Part 4 of Winning the Fight Against Fat: The Emergent Sylph



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sweaty swan

Many children are dancing now. By child, I mean, anyone who has not reached adulthood, their final (ever-changing) post-adolescent body proportions, has not reached their full height, width, girth, started or regularly encountered their period, and anyone who is changing or growing constantly. These people need to be doubly cautious when it comes to providing enough and varied nutrients in their diets, and enough cannot be said here about this. It is a parent’s responsibility, and not only the child’s to make sure food is eaten, what and when. Weaning is gradual and in dance may need to be watched and continued until much later on because there is little time for student, dancer, teenager to make or prepare, shop for and eat all of the right things. Some people continue to grow into into their twenties, and men and women can fill-out later in life, and the body is always changing, going through new life cycles so there are adjustments to be expected aside from actual dancing regimens.

1) don’t cut calories drastically. instead, eat slightly smaller portions and better foods. you need your energy, otherwise you could injure yourself or just be too tired to work at your peak level while dieting. females should not cut calories more than 200-300 per day. that is, if you are eating 1500-1600 per day, you can safely go down to 1300-1400 to begin with. at the same level of exercise this will reduce you fat gradually, and

2) aim for many meals per day 5-6 at least over the course of a 10-12 hour day. you can lose more fat because more meals burn more calories [by increasing thermogenesis, the production of heat, in the body]. divide how many calories you expect to consume during the day by the number of meals you can schedule in and try to spread them out evenly.

Some things we are born with a certain amount of and we lose, and these things need to be nourished to continue to grow in our bodies and starving our bodies can result in their premature loss or depletion, such as protein and estrogen-one is short term and one long. Example, proteins which are eaten should frequently be “complete, and hormone replacement therapy is one option to low-estrogen. It is almost impossible to replenish certain things with food, just as wheat germ cannot really be “organic.” In the case of dancers, estrogen, and minerals may be on the decline or are lost with vigorous dancing. Water. Sugar. Fat. We need it, or some, to survive. We do want to try to choose our fats as often as possible, so I do not recommend eating prepared foods. it is one sure way to make a promising diet attempt a flat failure.

3) drink lots of water during the day. make sure you are thoroughly hydrated by consuming about 4 16 oz bottle of water per day or 2 32 oz ones. Take a vitamin supplement regularly and make sure to get your vitamin C, especially during cold months or at the onset of symptoms of a cold.

4) Some people swear by whey protein powder which is consumed in small amounts mixed with water and shaken in a tumbler or other cup. One after heavy exercise does reduce pain and speeds up muscle healing time. One would replace a protein portion, say in the afternoon snack period. Some food products naturally contain whey protein, so be careful not to overdo your protein: ricotta cheese, milk, yogurt (Greek of course), all cheeses (especially the cheap American variety). Sweet whey comes from the process that makes cheeses like cheddar, mozzarella, swiss and other cheeses made with rennet enzymes that coagulate casein. Most cheese-makers consider whey a waste product, according to “Whey to Go” by Liz Campbell. She says that the Norwegians and Greeks continue to process whey further to make brown or Mysost “whey cheeses” like Gjetost.  http://www.livestrong.com/article/254097-which-foods-contain-whey-protein/

Many foods and meal plans or choices exist which provide the needed essentials, tasty food choices and lots of options for different types of bodies, different or changing regimens, but which ones are suitable for dancers? What do dancers actually eat?  They will (almost) never divulge their dieting secrets or truths. What about the dancer who tours or performs part of the year and then is off? What about the dancer who performs more of the time, but different parts, such as a corp dancer compared to a soloist? What about the young dancer who is building her body to the desired form, or the dancer newly wedded with grueling performance and rehearsal schedules, student by increasing level, change of program, type, or dancer returning to classes and performance after injury or time off? What about the competition dancer? The varied genre dancer? The athletic dancer who runs and does cross-training to mold or sculpt? The student or university dancer? What about a new mother who gives birth and then returns to dancing? What about the older dancer or non-dancer who returns to dance or begins to take classes? All of these different people, different bodies, different genres, ages and styles or situations are different mainly because of their levels or types of activities, and many other variables.

lean muscled man

5) creatine is a naturally occurring fat burner, and is usually obtained via supplement because of the amount of food one would have to eat per day to get optimal levels of it for fat burning purposes, i.e., 500 g raw meat or fish every day. Since this is not realistic, supplementation with creatine is both prudent and advisable. Vegetarians and vegans do not get any creatine from food sources. Creatine levels in blood plasma are very low in these populations and it is one of the issues with vegetarian diets. How much is enough is debatable since you can’t get enough anyway. What is is most important about creatine is that athletes and dancers bleed it out. Whether you take a creatine supplement or not, is up to you, gauging whether it assists you is often the best way to find out. For those interested in reading more about it http://www.myfit.ca/foods_high_in_creatine.asp   . You decide.

