It’s not an uncommon occurrence where a dancer tries to “eat clean” and avoid the often demonised sugary or fatty foods in order to “get in shape”.
But the more you try to restrict yourself from eating particular foods, the more your body will fight against you.
Your body doesn’t want to have that restrict-starve-overeat cycle.
When you decide to go on a diet, you deprive yourself both physiologically and psychologically.
It may be the intermittent fasting, or the no-carbohydrate-after-6pm thing, or exercising too much (normal class/rehearsal/show level of training that dancers do are already quite A LOT for the body and the body will need a lot of fuel to run through these smoothly).
Whatever form it may take, if the body doesn’t have enough energy available to carry out the required daily tasks (again, dancers, you have A LOT of energy-demanding tasks to do), it will up-regulate the hunger signals. This signal will be particularly strong towards sweet foods.
Even if you don’t physically go to the point of starving yourself, the stress of not allowing yourself to eat certain food(s) can drive you to overeat those foods once they become available.
This constant urge, feeling like you’re always drawn to particular foods when you’re trying so hard not to eat it, is very uncomfortable.
It takes away a lot of your focus and concentration from classes too.
Moreover, when you eat forbidden foods when you’re trying to restrict them, you feel bad about yourself.
“I ate that ‘bad’ food I shouldn’t have supposed to” will be internalised as “I’m bad”.
Feeling like a failure of not being able to control food cravings will take a toll on your self-esteem and self-worth.
The negative self-talk that follows will soon be an initiator for another diet or restriction.
And on goes the restrict-starve-overeat cycle.
As you can guess, this cycle is not helpful nor healthful for dancers.
So what can you do to stop this?
Give yourself full permission to eat.
You are allowed to have and enjoy ALL foods. That’s cakes to salads and everything in between.
This is different to “whatever I’m just going to eat”.
That’s more like ignorance and giving up on yourself.
Giving yourself permission comes from a place of understanding, compassion and self-care.
You may not feel comfortable at first, but you’re going to promise yourself one thing: Don’t let guilt take you down after eating.
Explore what you really want.
Is it something sweet or savoury? Dry or liquid? Hot or cold? What kind of texture are you looking for? What experience are you longing? How would this particular food help you in this moment? Is it even food that you’re really craving, or is it something else, like rest, a hug, a love, a stroll around the park to relax, or a good chat with a friend?
Be your own hero and fight the inner critic.
If you hear the inner critic telling you that you’re not good enough because you’ve eaten “bad” foods, stand up for yourself and talk back.
Tell the critic that you’re saving yourself from the restrict-starve-overeat cycle.
Tell the critic that you’re nourishing your body with a variety of foods.
Tell the critic, “I’m not going to let you let me down”.