With the holidays just around the corner, Dance Informa wanted to give the gift of health advice for the body, mind and soul. Read on for our 10 holiday dos and don’ts for keeping yourself healthy over the holiday break.
#1. Do be kind and gentle with yourself, and allow time to breathe, to enjoy the little moments. Remember that even in the midst of holiday chaos, it doesn’t last forever. Do what is right for you as an individual. If you need to take a breath, do it.
#2. Don’t get caught up in what others are or are not eating. It’s your body – your choice. Just because someone close to you is following the latest diet trend or is talking about their weight, does not mean you have to be influenced by that. It does not have anything to do with you. That’s about them. The amount of calories and nutrients you need to sustain your energy and strength is unique to you. Fuel your body and mind in a way that supports your ability to get through the holidays in a way that you start January in a good place not a place of defeat or punishment.
#3. Do continue to eat regular meals and snacks through the day starting with breakfast. Even if you’re not dancing as much. This supports your metabolism, maintains muscle mass, and stabilizes blood sugar which results in better mood, less anxiety and less likelihood of overeating in the evenings. I know you’re busy. Eat breakfast anyway.
#4. Don’t keep too many sweets and treats in the house which can lead to overindulging. This potentially could set up a negative cycle of overindulgence, then feeling guilt about food, then restrictive eating.
#5. Do allow yourself to enjoy sweets and treats in a social environment and enjoy this time of celebration. It’s a beautiful thing to have a few of your friend’s holiday cookies, or your grandmother’s special recipe, or a slice of that pie that only comes once a year. Enjoying a serving of something delicious is a healthy way to enjoy your life. That’s not the same thing as overeating alone at home.
#6. Don’t allow guilt over food to make you feel bad about who you are as a person. Our food choices don’t define our self-worth. Enjoying some holiday treats with friends won’t derail an otherwise healthy diet. Guilt all too often leads to restricting food which leads to hunger which leads to overeating. Drop the guilt, and keep your blood sugar stable by eating what your body needs when your body needs it.
#7. Do make sure you’re still getting a dietary foundation of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and plant-based proteins like beans, lentils, peas and soy. When your foundation is built on regular, healthy, high fiber plant choices, it doesn’t matter if you have an occasional holiday treat. This also helps maintain muscle mass so you will be starting January in a strong place. Have a big bowl of apples and clementines out on your counter to make for easy snacking. Make a point of eating at least one for a snack and pairing a fruit with a grain or protein if you need more energy.
#8. Don’t overconsume sugary beverages, coffee drinks or alcohol. This includes “energy drinks”. Some special holiday coffee beverages can have up to 600 calories. Consider them like a dessert. Fine on occasion but not something to have every day.
#9. Do keep up with your vitamins and supplements, particularly vitamin D. Since you’re not getting as much sun in the winter, it’s often necessary to supplement this one. Vitamin D is not only important in bone strength, but it’s also a hormone that boosts the immune system, mental health and focus.
#10. Don’t forget to continue to cross-train when you’re taking a break from dance. It’s a great way to keep supporting muscles strong and reduce injury risk when you return in January.
By Emily C. Harrison MS, RDN, LDN of 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, USA. 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 email@example.com