6) increase you vegetable consumption-i did not say “fruit.” Vegetables are nutrient-dense, meaning they pack maximum nutrition value with minimal calories, leaving you more full on fewer calories. Consume five servings a day of veggies, whether as a snack, on a sandwich or on the side of a chicken breast. Order your next grass fed beef, lean chicken or turkey burger with fresh vegetables instead of french fries. Vary the vegetables you eat for maximum nutritional whollop. Check a chart if you have questions about what vegetables are sources of which vitamins, minerals and other things that are good for you.

In varying degrees some of these situations run to the similar, but each one and everyone is unique for many different reasons, and it isvery difficult to not group people into similar categories, without making specific allowances for each. But to start with there are obvious differences which can be accounted for. Good foods and bad foods for a start, but face it, when you are starving, there is not really any bad food choice. So, don’t starve yourself! These other varying differences between dancers are, in accountable for in ballet specifically, and in those persons desiring to be professional dancers, certain distinct differences which can be used for comparison are abundant, but do not really change the diet composition much, or what it should be. They may need more of some things or less of others, but the food stores should be basically the same, failing personal taste. Age, to me is important. A child needs more to grow into healthy adulthood, and I will say, “womanhood.” Our bodies need to have stores of certain things to grow into fertile and healthy women. We need to mature and pass through adolescence and puberty, and at this time, when our bodies are doing many natural things they need to do, it is unwise to alter the needs of the body without being an expert and especially starve it.

7) Don’t use commercial fat burners without exercising, and don’t rely on them to burn fat without following a healthy eating plan.  They are  more likely to cause or add to harm, as they, like all vitamins, too are supplements and do not replace actually nutritional value.

8) Consuming fiber makes you feel full, provides slow-burning carbs and lowers insulin to aid in lean muscle creation. Try to have 20-30 grams of fiber in your diet per day. refer to nutritional details for information. Bran cereals, oatmeal and beans are good sources of fiber.

Further, unless there is an unusual set of ethnic or economic conditions which exist to limit these dancers diets, or ability to lose or gain weight, the circumstances or food may remain fairly static and is determinable. Habits which begin to develop in adolescence may take part of a life to change or control or omit without assistance. In some foreign countries rickets, and many other diet deficiencies are present (gradually less so) and deformities have occurred over centuries of malnutrition. Until about 30 years ago, no one looked at ballet activity and even thought that it varied from any other activity, researched dancer stress, strain or diet, or compared it to that of other semi-professional or professional athletes, or considered that the needs or habits of dancers were entirely different, and truthfully there is a paucity of well-thought out or researched information that is up-to-date or readily available to help dancers, specifically.

9) Eliminate ALL junkfood. Pizza and hamburgers have some nutritional value and can be consumed once in a while. This includes SWEETS-if you want that form!

10) Eat the right amount of protein. Protein will be converted to fat if overconsumed. About 1 gram of protein per pound of your weight (not the desired weight) is adequate. Keep track. If you do overeat protein, do not be terribly concerned, just lower it to the correct level if possible the following day. 1.5 grams of protein per pound is not going to hurt you or cause you to put on weight unless it is consumed over a long period of time. This provides sufficient amino acids to maintain muscle mass, while keeping your total calorie count under control. A lot of dancers do not ingest enough protein, making them have less muscle definition. Others might consume too much and be bulky or muscle-bound. It is definitely a visual thing.

In later life, aside from the dangers of messing with the above-mentioned and more obvious issues, are old age, and as women, what we begin to lose as we get older, how we remain healthy and prepared for those inevitable changes and losses, and even in early age many things can occur, but get worse or become more obvious as other hormones are depleted, so it is extra important for female dancers to educate and demand information about these concerns, but also to plan ahead. Those accumulated losses can accrue and devastate the female body well before old age. Some very healthy people exist out there who would belie this fact, and there are others whom are prone to certain diseases. Brittle bones, lost teeth, cancer, haggard appearances, etc. it is all based on how we treat ourselves over time and genetics, so we need to be good to ourselves because as women, teenagers, and children. We need to be prepared to withstand a lot.

