Can Eating Clean Make You a Better Dancer?
You've seen it a million times: A glamorous, toned dancer posts a perfectly styled shot of her colorful smoothie bowl. The caption gushes about how great you'll feel if you eat "clean"—but what does that actually mean? DS asked registered dietitian/nutritionist Rachel Fine and holistic health coach (and founder of The Whole Dancer) Jess Spinner for all of the dirt.
Clean = Pristine?
"Clean eating involves stripping away the preservatives, added sugars, and sodium that go into many mass-produced, processed foods," Fine says. "When you eat clean, you're avoiding the additives that give packaged foods longer shelf lives." Spinner agrees: "Aspiring to eat clean is all about cutting out processed, chemical-laden foods from your diet. The goal of eating clean is to focus your eating plan on foods that are as close as possible to their original state. That way, they're providing optimal levels of nutrients and health-protective benefits."
If you're choosing foods and constructing your meals from minimally processed sources, you should be able to count (and pronounce!) the number of ingredients in that meal on one or two hands. "Clean eating puts the focus on whole foods, which are the foods that usually aren't packaged," Spinner says. "And when they are packaged, you'll see only ingredients you immediately recognize as food, like almonds, walnuts, and black beans."
What's an example of a clean-eating choice? Grabbing a locally grown apple for that between-classes snack, instead of reaching for a bag of chips or another packaged option. "Choose foods that are literally grown in your state and are in season, like apples and stone fruits in the fall," Fine says. "Eating sustainably and locally helps to strip away the excess because you're not having to add preservatives, sodium, and sugar in order to ship."
When Clean Gets Muddy
Spinner notes that "eating whole, unprocessed, close-to-the-source foods is great to strive for, but not always easy." That's especially true if you don't make most of the food-shopping and cooking decisions at your house. Minimally processed foods should be your goal, Fine says: "Nobody can eat 100 percent clean. It's impossible because we can't always control exactly what goes into our meals and snacks. But do what you can to make better choices when you have the opportunity."
You'll often hear clean eating associated with paleo, vegan, and gluten-free diets—but you can absolutely strive to eat clean on any eating plan. "Steer clear of social media influencers or fellow dancers who try to tell you there's one specific diet that's healthiest for everyone," Spinner warns.
Eating clean shouldn't ever feel restrictive, overwhelming, or like you're following a particular set of rules all the time. "Food is a very important social and cultural aspect of life," says Fine. "When you're out with your friends, or when you're enjoying a holiday dinner, you can just relax and enjoy what's being served." Occasionally treating yourself to your favorite junk foods can and should be part of a clean-eating philosophy.
A version of this story appeared in the December 2017 issue of Dance Spirit with the title "Lean, Clean, Dancing Machine?"
Misty Copeland. Her name is synonymous with exquisite artistry and outspoken advocacy. And her visibility has made a huge impact on the ballet world. Ballet's relationship with race has always been strained at best, hostile at worst. But Copeland's persistent message and star quality have finally forced the ballet industry to start talking about racial diversity, inclusivity, and representation. "The rarity of seeing ourselves represented is sad," Copeland says. "The more we see every hue and body shape represented on the stage, the more possibilities young dancers feel they have for themselves."
"Whole, low-fat, or skim?" The question of which milk to drink has gotten a little more complicated lately, with a wide variety of nondairy milks popping up in grocery stores. To find out which ones are worth your milk money, we had registered dietitian Monika Saigal answer some FAQs.
Yesterday, the dance community was heartbroken to learn that Jaime Guttenberg and Cara Loughran, both 14-year-old dancers, were among the 17 people killed on Valentine's Day in the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL.
American Ballet Theatre principal Sarah Lane charms audiences with her bright energy and crisp technique. The San Francisco, CA, native first started dancing at age 4 at a local community center, and at age 7 started training in Memphis, TN, at the Classical Ballet Memphis. Her family later moved to Rochester, NY, where she continued studying at the Draper Center for Dance Education. In 2002, she was a YoungArts Foundation winner in dance, allowing her to become a U.S. Presidential Scholar in the Arts. She joined American Ballet Theatre as an apprentice in 2003, was made a soloist in 2007, and was promoted to principal last fall. Recently, she originated the role of Princess Praline in Alexei Ratmansky's Whipped Cream. Catch her later this spring during ABT's Metropolitan Opera season. —Courtney Bowers
You and I both know that dancing is the best thing since chocolate chip cookies! But its always nice when dance gets the recognition it deserves from non–dance-world peeps. That's why we did our own happy dance when we saw Shape magazine's article on how dancing can actually make you a better athlete.
When Ruby Castro became a Top 10 finalist on "So You Think You Can Dance" Season 13, she was a fresh, feisty new face to most at-home viewers. But in the dance world—particularly on the ballroom circuit—Ruby was already a household name. Miami-based Ruby grew up as a belle of the ballroom: Her parents, Manny and Lory Castro, are veritable superstars of the scene. They're the owners of Dance Town, an ultra-competitive studio in Doral, FL, and raised Ruby to follow in their furiously fast footsteps. Before she graced the "SYT" stage, Ruby had already been named a U.S. Junior Champion in Latin Ballroom, and competed on "America's Got Talent"—twice!
So, we know she's talented, we know she's versatile, we know she's stunning, and we know she can dance. But here's what you may not know about Ruby.
You know that thing when you're onstage at a competition and you catch your teacher unconsciously marking through every step of the choreography in the wings, just willing you and the rest of the group to dance perfectly?
Yeah—that happens in ice dancing, too. Case in point: the scene at the Olympic rink yesterday, as Canadian ice-dancing legends Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir skated their way to their third Olympic gold.
Obviously, their performance was all kinds of epic. But the off-ice "performance" given by their coach, Marie-France Dubreuil, was EVERYTHING.
Photo by Travis Kelley, courtesy Kathryn Morgan
In our "Dear Katie" series, former NYCB soloist Kathryn Morgan answers your pressing dance questions. Have something you want to ask Katie? Email firstname.lastname@example.org for a chance to be featured!
I want to dance in a ballet company, but I'm insecure about my body. I'm not skinny, and I don't think I ever will be, because that's just not the way I'm built. Please be honest with me: If I don't have the traditional ballet body, do I have a future in professional ballet?