fit for you
with Marissa Siewert
As a dancer, it can be hard to find the right foods to eat. Growing up, I was told, “Dance in your sports bra, look in the mirror, and if you don’t like what you see, change it.” This line made me feel confused and suddenly full of self-depreciation. I didn’t like what I saw but I didn’t know how to change it. No one taught me that your body simply needs proteins, veggies, and complex carbs throughout the day, whether you are a dancer or not. I was taught to be fearful of food, which took me down a rabbit hole of not eating to bingeing to more unwanted weight to poor rehearsal performance and injuries because of a lack of nutrients and energy. This cycle repeated day after day. Years later (I mean YEARS), I decided to grocery shop and cook for myself and it was a GAME CHANGER. I enjoyed cooking and I lost weight! It was mind blowing. I was so impressed I wanted to learn more so I could help other people. I graduated from Integrative Nutrition as a holistic health coach with a strong understanding of how to properly combine the lifestyle and dietary needs of a dancer.
Below I share some simple tips to keep your energy high, nutrients dense, and fat content low! The benefits these tips offer will aid your performance on and off stage, from accessing your energy to easier digestion to maintaining stamina in the studio.
- Start your day with a glass of lukewarm lemon water to help alkalize your body and get your digestive system going. Keep drinking water throughout the day and make sure to always take 1 liter with you to rehearsal!
- Get the proper amount of sleep for you. Sleep is necessary for your body to recover after all the work you put it through. With the right amount of sleep, you can help avoid those unwanted cravings and low energy during your rehearsal or class time.
- Eat whole foods in their most natural state, such as leafy greens, organic proteins, colorful vegetables, a variety of fruits, and whole grains for a balanced diet.
- Keep sugars to a minimum. Natural sugars from fruit are fine, but have them in the morning. I like to start my day with a juice or a smoothie that incorporates fruits and greens.
- Take a probiotic to not only help gut bacteria, but to keep your mind healthy (They say the gut is the second brain). Maintaining a healthy gut is key for overall wellness.
- Eat only when you’re hungry. Your digestive system needs about 3-4 hours to digest. Going from one meal to the next in less than 3 hours merely pushes more food on top of already-ingested food without proper digestion time, forcing the body to work harder to break down all that additional food. In addition, steady meal timing helps regulate your digestive system, blood sugar and insulin levels, and appetite.
-Throw away your scale and your calorie counter. Yes, it’s important to keep a healthy weight and not overeat, but listen to your body to give you the answers you are looking for. Be mindful of your portions, sit down, and chew your food.
- Most importantly, cook at home. When you cook, you know EXACTLY what is in your food - it’s not a guessing game. I know it’s hard in a city where everything is go, go, go, but getting into a routine of weekly grocery shopping, and prepping your meals in advance helps to limit the search for fast-food options outside of your kitchen. Once you meal prep, you can pack little Tupperware containers to bring to class and rehearsal (This saves money too!).
Here are some suggestions for meal ideas throughout your week:
-Smoothie with greens
- Grapefruit and eggs
- OR a coconut/greek yogurt with fruit and granola
-A salad full of vegetables. Keeping the water and fiber content high helps keep you fuller longer and promote regulated digestion. I love that Sweetgreen always has locally sourced options.
-A salad bowl incorporating colorful vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, and whole grains like quinoa. Quinoa is actually higher in protein than it is in carbs!)
-A handful of nuts. It’s really easy to over-eat nuts, but a handful of raw, unsalted nuts is the perfect amount. I throw a few dark chocolate chips in to help satisfy the sweet and savory craving (And water! Water will also help curb your hunger)
- A juice or smoothie with fruit sugars that is also heavy in greens (maybe even with some nut butter for protein). Never try to do full-on juice cleanses, especially because dancers are so active, but having a juice midday helps hold you over until your next meal. It’s also easily digestible before class or rehearsal.
-Celery with some peanut butter. Celery is high in water content so it also helps hydrate that body and peanut butter offers protein to satisfy hunger.
- Apples, carrots, pears, etc. are so simple to throw in your bag! Just wash and eat
-Salmon, side salad, and more vegetables. I’m not a meat eater (only fish) but if you do eat meat, keep it lean and organic, such as grilled chicken. Try to limit red meat consumption as it doesn’t have many added benefits to a healthy lifestyle.
Marissa Siewert graduated from the Martha Graham School. She currently teaches fitness at Model FIT. Certified in Applied Functional Science through the Gray Institute, and a certified Health Coach through the Institute of Integrative Nutrition. She aims to help others find the healthy and the happy in their fitness.