11) Remember those healthy fats? Eat more. They are underutilized by people trying to shed fat. You have to reduce calories to get rid of body fat but you cannot cut out healthy fats completely. They take longer to break down in your stomach and help control blood sugar levels leaving you feeling more satisfied and reducing food cravings. Again, avocados, fatty fish, like salmon and tilapia, olives, nuts, and oils such as olive, flaxseed and canola are good heathy fats to introduce into your diet. I recommend mixing one-half serving of butter to one tspn or more of olive oil until you become accustomed to reducing the level of butter in your diet. it is great for cooking, you know you are cooking with half the good fat and it practically never smokes! This works in recipes as well (most). Also, Wildwood brand vegenaise is absolutely delicious and as it comes in several flavors there is no need to risk adding ingredients for your sandwiches, dips or salads. Ask your grocery store to carry it or look for it at Sprouts retailers. They usually order it by the case and it is in the cold section. I do not recommend replacement of mayo, for those diehards like me, but this is a delicious alternative.

12) Share your cheat foods, but eat some, too. That way you do not feel cheated and you get some of the flavor while not consuming the whole pie. You are doing everyone a favor.

The history of each body is important, and its age, in determining proper needs and nutrition, but also important and calculable is its activity level, patterns of use, and wear and tear. I have said before how important it is to treat your dancer body well, pamper it as often as possible, use good care, hygiene, and do not overwork it. Work smart. In short, do not add stress to it where enough stress is already occurring. Good diet should relieve stress not contribute to it. Adequate rest is very important and most dancers at a pre-professional or professional level do not get enough rest. Proper nutrition, I mean really good nutrition, for each dancer, is often not evident in many dancers, particularly young ones, and this is disturbing to me. Why is more attention not paid to dancer health in schools? Why do any children in this country not have access to good medical care and planning when so many diseases can later be attributed to the lack of it? With all of our advances, we are not able to measure each persons general health adequately. Most people only begin to be concerned about their health when they are older and we worry, kind of like the old finding God or being repentant just before death and not before. It is not how we lived, but how we live, that is important. Each day, each choice, each change.

13) Eat breakfast! Balanced. Full. It is the most important meal of the day for a dancer and one who is dieting because it contains everything you need (a good start) and will most likely be burned off. Your body, whether you know it or not, has been starving all night long and it deserves to eat. Not eating breakfast will negatively impact everything you do all day, including your technique and dancing. Eat a goodly amount of protein for breakfast, too, about 1/4 to 1/3 of your daily intake-spread the rest over the other meals and snacks. Eat a complex (slow-burning) carb, like otameal or a whole grain waffle or pancake, and start with a piece of fruit (right when you wake up), even before breakfast to get your metabolism revving and provide that much needed surge of energy, before your day has begun. Start off right! Since this is the best time to consume sugars, maple syrup (real) or other sugar incorporated into your breakfast occasionally is fine, as they will most likely burn off. Remember to keep your portions normally sized. Larger portions (hoarding) will only cause your body to store fat. This is where discipline comes in-it does. But you can have an extra egg white or yolk, and don’t forget the option of having additional egg whites during the early part of the day, or at breakfast. You can actually have a lot of eggs at lunch and as snacks. Spinach and kale in your omelette are also good for you as well as throughout the day! Mushrooms and other breakfasty type veggies can be eaten now as well, safely. try to consume one potato in its skin per week instead of other types of potatoes. Yams provide completely different nutrients and are not really necessary during the dieting phase, but can be consumed after your optimal weight/shape is reached. 🙂 You will normally burn off most of this by mid-morning snack, except the slow-burning carbs which will continue to be used until well into the afternoon.

14) Dancers and people in general, should avoid any food that lists corn syrup in the ingredients.

A teenager has different diet requirements than a young adult or an older, mature woman, or an elderly person. Having dealt with the elderly, those dying of cancer and other illnesses, middle-aged women, younger women, teenagers, children, babies, athletes and dancers, I have had the experience of knowing they are all very DIFFERENT but all respond to good diet. We would all be in a better position, later, to watch sodium, sugar and fat, now. But comes the thought that you cannot worry all the time about food and you cannot necessarily afford the best choices or everything that would benefit you. Psychology of the woman, teenager, adult or child, is also a very big factor impacting personal eating styles, tastes and goals. Bad habits excluded, we all develop eating patterns that appear simple but can be quite complicated just the same. Just as the person who fails on a diet and gets fatter, suffers a blow to their ego, blames themselves for a fad diet not working, the person who never appears to have diet issues can be seriously malnourished and fall prey to eating disorders later if they gain an ounce, or they may have to eat to build strength or gain weight. People’s motivations and experiences, vanity, and self-loathing and love of ourselves all play a part on our diet and eating habits, right or wrong and you need to account for them, too. Most importantly, be kind to yourself and demand that others are respectful of your body differences and eating requirements. No one is going to do this for you-you have to be your own best advocate and discipline comes from yourself.

