Dancer’s are Susceptible to Emotional Eating

Many dancer’s who I work with fall into the category of emotional eater’s. This was my experience as well. Emotional eating was a big part of my story in dance and something I fell into for years.

There are some fundamentals to dance training and the dance mindset that naturally lead to emotional eating. You’re taught to toughen up. One of my ballet teacher’s said that when we entered the studio, we should forget everything going on outside. I see some value to this for sure – ballet provided solace from the drama of teenage life.

However, if you leave the drama outside and never face the emotions you’re experiencing you may end up avoiding your feelings. Food can become another way to suppress and push away negative or heavy feelings.

When you dance you don’t speak (in most cases) therefore most dancer’s identify as non – verbal communicators. We use our bodies to express our emotions and to share ourselves with the world. Again, that can be really beautiful but if you leave certain emotions unresolved you may once again turn to food for solace.

The perfectionist mindset can also lead to emotional eating or secret eating. From an eating standpoint many think of impeccably healthy eating as “perfect”. Never eating processed carbs, cookies, or sweets and instead staying “virtuous” and sticking to vegetables, fruit and salads.

If you’re still living at home with family or even living with roommates, this may manifest in you eating “perfectly” when people are around and then losing “control” and eating whatever “bad” foods you can get your hands on when no one is looking.

Secret eating often leads to feelings of shame and guilt. When we feel shameful we’re directly attacking our sense of self – worth. Secret eating and emotional eating often become patterns that are extremely hard to break.

This leads to the next piece of emotional eating for dancer’s – when it comes to all things technical and artistic we believe we can work through it and find the solution. If we just dedicate ourselves enough we will find the way out.

Keep working, strengthen your will power, find greater control – these are the tenants we try to adhere to because as dancer’s this is what we’re taught. It would be kind of crazy to think that these thoughts wouldn’t infiltrate other parts of our lives.

With food and eating being so closely connected to your performance and body it makes sense that you’d create an environment for yourself where you aren’t using food exclusively as fuel. It’s all too closely intertwined.

So how can you move through emotions without using food as a buffer?

Practice talking. Find out who you feel most comfortable sharing heavy emotions with by sharing. Is your mom the best at listening and responding? Maybe a best friend, mentor or coach? By practicing communication and doing it more consistently you’ll get better at it. Just like pirouettes.

Find healthier coping mechanisms. Instead of food is there an activity that’s healthy that might support you through what you’re feeling? Journaling, stretching or walking in nature might do the trick. You just need to find ways to make those things as easy and readily available as the food in your pantry.

Eat “bad” foods in front of people. When you get in to the habit of hiding your eating practices, those hidden foods start to seem forbidden and off-limits. That mindset is going to make you crave the “bad” foods more and finding a healthy balance with food will be nearly impossible.

To move away from this, commit to eating “bad” foods only in front of people. No secret cookie eating. Cookies are to be enjoyed with friends or family only.

As yourself, “Am I Hungry or sad/mad/lonely/stressed/etc.”? When stress eating or emotional eating, you usually go into autopilot. You likely don’t feel like you have much control of your actions, you might describe the feeling as numb.

If you can get into the habit of pausing whenever you eat and asking yourself if it’s true hunger or something else, you can start to reclaim the driver’s seat.

Bottom line – ask for help. Try new strategies. There is a way out but if you haven’t found it yet, you might need support. You’re worth it. xo


Why Dancer’s Eat Their Emotions

Jess Spinner

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

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