Food choices depend on many factors from taste preferences and past experiences to our daily schedules, finances, and beliefs. Dancers often base their food choices on the desire to optimize performance through increasing energy and building muscle tone.
The high-energy demands of dance make food a key player in optimizing performance.
However, food also plays a role in both our mental and emotional well being. Think about when we eat dessert after a meal. Though we’ve eaten dinner and are probably not physically hungry, we eat the sweet treat merely because it’s available and our previous experience is nothing less than enjoyment.
Emotional eating is often viewed as a negative experience in our society. A dancer’s desire to improve physical performance can translate into a tunneled mindset that neglects the use of food to satisfy day-to-day happiness. Avoiding dessert for reasons of health and/or body weight risks a restrictive pattern that leads to unsustainable habits.
A healthy relationship with food however, means that our daily choices honor personal preferences that often stem from emotionally pleasant memories. To build a sustainable lifestyle, consider these four #TTPtips to regain insight into the emotional purpose of your food choices:
Assess Any Self-Imposed Food Rule
Do you find it hard to “trust yourself” with certain foods? Do you feel that once you start you won’t stop? The first step to overcoming this all-or-nothing mindset is to grant unconditional permission to enjoy those “forbidden” foods at any time. Remove self-imposed rules (such as only eating dessert on weekends). Remember, you cannot truly connect to the positive emotional experience if you believe that you are doing something wrong. Therefore, disconnect the moral value of “good” vs. “bad” from food.
Tune Into Your Fullness Cues
Mindful eating encompasses the practice of making food a satisfying experience. Tune into the flavors and texture of the food as you eat. Often times, the most delicious bites are only the first few. The more you eat past comfortable fullness, the less satisfying the food tastes. Gain trust and comfort knowing that tomorrow you can enjoy the same experience. Therefore, you don’t have to “get it all in before it’s gone!”
Honor Personal Preference Over Health
Though it’s important to consider the physical effect of our food choices, health defines an interconnection between our mental, physical, and emotional wellbeing. Rather than categorizing foods as “good” or “bad” for the sole purpose of health, incorporate foods that you love into a balanced meal plan. To start, create a list of foods that you currently avoid because you or someone else has labeled this food as “forbidden” or “unhealthy.” Begin incorporating these foods into your daily meals as part of pleasant and satisfying experiences.
Caution With Under-Eating:
Often times, busy schedules result in unintentional under-eating. Consistent hunger makes it difficult to regain this positive connection with food. Are your current meals enough to meet your body’s needs? Consider reaching out to a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist if you need assistance to better navigate your body’s nutritional needs!
By Rachel Fine
Rachel Fine, founder of To The Pointe Nutrition and Creator of The Healthy Dancer online training course (www.DanceNutrition.com), is a New York City-based Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and specialist in Sports Nutrition. With a Masters degree in Clinical Nutrition & Dietetics from New York University, Rachel received licensure and certification upon joining the staff of clinical nutrition at NYU Langone Medical Center and has been involved with dance research at NYU’s Harkness Center for Dance Injuries. As a dancer and performing artist, Rachel intertwines her passion for ballet and nutrition to deliver the most attainable, yet scientifically sound, information to today's top dancers.