Diets Almost Never Work Long Term
Stop Dieting. Do this instead.
One of the challenges you might face is the desire to reach a body goal by a deadline. Sometimes there’s an impending audition or performance that you’d like to be thinner (or more toned, or “have longer lines”) for. So you try a diet – maybe you calorie count or count macros, or try WW, Atkins, Whole30, Cabbage soup, the list honestly goes on and on and on and on.
You’ll possibly see a change if you stick to one of these plans for a couple weeks or a month. And that progress can be a great motivator, but what comes next? Usually, there’s some sort of backslide. This can come in the form of a single binge or weeks of eating off the handle. Even if you don’t go to an opposite extreme, if the “diet” you were following was somewhat restrictive, when you start eating normally again, you’ll likely regain the weight you lost (or more).
This is the whole idea of “yo-yo” dieting which sounds a lot cuter than it actually is. It’s not healthy for your weight to be constantly fluctuating up and down. It’s not great for you physically, and possibly even more importantly, it’s not great for you emotionally. Dealing with those body changes and inconsistencies is exhausting – trust me, I was stuck in the “yo-yo” (definitely not cute) for over a decade.
So instead of dieting, what’s the solution?
First, look at where you are as a dancer. Are you bringing your best energy and attitude to class? Do you show up ready to perform and receive notes and feedback openly at rehearsals? What’s your level of happiness, satisfaction, and fulfillment in dance AND life?
If any of those things are out of whack – that’s your starting point. If you don’t address those things and instead put the focus on your body, food, and weight, you’re ignoring the areas that really need attention.
Food is a great distraction and so are diets. They’re something for us to sink our emotions into so that we don’t have to face what we’re actually feeling. Maybe your passion for dance has been waning, or you’re not feeling supported in your current dance environment. What can you do to address those things now?
Prioritize your happiness.
It needs to be the #1 focus. How’s your level of happiness? Think about how you feel in your day-to-day life. Are you enjoying your dancing? School? Meals? Time with friends?
If you’re feeling genuinely happy, and you’re approaching dance, life, and your body with a positive mindset, then yes, it might be an ok time to start working on some food shifts. If the life basics and level of happiness are lacking – start there. Trying to make body progress or achieve body goals becomes 1000x more challenging if you’re not attacking those things from a positive place.
Cultivate confidence in your body now.
The body you’re in might actually be your best body. Sometimes when I start working with a dancer, it becomes quite clear that the body they’re in is actually a wonderful vehicle for a dance career. Nothing needs to change physically. They’ve just convinced themselves for years that losing weight was the answer.
Maybe they’ve gotten those messages from teachers or artistic staff. It’s also possible they came to those conclusions based on what they observed in dance. However they arrived at that end, the mental piece is what needs support.
It takes some mental retraining to accept your body exactly where it is. Dance teaches you to see what’s wrong, what needs to change, or improve. Whenever the negative body thoughts come up, I want you to switch them to positives. In addition to that, each morning write down 3 things you’re grateful for, specifically concerning your body.
But still – no diets. Seriously, it’s time to stop dieting.
Here’s a better approach: work one-on-one with someone or go through a program that will guide you in figuring out the food that really works for your body. You’ll focus on adding more food that supports your dancing and finding balance with indulgences.
As boring as it sounds, making incremental changes to deeply ingrained habits is going to have a lot more benefit for the long term than anything else. It’s tough to tell yourself, “I’ve got to take this slow” when you look in the mirror and aren’t thrilled with what you see. Still, do your best to take it slow. Dieting is exhausting, draining, and dangerous. Stop dieting.
If you’re dancing professionally, and your job is being threatened because of where you are physically, I’d urge you to ask yourself how you feel about your body before jumping to extremes. If you feel good, maybe the answer is looking for other jobs. Easy solution? No. Healthy solution? Yes.