Dancers can survive Thanksgiving. Beyond that, you can truly enjoy this time of year. All told, Thanksgiving is now one of my favorite holidays. I love the focus on gratitude that a lot of us can easily forget about throughout the year. It’s really important to pause and consider all the blessings you have in your life, and I think Thanksgiving can have a good grounding effect for us. 

That being said, there was a time when Thanksgiving was full of stress, worry, guilt, and discomfort for me. I know it’s still that way for a lot of dancers. You can go beyond surviving this holiday (or any food-centered celebration for that matter) and in fact enjoy it fully.

Why dancers get stressed out about Thanksgiving.

This November holiday has an added level of stress simply due to the timing. For many of you, it’s right before you get started with Nutcracker performances or dress rehearsals. Many dancers have stories, recent or sometime in their past, of teachers saying, “Don’t eat too much on Thanksgiving.” That message persists through your current experience and can lead to lots of questioning and guilt.

You might worry that this one meal is going to impact how you feel or look on stage either the next day or for many days. A lot of dancers fixate on single-food experiences without considering that it’s really the whole picture that needs to be balanced. Your Thanksgiving meal might be higher in fat, sugar, or salt than you normally eat, but it’s one meal. 

This one meal will not change your body.

The worst way to approach Thanksgiving.

The worst way to approach Thanksgiving is to not eat, or to eat very little, before the actual meal. This is not just a dancer approach but rather a general approach that a lot of people take with Thanksgiving and other food-centric holidays. 

When you do this, you’re feeling deprived and setting yourself up to take an all-or-nothing position. Meaning, you tell yourself, This is the last time I’ll be eating these things. Or, I’ll get back to “healthy” eating tomorrow. You gorge yourself so you’re left feeling guilty and uncomfortable. 

This doesn’t lead to a joyful experience, and it usually takes you away from any connection to gratitude. 

Check out this related post :   All the Holiday Season Struggles

Dancers, being restrictive is not going to help.

It’s going to be helpful to acknowledge what your past approach to this meal has been and also what your current mindset is around it. If you’re having thoughts that being restrictive leading up to or after Thanksgiving will serve you, start to rethink those notions now.

Restriction is intrinsically unbalanced. All it does is lead to extremes either soon after or in the future. So even if you eat less in the time leading up to or following a big meal, that big meal will likely more than offset the undereating. Not to mention that you’ll feel miserable when you’re not giving your body what it needs, and you’ll put yourself at risk of injury.

Rather than being restrictive, aim for balance. 

A balanced approach to Thanksgiving.

I always like to remind dancers that all the things you enjoy on Thanksgiving are available all year round. You can eat pumpkin pie in July if you want to. So, even if you’re not taking a restrictive approach leading up to the holiday eating, don’t let the novelty of the foods lead to eating to the point of discomfort.

Make sure you eat balanced meals and snacks leading up to the “big” meal. If your family eats Thanksgiving dinner at 4 p.m., you’ll benefit from having a complete breakfast and lunch and maybe a snack as well. Remember, not eating or eating minimally is only going to set you up to eat to a point of discomfort later on.

Studies indicate that starting your day with a good protein focus (eggs or a tofu scramble, for example) will help your body maintain more balanced blood sugar and will result in less sugar craving throughout the day. 

Enjoy all the things and stay connected to gratitude.

The dancers I work with are encouraged to find gratitude for every meal and snack they eat. Connecting to your food in that way reminds you that you’re quite lucky to have abundant options available to you most of the time. Thanksgiving should be no different.

Beyond the gratitude you might feel for the time with family, connect to the gratitude for the food you’re enjoying. Allow yourself to eat all the foods and give yourself the opportunity to truly enjoy them. Be present as you eat, take it in, and fully taste the flavors. Notice the textures, smells, and presentation. 

Check out this related post :   Diet for Dancers - Food Tips with San Francisco Ballet's Natasha Sheehan

When family members comment on your food choices.

For dancers, surviving Thanksgiving might also have an element of dealing with food or body comments or judgments from family members. They might comment on how much or how little you’re eating. They might comment on the size of your body and their perception of whether it’s good or bad for dance.

First, none of this is easy to deal with. If you’ve dealt with it in the past, how have you responded? How did you feel about those past responses? How would you like to respond differently if it happens again?

It’s worth noting, no one has any right to comment on your food choices or your body shape or size. People who do this really need to adjust their thinking and learn that societal expectations in these areas have changed. 

You should feel empowered to blatantly shut them down. 

You might say:

“I’m not interested in your feedback on my food choices.”
“I’m learning to love my body just as it is. Your comments aren’t helpful.”
“I’m listening to my body and eating the amount that feels good for me.”

“Please don’t comment on my food choices (or body).”

“Your comments aren’t helpful.”

Now is a great time for support. 

The holidays, end of the year, new year, and Nutcracker seasons are busy times. Sometimes, I think that leads us to think we can’t or shouldn’t take anything else on. On the contrary, coaching is a 30-minute per week commitment that can make this hectic time feel much more calm and balanced. 

If you’ve been considering coaching for a while, don’t put it off to the New Year. Explore coaching support now by signing up for your complimentary coaching consultation call. Here’s the link to get started: 

Dancers can survive Thanksgiving and all food-centric holidays for that matter.

Schedule a FREE Coaching Consultation Call

Dancers: Here’s How to Survive Thanksgiving Dinner

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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