Through The Whole Dancer, I work with dancers to reach their personal best body for dance healthfully and sustainably. I use a 7-step process that has worked time and time again to support dancers in reaching body goals. 

Does it happen overnight? No. But with focus and attention, you can make major shifts in just a few months. When I work with dancers, we begin with a six-month program because I want the changes they facilitate to last. Usually by around month three or four, massive changes are happening.

Around that time, dancers notice notably improved sleep, food routines, relationships to food and their bodies, improved confidence in their dancing, clarity in their dance goals, and increased self-worth.

Here are the steps so you can start to work in the direction of positive body and mindset change on your own. If you’d like to dive in a bit deeper with me, sign up to receive the FREE 7-step best body guide where I break down this process and help you see how you can apply it now!

STEP 1: Learn the Basics of Healthy Eating to Optimize Performance.

You’ve got to have a healthy foundation. Learn about macronutrients (proteins, carbs, + fats) and micronutrients (vitamins + minerals) so you can easily put together complete and satisfying meals.

Do research for yourself — stick to learning nutritional science information and seek knowledge on fueling athletes. I specialize in working with dancers, and I use a holistic approach because dancers usually have deeply rooted stories about food and their bodies. To break through those stories, you need to look at all areas of your life.

Be aware that a lot of nutrition information is biased. Look for evidence-based research and studies conducted using athletes or dancers — data that isn’t trying to sell you something. And know that ultimately, what’s “healthy” for you is completely individual.

STEP 2: Practice Self-Care to Improve Body Image.

Taking good care of yourself through daily self-care practices is one of the best ways to cultivate self-love. You’re communicating to your body through your actions that you are worthy of time and attention.

When you look in the mirror, frame your self-descriptions in a positive way and always look for what’s good. Don’t criticize yourself harshly. Work on getting that little voice in your head to speak kindly to you. Research has shown that referring to yourself by your own name can help shift your self-talk to provide more support and emotional regulation.

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STEP 3: Prioritize Meal Planning and Prep to Make Food Choices Easy.

Eating healthy, delicious meals is very possible, but it does typically take a little bit of planning and preparation. Find the healthy recipes you truly enjoy eating. Seek out options that are quick to cook or easy to heat up and make them ahead.

Have staple recipes that you make every week. Switch them up when you get bored. If you’re not excited to eat something, it will be less satisfying. You’ve got to find satisfaction from your food if you want to stay on the healthy track.

If your healthy recipes are bland and boring (they don’t have to be), you’ll be more likely to binge on unhealthy foods. To ensure satisfaction, also use a strategy I call TWD Functional 5 for a balanced plate at every meal.

Make sure you include protein, fat, starchy carbs, non-starchy carbs, and joyful tastes at each and every meal. This is something I’ll be elaborating on soon because I know you can find true satisfaction by providing both your nutrient needs and your food desires.

STEP 4: Discover the Eating Plan That Works to Serve Your Personal Needs and Preferences.

Not all foods work for all people. It’s important to experiment to figure out what works for you. Just because your friend has found success on a vegan or Paleo diet doesn’t mean you will.

It’s also very important from a mindset perspective to realize you don’t have to fit your eating style into a box. You can (and arguably should) shift your choices around food as needed.

Signs you might need to make some shifts: you’re breaking out a lot or more than usual, you’re feeling lethargic or wired, you’re gaining or losing weight inexplicably, you find yourself binge eating or emotional eating (these are emotional and mindset concerns, but your food choices can impact them or be impacted by them).

STEP 5: Cultivate Confidence in Food Choices, Your Body, and Dancing.

Each and every day, think about all your gifts. What positive light do you bring to the world as a person and dancer? How can you lift up those around you?

When you step into the studio and watch the other dancers, admire them for their strengths. The more you see the gifts of those around you, the more easily you’ll identify those gifts in yourself.

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Building confidence is a process. You might think some people were just born confident, but most people have to work for it or they have to work to maintain it. The same is true for you. 

STEP 6: Explore Cross-Training Options for Improvements in Dance Performance.

Cross-training shouldn’t take hours a day, and it shouldn’t be exhausting. If you destroy yourself at the gym, you won’t be able to bring yourself fully into your dancing.

A lot of dancers are turning to weight training for good reason. It can benefit you even if you’re only spending 20-30 minutes in the gym a few days a week. 

The pilates reformer is an old staple for dancers with good reason. It used to be a really expensive cross-training endeavor, but with chain studios and group classes, you can find more affordable rates. 

Be open minded when it comes to cross-training, and just like food, your needs will differ from the dancer next to you. Let it be an experimentation process.

STEP 7: Release a Restrictive Mindset to Remove Guilt Around Food.

If you’ve gotten to a place where you simply aren’t eating enough or you think you must eat less to reach your body goals, it’s time to adjust.

Depending on how deeply you’ve gotten into restriction, you might need eating disorder counseling or support. Find a counselor or psychologist who works specifically with dancers.

If your mindset is only somewhat skewed at this point, adjust how you’re looking at food. Food is not “good” or “bad,” and you shouldn’t let your food choices impact how you feel about yourself. A health, nutrition, and lifestyle coach can help you establish a more balanced relationship to food and your body.

It’s not about self-control.

It’s about fueling yourself with enough food that is healthy and enjoyable so you can easily move towards your body goals.

If you’d like to learn the 7-step process to reaching your body goals in more depth, click here and grab my free Best Body Guide. That’s a great place to start!If you’re unsure of the support you need or the step in the process that needs your attention first, set up a complimentary coaching call. We can discuss your goals and challenges, and I’ll provide insights and actions so you’ll have a clear next, best step.

Your Best Body for Dance in 7-Steps

Jess Spinner

Jess is a former professional ballet dancer turned Holistic Health, Nutrition, and Lifestyle Coach for high level dancers. She founded The Whole Dancer in 2015 after identifying a greater need for balance, wellness and support in the dance world. Since The Whole Dancer was founded, Jess has worked with 100's of dancers worldwide at top companies and schools. She has been featured in or written for Dance Magazine, Dance Teacher Magazine, Pointe Magazine, and Dance Spirit Magazine.

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