15) Sugar consumption. Taking in simple carbs (which is sugar) should be limited, especially the first week you are dieting. They should be eaten in a very limited quantity after that as they are stored as fat. Right after you exercise, or as stated above, before breakfast, they provide quick energy, replace depleted glycogen stores in the liver and replenish muscle. Since they are much abused and anticipated, it is important to give yourself some. Satisfy your sweet tooth occasionally with a piece of fruit, chocolate less often and soda NEVER! You can have tea, coffee, waters or diet soda (if you must, but it is really bad for you). Once your desired weight is reached, and lean muscle is overwhelming flab, you can safely have the occasional hot chocolate, mixed drink (1), or beer, as well as the occasional random dessert. But for now, give yourself a week, and then keep track of them ALL. They are your culprits along with breads-you know the crusty kind….

16) Rotate your carbs. What does this mean? It means, for dancers, that some days are not as exhausting as others. It means on lower energy days it is best to reduce the number of slow-burning/carbs you eat, because you don’t use as much energy, therefore what is not used will be stored as fat. If you consume 100 carbs per day (100 pounds) on some days you might eat 120-140 and on others you might only eat 80-100. You still need energy, but not as much, and mental activity (homework) requires carbs, and energy, too. You cannot starve your body, but try to reduce protion size, eating as many meals per day with perhaps lower serving levels, or cut out that handful of nuts at snacktime, or yogurt in the afternoon-maybe the whole afternoon snack, because on slow days, meal times may be longer, meaning your meals are better enjoyed, definitely have room, and may be enjoyed. No dash and run snacks, but make sure your spread you meals out over the same number of times if possible. that way when your body comes to expect the snack, it gets something, just half, etc….or only the protein. Also, don’t carb-load, for any reason without following the guidelines of carb-loading, particularly. http://m.runnersworld.com/nutrition-runners/carbo%E2%80%93loading-rules-run  It is not highly recommended for dancers. Another rule is to try to stop eating all carbs (if possible) after 4pm. THis does not include veggies with dinner or your usual bedtime snack, just slow-burning carbs, like most grains.

Besides psychology and age is activity level and this can varies in all dancers. Are you lethargic, energetic or do you conserve your energy or expend it all very quickly? Do you give 110% to your regimen, barre, allegro, variation, or performance. Do you go the extra mile or leave off after the first combination. Do you mark the exercises, sit-out? What are your habits? Good or bad, they account for calories and may be the difference between burning fat or other carbs, never getting to the fat. What is your level of consistency each day in the number of or type of dancing classes/performances or exercises that you do? When do you expend the most energy? At what point do you become tired, peek, or have to stop and why? What did you eat today? What is your level of activity, cross-training or aerobic exercise out of class? Are you prone to putting on weight or do you have to eat just to keep it on? Are you recently losing or gaining weight due to increased/decreased activity levels? Are you battling with other health issues, poor thyroid, cholesterol or salt? Are you diabetic? What time of the month is it? All of these factors combine to make your body chemistry or system completely unique and also affect how it loses or gains weight and builds muscle or mass, uses fat, carbs or glucose, etc., and how rapidly it tires or becomes apparently or not, worn out. It is possible to improve other areas of your dancing or techniques regardless of diet, for a better, more focused workout-try this-http://www.pointemagazine.com/issues/augustseptember-2011/your-best-body-defy-your-dna

17) If you like caffeine, drink one cup of coffee before your classes and another later in the day, say before rehearsals or a performance. It is known to enhance a workout. It causes the body to rely on more fat for fuel, rather than glucose. The effect of it, however is lessened when you consume it with, or on top of a high-carb meal. Try to consume it well after breakfast, but before class and eat it with healthy fats or protein if you are eating with or near it. Skip cream and sugar with it always and do not overdo it or drink it at other times of the day as you will develop a resistance to its fat-burning qualities.

