As dancers, our physique is constantly under scrutiny. We look in the mirror so much more than other people! Not because we’re vain, but to observe the shapes we are making, what wje need to correct, and because sometimes what feels good and what looks right are two different things- suffice to say the mirror is a huge point of reference! This may not be a problem if you have the metabolism of a gerbil on speed (farewell 18 year old self) but what about when it’s closer to that of a niffler? What about when you don’t have a dancers shape that is conventional, when you’re dancing (a lot!) and you still don’t seem to be as slender as you would like? Or as slim as so many others seem to be, despite eating and dancing the same?
This is something I’ve encountered in my mid to late twenties- I’m still slim (size 10) but I definitely carry more weight than I used to- I want to be the weight I was and I also REALLY love food! My friend Toby told me recently, ‘Nat, you have the spirit of a fat person.’ (Maybe the cookies, and chocolate and Pringles for the cinema were a bit muchp…) Now 20 year old me would have totally gotten away with it (je regrette nothing) but alas I now weigh a stone more than I would like. And then of course, some of us struggle with having slower metabolisms- just not being ‘built’ that way.
Now I want to make something PERFECTLY clear. I think all body types and sizes can be and are beautiful; this is not an article telling you to get skinny! However, it is about what personally feels good for us and if you do struggle with wishing your metabolism was faster or wanting to shed extra pounds to feel body happy then this article is for you. This must of course be carefully balanced with having a healthy body image, self-worth and mindset but that’s a time for another article.
Having A Dancers Shape Means Eating For Your Body Type
Did you know all body types are capable of being lean? It’s true, however even if you’re eating healthily you might not be eating RIGHT for your body type. We’ve all heard the terms ‘pear,’ ‘hourglass,’ ‘apple,’ ‘inverted triangle’ and ‘pencil.’ However these are simply markers of the type of metabolism you have and how your body stores fat. But HERE’S THE INTERESTING PART. Did you know that your metabolism is essentially governed by which gland of 4 ( or 3 in the case of men) is the most dominant in your body?
Let me explain. Of your thyroid, adrenal, gonad or pituitary gland, one will be more dominant than the others and so this one is responsible for your metabolic rate. By working with what it needs and how to up the function of the others to give it a rest you can reach your optimal body shape.
Now there are many fad diets out there, and it gets confusing, not to mention downright disheartening to see a long list of no’s. So first and foremost I will give you some facts, a brief rule for each type and then some more info and examples about how you can cultivate your dancers shape.
- Weight stored round your middle (think muffin top.) Problem zones are stomach, hips and thighs.
- This gland controls how our nervous system performs, so can struggle with fatigue, digestion and a tendency toward burnout.
- Normally rise and shine types (morning people) with energy dipping and cravings hitting late afternoon.
- Both tires and rejuvenates quickly.
- Personality- ambitious, sensitive, emotional, focused, swift mood changes, clever.
RULE- Avoid sweets, stimulants and simple carbs. Avoid excessive soy as bad for thyroid types.
EAT- all carbs should be wholegrain.
Keep protein and fat low to medium.
Adrenal Type (Most Often Inverted Pyramid)
- built very strong (they have the guns!)
- If they have a belly it tends to be higher
- Upper body more pronounced (women tend to have larger chests)
- High pain threshold
- Night owls- take longer to get going in the morning but energy reserves are large and sustain them all day.
- Personality- social, helpful, kind, approachable, brings things to completion, determination that wins out over adversity. Can be stubborn and quick to anger. Struggles with life transitions.
- Tends to overeat even if full up, which leads to fatigue. Tendency toward binging and late night snackathons.
RULE- Avoid salty food, fatty food, red meat and alcohol. Normally craves fattier sweet things.
Eat- High protein e.g. eggs, fish, chicken.
High fat- not fast food, but nuts, avocados, cheese, yoghurt.
Non- cruciferous veg (as cruciferous can cause bloating in this type. Lettuce, spinach, tomato, carrots, celery.
- Easy weight loss, when gains weight it’s on the bum and thighs.
- Needs the most sleep of all 4 types.
- Energy remains stable, except if they’ve eaten sugar.
- Energy escalates as day progresses.
- Will often experience a 2nd wind at night.
- Is the weakest but has the longest lastingly energy.
- Personality- nurturer, responsible, selfless, strong moral compass, reliable. Struggles to let go or make themselves a priority.
- Cravings fall at night.
RULE- Avoid spicy food, fatty food and soy.
Eat- High protein
Cruciferous veg- kale, brussel sprouts, broccoli, cabbage, asparagus.
More dairy- kefir, cheese, yoghurt (go organic as added hormones can upset your balance.)
Pituitary Type (rare- only 20% of people- most often Hourglass)
- Don’t need much sleep.
- Gain weight evenly, sweats a lot without much effort.
