It’s challenging to eat enough than not in dance.
In fact, you probably won’t realise the importance of eating enough until you actually eat enough consistently and experience that great recovery and feeling energised each lesson.
When your body receives adequate (=enough) food to fuel your body, it can execute more power, increase endurance, improve muscle tone, reduce fatigue, accelerate recovery and prevent injury risks.
That’s a LOT of positives!
But what makes it so challenging?
One, there’s the scheduling problem – when there are only mini breaks in between classes you can’t eat much solid food.
Two, physical activity including dance training can mask hunger to some extent so you don’t ‘feel’ hungry and hence skip or eat little.
Three, the “you need to stay thin” belief calls for restriction so you practice eating an amount that seems appropriate (which doesn’t necessary mean ‘adequate’) or you keep to certain “good” foods and avoid “bad” foods.
So then the next question is, how can you overcome these challenging barriers?
Teachers, please allow a decent recess/break every couple of hours. Let’s give 10-15 minutes at least instead of 5. Students, maximise your time to digest food by eating/drinking at the beginning of the break instead of doing this last minute.
Get to know your hunger cues
Tummy rumbling. Feeling light headed. Lacking concentration. Making more mistakes. Feeling low in energy levels. Not able to execute power in allegro…
These are some of the many signs your body could be telling you “hey I need more fuel to keep you going!”
You may need to experiment the best timing and types of foods that suit you to refuel so you can keep a balance between refueling and not disrupting training.
(This previous article’s Point 4 can be useful – Using hunger/fullness scales)
You and your body deserves nourishment, not restriction
We talked about how nourishment can improve performance and dieting/restriction can actually increase injury risks.
Taking classes in leotards can make you very body conscious. Of course it will.
Add to that the entire world’s beauty ideal of thinness, I won’t blame anyone for wanting to “be thin” or “lose weight”.
But let’s take a look of the bigger picture here.
Trying to minimise your body size and restricting food intake will not take you anywhere in terms of becoming an amazing performing artist on stage.
Body acceptance is much easier said than done, but I will keep advocating and encouraging it because it is THE most important asset for dancers.
You are not bad or worth less for letting yourself fuel and nourish according to your body’s needs. Whatever shape or size, all bodies deserve respect and care, and all bodies have the right to dance.
Whether you choose a banana or a donut to refuel isn’t the issue.
It’s your attitude, care, and belief towards yourself and your own body that matters.
What would you try next lesson to explore your body’s true energy needs?