18) Reduce or omit starchy carbs. Potatoes, rice, pasta and breads (especially consumed at the same time or meal) provides your body with more than it needs for energy and glycogen stores so what is leftover will be stored as fat. You do not have to eliminate them completely, and whatver your consumption of them, it should be spread over the life of your diet, and not omitted just for the diet. It is eating with purpose and good sense which results in permanent weightloss and not binge eating. You should, however, really omit or cut back on them while trying to reach your desired weight and shed body fat. They are the main problem with mismanaged carbs (sugars). Whether dietin gor not, limit their intake to 3-5 servings a day where most needed and as I said before, none after 4pm. A serving size is 1/2 cup to 1 cup per rice, pasta or sliced potatoes. Obviously, the rice is closer to a cup and not a cup of potatoes! Pasta servings should be fairly small when eaten and I do not recommend it if you want to see immediate results. You are what you eat.

I will attempt to post additional meal plans and advice as I come across it, adding additional parts to this article, so that some people can have a goto menu plan perhaps when they are too busy to plan or lose interest or imagination. Also, I would greatly appreciate comments and feedback on this as it is for dancers and any little bit of practical advice really helps people as long as it is related and in keeping with the idea of the piece. The best sources of diets for dancers are dancers themselves and though no one wants to interfere with their money-making, a little advice goes a long way from a professional  or a novice, and it is just mean to keep it to oneself. Mean and shallow. Why hold on to something that is useful knowledge, hurting lost people in the process, and then writing a book or doing a paid interview, expecting them to then buy it? I would more likely buy the book of someone I liked who helped me previously than I would someone who jealously guarded it until someone offered them money for it. So, don’t be stingy with the knowledge, not every idea or meal plan merits a book.

So, due to their complex nature, I am not going to deal with many more of these medical and scientific (but related) issues because the article content and my knowledge would have to be far above my ability or qualifications to guide or assist those affected in their thinking, and is not intended as a practicum or rulebook for those with any other issues such as the ones listed. These are factors to consider when dieting, how much, portion size and that after 6 meal or snack, whether you need additional carbs or not, and to make you start thinking about what and when you eat. We even use energy when we are sleeping but are you choosing what energy and components you use while sleeping? Or is your body just depleting stores of energy and nutrients you need.

Obviously, any issues need to be taken into account and treated by a professional medical practitioner and/or nutritionist. Instead, I am approaching this from the point of view of any dancer who is basically healthy and eats clean and simple, but who wants to turn their fat into lean muscle, wants to make their body the best asset it can be and this is not about exercise, this is about eating foods which give energy, provide options and flexibility, and protect you from injuring yourself, while trying to obtain your best body appearance as a dancer.

If you have been told that you should wear a long skirt until your are “ready,” struggle with areas of resistance, would like to have leaner legs, arms or abdomen, you might be very close to your goals, but you will have to have a leaner diet with slow-burning carbs, less sugar and likely more protein, so be careful not to mismanage your carbs. Understand simple and complex. If you have lost a lot of weight recently, or are still losing it, gradually, but have so far not been able to discern much muscle, want to control how you lose it or appear, and despite continued efforts at dancing, then you might also want to add cardio to one of your workouts daily, and manage your carbs and protein better, this article might be useful for you, but I would be more concerned with eating enough, healing and making sure I got those extra vitamins and minerals and didn’t lose too much weight than changing my diet completely. Chances are you are doing some things right! If you are weak, skinny and no muscle tissue is discernible, than you have to build muscle and strength, this diet probably might help you to learn what you can add safely, though your purpose would not be to lose weight.

If you want to begin discovering yourself underneath a very small layer of fat, seeing your muscles, as they are naturally, with a rigorous program of ballet in place, then this method might help if you have the discipline to stick with the meal ideas, make small goals and stick to your guns, follow the advice and stay constantly on the lookout for better foods for you which meet roughly the same criteria.  It might be safe to say that after one year has passed since reading this article, you come back and share your experiences and knowledge and story.

This article is not about dieting, it is about eating. If you want to see slow but perceptible change and begin a path to an improved image in front of the mirror, then there is going to be change which is visible, but not plenty here to motivate, inspire or sustain that journey as it is about a life of commitment and not a fad diet-but may it especially be a continued one for a long and healthy life of self-love and self-accomplishment. It is your body and is never going to look like someone else’s body no matter what you do! No diet is ever going to reveal another body-just yours, but you might be surprised of what you are capable of….and the body you can reveal by eating right. This article also assumes you dance at least 10 hours per week in a serious ballet or dance program, but it is written for someone who is newly dancing everyday for 6-8 hours or more per day every day. And, oh-take one day OFF.

Keep on Dancing!

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