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Nutrition From the Perspective of a Professional Dancer

When it comes to any aspect of life, most people don’t enjoy repetition, low quality, or blandness. Repetitive music or even repetitively listening to the same music over and over causes it to lose its special quality, causing it to become bland. Wearing the same type of clothes (or the same clothes) all the time takes the joy and surprise out of fashion (along with compromising hygiene). Doing the same activities day after day gets boring, even if they’re the most fun activities in the world.

The same is true of your diet. Low quality is not only not preferred, it’s bad for you: negatively impacting how your body runs. Repeating the same meal over and over again is boring and bland in taste, along with usually causing nutritional deficiencies if you don’t include enough variety in fruits, vegetables and proteins.

Behind your plate

The way you eat is impacted by a lot of different factors: upbringing, culture, level of education, affordability, athletic level, overall surroundings and environment, etc. As an athlete, I train and eat well, just so I have a fighting chance to support any kind of happiness. However, I know that it’s unfair to say that ‘one size fits all’; what works for me, nutritionally, might not work for you. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a size that does fit you.

From dollar to diet-menu

As someone who was raised to watch cartoon shows where the characters ate massive amounts of hamburgers, fries, and sodas, growing up all my family could afford was food off the dollar-menu. In my childhood, I didn’t realize how bad this type of food and lifestyle was for my body. It was only after I got into exercising and dancing that I needed to take better care of my body if I wanted it to continue working for me.

Reflection in diet

Your body can handle a lot more when you’re young than it can when you’re not young (which doesn’t mean that eating well isn’t easy as a kid – because it is.) When I was a kid, I could eat fries and burgers without them having any effects on me, but as I got older they started to affect the way I looked, moved, and felt. Because of this, I started evaluating the choices I was making when it came to my nutrition, and found that a lot of them were wrong.

Churros vs. Carrots

To start, when given the option to buy or make my own food, I usually picked buying my food because it seemed easier. While it was easier in terms of time, it wasn’t easier on my body. I couldn’t afford to buy high quality pre-made food, so I was eating a lot of the same low quality, fast food. When I realized how this was affecting my energy levels, I started to make changes. At 7-Eleven, instead of snacking on the pizza, chicken wings, churros, or sodas, I’ll walk towards the healthy-snack section, choosing things like celery and carrot packs, bananas, etc. If I do pick up something that isn’t a fruit or vegetable, I’ll read the ingredients closely: packaged foods with less ingredients, and ingredients that I can actually pronounce, rather than some long, confusing chemical ingredient that’s bad for me. There are a lot of traps here you should avoid. Just because something says it’s ‘All Natural’ doesn’t mean it’s good for you. It takes a some time (and a lot of Googling) to learn how to correctly read a nutrition label.

More about the process

For me, learning to eat better was a process. You can’t expect yourself to make a complete 180 overnight when it comes to your diet. If you do, it won’t last. To help yourself stick to eating healthy you have to start off step-by-step, cutting out specific things from your diet so you can get used to it.

One of the most important parts of good nutrition isn’t about what you eat, but what you drink. Drinking water, and enough of it, is key to your health. You should start every day with a glass of water, drinking another glass at every meal, in-between every meal, every time you snack, before and after you exercise, and any time you feel thirsty (or hungry- because usually you’re not hungry, you’re thirsty).

Spice it up

A lot of people think that choosing to eat healthy is boring. It’s not. There are so many different vegetable, fruits, grains, and proteins you can eat. A huge way to mix up your meals is by using spices to change up the way your meals taste, even when you’re using the same ingredients. If you get bored of the plain old ‘eating healthy’ thing, you can switch around between diets: vegetarian, vegan, paleo, mediterranean, etc. for periods of time, challenging yourself to eat different things at different times of the day depending on what diet you choose. However, you should always be sure you’re eating enough calories, especially if you’re someone who’s active. As a dancer, I know that I need more calories than someone who lives a more inactive life, and I take this into account when I plan my meals out.

What and how you eat is a fun way to change up your lifestyle, but it shouldn’t be the defining factor in one’s life. Food can definitely bring joy, but at the end of the day it’s the fuel your body runs on and nothing more.

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