For many dancers, the holidays are a tricky time. Many non-dancer friends and family don’t necessarily have to think about fueling their body for performance or staying fit, or the fact that audition season is looming right after the New Year. Looking and performing your best right after the holidays doesn’t mean suffering or engaging in crash diets. It definitely doesn’t mean starving yourself. It just means being more aware and thoughtful about what you eat, portions sizes and keeping up your training regimen.
Top 10 things you can do starting now to prepare for auditions:
- Enjoy, but it simply comes down to portions! It’s completely fine to indulge in your grandmother’s famous pecan pie, but keep it to one piece, and really chew and savor each bite. Mindful eating is never more important than during the holidays.
- At the theater or studio for long hours? Don’t keep junk food or sweets in your dressing room. It’s too easy to overindulge when treats are easily within reach. Save treats for special occasions, parties or celebrations.
- For long dancing days, bring healthy snacks and healthy treats with you each day such as vanilla cacao soy milk (packed with calcium and protein), date rolls covered in coconut (quick burst of energy), peppermints, and dried fruit and cinnamon roasted nuts (mix of quick energy and long-term energy).
- Love to bake? No problem. Easy substitutions in baked goods are things like apple sauce (in place of oil); whole grain, teff, oat or almond flour (in place of refined white flour); and adding ground-up flax seeds, chia seeds or hemp seeds (healthy fats and protein).
- At big feasts, fill half your plate with vegetables dishes and salads, then enjoy reasonable portions of the heavier items. Skip the creamy cheese sauces, heavy gravies and excess oils or butter.
- At a certain unnamed coffee shop, a Caramel Brulée Latte has 580 calories. It is easy to cut back on saturated fat by just avoiding full-fat dairy, whipped cream and sugary coffee drinks. If you drink coffee, just order regular coffee with a little soy milk or coconut milk, and sprinkle some cinnamon on it. If you must have an occasional seasonal coffee beverage, get the small (i.e. “tall”).
- When we’re in the theater every day doing the same show, it’s easy to let class or cross-training slide. Do arm, abdominal and ankle exercises during those long breaks at the theater.
- Find a good trainer who understands the unique needs of dancers, and go to them on your day off. It might seem counterintuitive to go to a trainer on an “off”, day but they can be extremely helpful with preventing injuries and gentle stretching. Listen to your body.
- While Pilates and yoga are healthy and popular options for cross-training during this hectic time of year, think outside the box and consider trying indoor rock climbing, swimming or getting out in nature.
- Meditate! Your mental health is just as important as your physical health. Take time out to breathe. Not sure how to start? There’s an app for that. Check out Headspace for short, 10-minute guided meditations to improve clarity and focus.
The most important thing is to stay positive during a time of year that can be hectic and stressful. Eating well, getting outside and meditation can be very healing. Take good care of yourself for you, and you will be ready to go mid-January.
By Emily C. Harrison MS, RD, LD Nutrition for Great Performances
Emily Cook Harrison MS, RD, LD
Emily is a registered dietitian and holds both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in nutrition from Georgia State University. Her master’s thesis research was on elite level ballet dancers and nutrition and she has experience providing nutrition services for weight management, sports nutrition, disordered eating, disease prevention, and food allergies. Emily was a professional dancer for eleven years with the Atlanta Ballet and several other companies. She is a dance educator and the mother of two young children. She now runs the Centre for Dance Nutrition and Healthy Lifestyles. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org