor things about ourselves that we want to change and as dancers we know that requires work-another small part of our attention focused on that trouble area to fix-no matter what we do, it is always going to be a juggling act. Learning to eat healthier is the first step to controlling the weight and to seeing a leaner you.
It might be our backs, the space right at the top of our thighs where there is a little bit of fat (legs rub together), it might be calves, arms, bosom, or torso, but it is usually there and looking right back at us when we look in the mirror, or noticeable to people onstage. Chances are, when we put on our clothes, or take them all off, everything fits, looks beautiful and is fine, and we love ourselves, so we say, “I am just fine.” We work on other things and we cave in to hunger cravings, and that is an important word, c-r-a-v-i-n-g-s, when we get a break. That is why we do not want to get caught out not having edible food, which we have prepared, or accounted for, handy. We eat whatever is available or easy or we have prepared to eat, but is this what we need to build the body we want? We have to teach ourselves what is right and acceptable for our own body chemistry and activity level and for every woman, this is a job, it is habits and discipline, and knowledge of ourselves, and time to develop. We have to work on it, sometimes inch by inch, because as dancers, our bodies are observed very closely, judged and they are our tools. Dancers later into life deal with other issues. So this project sometimes never stops, particularly if we have been unsuccessful in our dieting attempts, suffer from low self esteem, believe we come from FAT people, have big bones, are large, are flabby, and in fact, some of these diets can result in extra fat stores being accumulated just in case we decide to diet again, compounding our problems. Or if something is working, we often don’t change at all, but our bodies DO, making that diet ultimately wrong later on. The truth is, the body fights back!
The body is a survivor. It is the perfect example of the survival of the fittest. Fat people or people’s bodies who respond normally to having food taken away are healthier, stronger, fitter, champion bodies, because they have come across this before and determined to survive and keep your health, keep you alive, they fight back in a warrior-like and genius way. Bodies that disintegrate and lose weight, starve easily, or as a way of life, are probably not all that healthy-they don’t have a safety switch that turns off when they have depleted their bodies important store of nutrients. So take some comfort in your body working perfectly. They take what they need to survive, and they sort out the contents, nutrients, and various chemicals later, as their first mission is to inspire you, urge you, to eat. They might overeat to protect you, to prepare you, they are greedy. They are a force to be reckoned with. You cannot win that way.
http://www.livestrong.com/article/162703-healthy-diets-for-dancers/ If this is a fairly good diet for dancers who are not working on toning and making leaner muscle, then the diet has to be modified slightly. Very slightly, because the thinking is sound. Some actual dancer meals from Ballet Austin http://www.balletaustin.org/blog/?p=2810 (again, they do not specify DIETing), but good so far and these I focus on as lunch. A dieting dance needs to eat just the right foods after her dancing day is done or after 4pm and 6pm and 8pm (if she eats at all-and she will). High energy snacks include http://www.danceinforma.com/USA_magazine/2014/06/03/high-energy-snacks-young-dancer/ and http://pointemagazine.com/issues/augustseptember-2012/dance-bag-diet Remember to keep portions of snack very small. Dinners typically include protein and veggies, no grains for dieters or fruit (sugar) and certainly not past about 4pm. A late snack before bed can include some healing carbs and protein, preferably casein such as found in milk and cottage cheese and other snacks which might promote healing and energy creation during the night of the leftovers and chosen. I refer to this very cautious article for dancers attempting the sylphlike body of a ballet dancer, as it addresses and precipitates eating disorders which are caused generally by this attempt. http://www.contemporary-dance.org/dancer-diet.html
Depending on your level of activity, you need to balance your caloric intake with a healthy diet, and most importantly one that provides energy, builds muscle, and enables you to carry on the endurance activities that professional or semi-professional dancing requires. Also, it needs to be palatable food, nutritious food, and you need to replace vitamins and minerals that you lose while dancing or exercising rigorously. Any student that takes a break from dancing can put on weight. Expect it. First, it is water weight and then it is fat. When you return to dancing the process starts all over again. The body re-adapts. Unless you have come off a starvation or carb or other diet where your body has been denied what it normally uses for energy, and it is in a recovery mode, hence storing up more glucose and fat for later use (and it will redouble its efforts each time), you are in a pretty good place to get to where you want to be, eventually, at that point in time. You may not think so, but you are. Any diet should start from a baseline approach, meaning eat what you eat normally beforehand for a few weeks. If your body is in shock and working to replenish those lost supplies, then you had better approach your diet in a more patient and less demanding way, anyway, because it will win if you try to trick it, starve it or control it too aggressively-that is a built in response. The real trick is to give your body exactly what it needs in terms of nutrition, water, fats and sugars, so that it doesn’t try to compete with your sylph. That way you both win.