A dancer is often introduced to the topic of nutrition in the studio with an impressionable take on what it means to be “healthy.” For many, this can be a make-or-break moment. With diet and wellness culture unfortunately prevalent among dancers, even the most seemingly harmless “healthy swaps” can open a door to disordered eating and poor body image.
Dance nutrition workshops offer the necessary tools needed to foster studio environments that support career longevity. With a focus on pre- and post-performance meal planning, injury prevention, and the pursuit to dismantle dancer diet culture, the right nutrition workshop can ultimately elevate a dancer’s training and help to build a framework for sustainable habits.
But with an endless supply of misinformation at their fingertips, dancers remain confused around the topic of nutrition. Simultaneous to this is the mere fact that dance educators often fear bringing up an otherwise sensitive subject in the studio.
Let’s dive into the three most important considerations to know before hosting a dance nutrition workshop.
Notice the Signs
There are critical points when a nutrition workshop will be a necessity to your dance studio. You might be overhearing food talk, specifically regarding fad diets like keto and intermittent fasting. Maybe you notice obvious behaviors like calorie counting, or suspect discreet struggles, like dancers spending hours without a snack refuel. These behaviors can be adjusted with proper education. Learning about the importance of regular meals and snacks, along with how to balance the various nutrients needed to support the dancing body, will help.
Compared to the general population, dancers have an increased risk of developing disordered eating. The pressure to lose weight, which comes alongside daily mirror usage, costume fittings and casting, exacerbates this risk. These unique challenges make it essential to rely on credible sources for dance nutrition education. In fact, one’s anecdotal experiences with food and presumed “healthy” eating isn’t enough to warrant them nutrition credibility. Though we’re all familiar with food and how various options can impact our bodies, the topic of dance nutrition becomes more nuanced. A registered dietitian nutritionist is licensed and qualified to support a dancer’s goals, whether surrounding health, performance or body image. It will be further beneficial to source a dietitian who understands the intricate needs of a dancer.
Be Up-Front About Your Studio’s Needs
Nutrition workshops should be tailored to meet the needs of your dancers. This can vary depending on your dancers’ ages and levels, with more advanced dancers benefiting from specialized performance nutrition recommendations. Younger dancers will need an emphasis on food neutrality to avoid the common “good” versus “bad” food talk that leads to food guilt. Even the time at which you plan a workshop can impact the content delivered. Nutrition workshops during summer dance intensives prioritize fueling for busy schedules, while winter workshops often focus closely on how dancers can navigate time away from the studio during the holiday season. Virtual nutrition workshops are easily accessible and are oftentimes a more economical choice for studios, especially when time and financial constraints are a limiting factor. Speak up. Your dietitian can utilize your feedback to deliver the most pertinent information for your dancers.
Educators are an essential part of their dancers’ training and, as a result, can introduce the topics of food and nutrition in a way that supports performance success. But hosting a dance nutrition workshop requires some preparation. Use the information outlined here to source evidence-based food and nutrition education. Through this work, you’ll encourage sustainable habits both now and for the future.