Plant-based eating is gaining popularity and it’s a common preference I see with my clients too.
So what is this and is it helpful for dancers?
Let’s take a look.
Plant-based eating may mean vegetarian, vegan, or eating predominantly plant-based foods.
- Plant-based foods: Grains, legumes (beans and lentils), nuts and seeds, fruits and vegetables.
- Animal-based foods: Meat, fish, poultry, eggs, dairy and products made from these.
Why do people choose this?
There’s a lot of different reasons, but the two main reasons that I hear the most are:
- “I’m concerned about the environment”
- “It’s the trend”
And the other reason that clients share with me later on are:
- “I heard it’s great for weight loss”
What are the pro’s and con’s of following a plant-based eating?
- You might save money (beans are often cheaper than meat or fish)
- It could help reduce carbon footprint
- It may help lower your risk of certain conditions such as diabetes and heart disease
- Your overall food variety may become very limited
- Restrictive eating is a risk factor for developing disordered eating and eating disorders, which can be life- and career-threatening for dancers
- It may lead to lack of vital nutrients (see below for more detail)
The risks of nutrient deficiency and subsequent issues from plant-based eating include:
- Inadequate protein intake
- Iron deficiency
- Vitamin B12 deficiency
- Calcium deficiency
- Inadequate fat intake
- Weaker bones due to decreased bone mineralisation (because of lack of calcium and/or vitamin D)
My advice is this
Before making a switch or a move into plant-based eating, take your time to assess WHY you are doing it and HOW you would address the risks.
(Being proactive and seeing a dietitian would benefit you A LOT as you would be able to see all the different ways to address the risks, your concerns, and your goals)
I’ve seen too many dancers make the choice because they saw it as a way to restrict their food variety.
Some have told me that, if they had “I’m concerned about the environment” as the reason, they could get away with not eating certain foods because deep down they were finding ways to cut down calories; they didn’t want to accept that they were having difficulty with food (disordered eating or eating disorders) because they will be judged.
And they were surprised and disappointed when they found out that these restrictive eating behaviours were in fact hindering their performance, growth, concentration and training adaptation.
I’m in agreement that we should all play our part in taking care of the environment. But let’s consider this: Are there other ways to address this in your everyday life other than diets? What made you choose to change your food instead of say, electricity use or recycling?
A person isn’t better or worse for choosing plant-based foods over meat.
Your body is important.
It needs and deserves a lot of care and nourishment.
If you want to keep dancing then you have to know how to protect yourself from nutrient deficiencies, lack of energy and eating disorder risks.
Because there’s no body better than a nourished body.