How to eat healthily is a very popular topic among dancers and it’s a big piece of the work I do coaching and mentoring. And with my guidance, over time, my dancers become the experts on how to develop and stick with better eating habits.
Today I thought I would share three of their go-to tips for when they start going off the rails…
I. Eat the Right Food (or Turn Knowledge into Action).
Knowing what to eat is rarely the issue; every dancer I’ve met has all kinds of information in her head about what’s healthy and why, and what to stay away from and why. Other than the weird food trends that pop up and misleading “factoids” about eating, most everyone can get their hands on some decent nutritional information these days. And my dancers have all that info because they’ve learned it with me. So the knowledge isn’t what’s missing.
Turning knowledge into consistent action is where dancers fall short of their healthy eating goals. Why is that?
The most common challenges I have witnessed are:
- A lack of connection with the “why”: WHY am I making these choices? What’s my real motivation?
If your motivation is external, like a teacher or parent is the reason to eat better, then it won’t stick. Eventually, you will rebel. Motivation needs to be internal: you need a reason why you’re going to make this lifestyle change and stick with it. My dancers always define that motivation early on BUT it can get lost. It’s important to keep that motivation front and center in order to stay on track.
- No plan for healthy eating
Once you commit to healthy eating, you need a plan: that’s part of turning knowledge into action. A big part of that plan must include shopping for healthy food, so it’s on hand and preparing foods you know are good for you, in a way that is also good for you.
My dancers always make a plan with me, but again, life can get in the way. When the plan gets lost in the shuffle, they can find themselves grabbing food on the go or eating whatever is around, which is often the first step away from healthy eating.
II. Eat the right amount of food.
When it comes to developing healthy eating habits, quantity can be tricky. Some dancers restrict calories, which sets them up for failure on many levels: strength and energy decrease with lack of nutrients, and often, restriction leads to binging when hunger takes over. Others overdo it, feeling that they’ve “earned it” or wanting to rebel against the expectations of teachers, parents, and fellow dancers.
The dancers I work with know how much food they need to be eating to feel energized and healthy and when they’re overdoing it. But a lot of dancers have no idea because they haven’t done any investigation around food and eating.
The bottom line is: you need to get serious about your eating habits and start finding out what works for you. Once you know, it’s a lot easier to eat the right food and the right amount of food.
III. Finally, accountability.
My dancers say that having someone to share their successes and challenges with is a big part of how they’re able to stay on track. My dancers build on successes to better understand why things are working. We anticipate difficult stretches (like being in the theater during Nutcracker season) and make a plan for maintaining good eating habits.
No matter how enthusiastic you are about your goals initially, it’s normal to hit a wall and fall back into old patterns over time. But at the end of the day, my dancers know that they have someone to turn to when that happens, so they can get back on track right away.
So the next time you feel like you’re moving in the wrong direction, think about these three tips:
- Eat the right food (turn your knowledge into action)
- Eat the right amount of food
- And find someone to hold you accountable to your goals
**What about you? Do you want to have healthier eating habits but don’t know where to start? Or are you having difficulty turning what you know into action? Shoot me an email; I’d love to help.