Adjust your Food Plan for Summer

The summer season brings an adjustment in schedule for most dancers. This means your eating plan and meal times will likely need to change as well. It’s a good idea to think ahead so that you don’t go through a period of time when you’re totally off track.

For some of you, the adjustment will be to the intensity of a summer program schedule. For others, you’ll need to adjust to a quieter, possibly less active “lay – off” schedule.

Here are tips for both scenarios!

First, here are 5 – ways to create lasting, positive shifts in the way you’re approaching food and your body if you’re headed to a summer intensive.

1. Don’t “pre – eat”.

It’s common to feel that you need to overeat in anticipation of a long rehearsal or a long day. Front – loading can work, but it needs to be done strategically to ensure that you’re actually eating when you’re hungry and not just when you think you should.

Rather than eating in anticipation of a busy day, bring lots of little snacks that you can eat when you’ve got 5 or 10 minutes here are there.

2. If you’re eating in a cafeteria, make a round before committing.

Sometimes summer program cafeterias provide a buffet style experience. This typically means you’ve got too many options. Don’t start to pile things onto your tray until you’ve walked around the eatery once and identified not just the healthiest options, but also the things that you think will be most satisfying to you in the moment.

3. Avoid the late night junk food. 

I remember night time in summer intensive dorms being full of candy, cookies, and unhealthy treats. At the end of a day filled with so much dancing, it’s common to feel like you “deserve” a “reward”.

Choose a non – food reward for yourself. Maybe, after the 6 – week intensive you’ll reward yourself with a new leotard or enrollment in one of the programs from The Whole Dancer – to help you maintain your progress.

Or, if you find that you are hungry for something try to let a piece of fruit, some berries, or a square or 2 of dark chocolate be your night time indulgence. Buy a high quality dark chocolate, the expensive kind, so that you’re less likely to go crazy on it.

4. Don’t make weight loss one of your summer intensive goals.

The first year I went to summer intensive I gained weight. When I got back to my home studio, my teacher let me know it. It was pretty devastating as I was really young at the time so every summer after that a big goal at summer intensives for me was weight loss.

To achieve that end, I under ate and was definitely lacking the fuel and energy needed to power through those long days of dancing.

Instead of weight loss, you can certainly make one of your goals to prioritize healthy, whole foods. You might also choose the goal to get stronger (pick a measurable way to track this – i.e. time how long you can hold a balance or extension at the beginning of the summer and 1x each week to see how it improves).

5. Don’t be influenced by the way your new friends eat.

You’re likely to be surrounded by girls with all different body types. They’ll likely all have different approaches to food as well. Don’t change the way you eat to match a new friend, even if you find her body to be ideal.

Just because she has found a way to eat to reach her personal best body does not mean it’s going to be the best way for you to eat. If she seems to have a level headed, healthy approach to food then by all means – open up a conversation about it.

We can certainly learn from the positive influences around us! However, don’t take on all the food choices she makes.

ballerina tutu summer intensive

And now, here are 5 ways to make lasting positive shifts in the way you approach your eating and cross – training plan when you’re on a break for the summer – dancing or moving less.

1. Use this as a time to experiment with food.

While it’s not the best idea to try new eating plans when you’re dancing intensively, during time off you might try out some new things.

This way, if you experience digestive discomfort or reactions to new foods or food plans you’re not going to be distracted during a rehearsal or performance. It’s also a good time to assess how foods impact your energy when the stakes aren’t so high.

2. Use this as a time to experiment with new cross – training options.

Since you have more free time and you’re not dancing as much, try out new ways of movement. It’s also worth noting that summer tends to be a slower season for fitness studios so many of them offer much less expensive memberships and deals.

Maybe join a yoga studio and try all the different kinds of yoga they offer – Hatha, Forrest, Vinyasa, Yin, Hot, they’re all different and if you haven’t experimented it’s likely you haven’t found your favorite yet.

3. Craft a routine ASAP.

Giving yourself the space to do nothing is lovely. It can be really restorative to take some time to do nothing for a week or so after your season ends.

Give yourself a set amount of time for that nothingness, then make a routine.

Maybe there’s a local studio where you can take class 3 days a week and you’ve got that yoga membership (see #2) so you can decide which classes to take each day. With this structure, you’ll have an easier time figuring out your food plan and falling into a healthy groove.

4. Keep in mind – you may be less hungry than you were during the season.

Naturally, if you’re moving less you will likely require less fuel. Don’t under eat BUT listen closely to your body and don’t take in more than you need.

If you’re in a warm summer climate, you’re also more likely to crave raw, cold, lighter foods. Focus on salads, smoothies and nutrient dense bowls with healthy whole grains, lots of lightly steamed greens, protein and healthy fats.

5. Accept that your body may change and that’s OK.

During an active rehearsal and performance season, dancers are one of the few sets of people whose bodies are obviously impacted by that high level of movement. The look of your body, your muscle composition, and your weight will likely be different during the season than when you’re not moving or dancing as intensively.

Don’t let this stress you out.

Even with the change in activity level it’s unlikely that the changes to your body will be drastic. If you gain weight it will likely be an amount that will easily melt away within a month or so once you get back in the studio and return to your regular rehearsal schedule.

Are you headed to summer intensive or into a layoff? Which of these ideas are you most excited to implement? Share your thoughts in the comments below!!
Adjusting your food and routines for the summer!

Jess Spinner

Jess is a former professional ballet dancer turned Health Coach and founder of The Whole Dancer.

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