- Tend to be vegetarian.
- Relies on 4pm siesta or snack as a pick me up.
- Prone to allergies, colds, sinusitis, bronchitis, OCD.
- Benefits from eating small quantities more regularly to avoid heartburn.
- Tend to look younger.
- Personality- reflective, more logical than emotional, calm, vivid imagination, quiet and introverted, high intellect. Indecisive, finds emotional conversations and confrontation draining. Can seem distant or cold.
RULE- Avoid dairy, sweets and refined grains.
Eat- loads of protein (need the most protein of all the types.)
Lots of fresh veg (prepared either sauteed, roasted or steamed.)
Wholegrains and plenty of spices.
If you are unsure an adrenal type diet plan is a good place to start as 80% of people have an adrenal body type. You can then adjust from there.
How The Magic Happens
As well as eating for your body type, there are some other important strategies. To gain and maintain a dancers shape I have a rule of thumb:
Food is fuel, food is fun.
By this I mean that both parts need to be in play. Life is too short to not have cake! There’s a reason the word ‘diet’ has the word ‘die’ in it after all… You may have noticed that all of the above stipulate that sugar should be cut out (my 5 year old self is still crying at that) but if you’re anything like me I live to eat- my brain pretty much goes: dance, food, my dog- on repeat. So it’s important to have treats. I find that enjoyment also has to be high for a plan to be sustainable.
On the other hand we do rely on sugar too much and the truth is a dancers body and shape (or any for that matter) is never going to be ideal on copious amounts of sugar- even if it doesn’t affect your metabolism now, it will when you’re older which isn’t what we want. So good food habits now are important.
I tend to say that generally treats should be allowed IF they are adjusted. You can do this by baking sugar free (which means using only natural sugars.) This in and of itself will make a massive difference- giving up refined sugar and making healthier treats allows you to have your cake and eat it too!
Here is my list for healthy treating:
- Use recipes that have a 5 ingredient scheme. When you’re dancing all the time, you most likely won’t want to be spending hours in the kitchen baking, so having recipes on hand you can prep super fast is key and will stop you reaching for the biscuit tin or that chocolate bar.
- Keep your recipes on rotation. As easy as it is to just keep making the same thing each week, you will get bored. This is a recipe for disaster as you’ll end up falling off the wagon and going back to your refined sugary friends. So keep yourself excited about food by keeping things fresh!
- Allow yourself one to two proper cheats a week. The fact is, no matter how good you are you don’t want to miss out on amazing treats forever. Allowing yourself a cheat a week to have that domino’s pizza or amazing brownie from that coffee shop, will keep you enjoying your food life as you should.
- Adjust. If you fancy a vanilla latte, adjust it. Go for sugar free syrups. Could you cut the dairy and go for coconut, oat or soya? Don’t forget to switch to decaf! Most body types need to avoid caffeine.
Avoid The Gluten Fairy
This one can make a BIG difference. It can help you gain more of a dancers shape without eating any less (hooray!) As well as cutting out refined sugar, cut out wheat and dairy (with the exception of eggs and butter.) It is a bit more expensive but boy can it make a difference. I’m not saying never have those things again (I’m pretty sure my love affair with cheese will last forever,) but making these changes to your day to day life and saving these things for treat time can work wonders!
N.B. If you are one of the types listed above that dairy is good for, then just cut gluten.
Contrary to belief skipping meals can actually make you gain weight. It slows your metabolism and encourages your body to store fat- this is because it triggers it to go into survival mode and go ‘quick, there’s a a famine, store reserves to survive!’ It will also drain your energy which means you won’t be dancing at your best you which isn’t good for anyone!
Graze- It’s Good For Your Shape!
As well as your 3 main meals, it is best to have 2-3 snacks a day to keep your energy up. Know that the more you exercise, the more you need to eat so don’t think of the number of calories they recommend for a normal adult, because you’re exercising all the time. It should be more!
Breakfast Like A King
It’s really important to break your fast. This is because glucose is the petrol our bodies use to function. We need to fuel to replenish our glucose levels. This will set how your body is energetically throughout the day so it’s really important.
Green tea has biochemical substances which help shift fat and improve your metabolism. For this to be effective it is suggested that you drink around 3 cups a day. I recommend putting your first cup in a flask (if you’re up early.) It’s a great way to start off your body. You can get it with lots of different flavours, so it’s more enjoyable. My fave is green tea with jasmine. It is worth noting that the loose-leaf is FAR more effective, so invest in that cute little tea strainer and teapot you’ve been looking at and enjoy being good to yourself!
App-ly These New Principles
It doesn’t matter how much you read, what is going to garner results over time is applying the information. To achieve and maintain a dancers shape it can sometimes be easier with an app, so use an app for daily encouragement and to monitor what you need. It will also help you to think ahead with regard to organising snacks when on the go!