The Truth About Four Fad Diets

In the quest to become a calorie-burning machine, the promises made by popular diets may be tempting. But do these diets work? Are they safe? In the end, will they enhance or harm your performance? Any diet that severely restricts calories can impair performance and health. As a growing dancer, it’s especially important to be educated about how your body works and how it gets energy from food. DS uncovers the myths and truths about four popular diets.

The Atkins Diet

Though Atkins has been around for a while, it’s still a popular choice and has inspired many spin-off fad diets such as The South Beach Diet. The basic principle is fewer carbs, more protein. In theory, restricting carbs turns on the body’s fat-burning mechanism, putting the body into what Dr. Atkins called “benign dietary ketosis.” In simpler terms, according to Dr. Atkins, when a person eats carbohydrates found in foods such as bread, pasta and fruit, the body burns those carbs for fuel. When carbs are restricted, the body must burn fat for fuel instead.

How It Works: Proteins and fats are eaten without restriction in each of the diet’s four phases, while carbs are limited to varying degrees. Once initial weight loss begins, carb intake can increase from about 20 grams per day in the first phase (3 cups of salad) to 35-40 grams per day (one bowl of cereal, or one baked potato).

The Truth: There is nothing magic about eliminating carbohydrates. On this diet, you’ll likely lose weight because you’ll be eating fewer calories. The Atkins diet is particularly dangerous for dancers (and all athletes). Glucose—the only chemical form of fuel that the brain and nervous system can use—is most easily provided by carb-rich foods like whole grains, cereal, pasta, potatoes, fruit and vegetables. When you don’t eat enough carbohydrates, the body will use ketone bodies (partially broken down fat molecules) from fat and protein to make glucose. This is not natural. The blood will become very acidic, and the body will respond by trying to buffer the blood with calcium taken from bones and teeth. This means that bones and teeth may become brittle. In addition, your body will lose much-needed water as it tries to flush out excess protein waste, making it more difficult to stay hydrated on long dancing days.

Another side effect of a low-carb diet is that the protein you do eat can’t be used for muscle repair, because it has to be used for glucose production. The result? Building muscle becomes very difficult and, in many cases, muscle will actually be torn down for glucose production. Energy levels drop, and headaches and muscle aches are common.

The Blood Type Diet

According to Peter J. D’Adamo, blood type determines a person’s susceptibility to disease, which foods can be tolerated, and which cause allergic reactions. When people eat the right foods for their blood type, weight just falls off—in theory.

How It Works: Sixteen food groups are divided into three categories: highly beneficial foods, neutral foods and foods to avoid. The “avoidance” foods are supposed to “poison” the dieter’s blood. For example, this diet posits that type ABs should avoid nearly every meat source including chicken, pork, veal, ground beef and buffalo.

The Truth: There are no peer-reviewed published studies that support any of the claims made by this diet. People have legitimate allergies to certain foods regardless of their blood type, but these should be determined by a licensed allergist. If you have extreme fatigue, digestive problems such as excess gas and bloating, diarrhea or constipation, see your doctor for a physical and blood work-up to determine the causes. Follow up your doctor’s visit by seeing a nutritionist who can determine which foods you should consume and in what amounts.

The Cabbage Soup Diet

Anyone considering this diet is strongly encouraged to see a physician first, because it is so restrictive and dangerously low in calories.

How It Works: Two servings a day of homemade cabbage soup and other specific foods are eaten for seven days. The cabbage soup recipe makes 24 cups. Each cup has 60 calories. If you follow the plan, you may consume anywhere from 860 to 1,030 calories. This is far fewer than what dancers need for bare existence, much less to make it through a day of school and dance classes.

The Truth: Most female dancers need around 2,200–2,300 plus calories to maintain weight. Most male dancers need around 2,700–3,000 plus calories to maintain weight. If dancers eat too few calories, they will lose muscle. A healthy diet is one that balances calories taken in with calories burned.

The Zone

This diet states that eating precise combinations of protein and carbs places you in a metabolic “zone” in which fat loss becomes automatic because, theoretically, insulin production is controlled. (Insulin is the hormone responsible for depositing fat in the body.)

How It Works: Food is treated like a drug to be eaten in a controlled fashion and in precise portions. The plan is to eat three “zone friendly” meals and two snacks daily. Basically, this is another low-carb diet.

The Truth: Most dancers are not likely to be insulin-resistant, because they are active and insulin is suppressed with exercise. Moreover, insulin is necessary for keeping energy up and for promoting muscle building.

The biggest concern with these diets and the dozens of other fads out there is that you won’t gain any wisdom about how to eat right. The best approach to taking care of your instrument is to balance your overall caloric intake with your dance and work-out schedule. Never eliminate a food group, and commit to achieving your goals over the long term, rather than hoping for a short-term miracle that might hurt your health and compromise your performance and your future.

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What’s in Your Dance Bag—Based on Your Zodiac Sign

Sometimes our dance bags feel like portals to another dimension—we have no idea what half the stuff buried in our bags even is. (Note to self: Clean out dance bag.)

But have you ever wondered if there's a method to the madness? We're pretty sure there is, and as always, we're pretty sure it's something to do with astrology. That's right, your resident Dance Spirit astrologers are back with our best guess at what you keep in your dance bag—based on your zodiac sign.

Aries

You're always going 100 mph Aries (or maybe even more), so it's pretty much a guarantee that your dance bag is fully stocked with snacks to power you through the day. Granola bars, trail mix, yogurt, fruit. It's like a Whole Foods in there.

You've also usually got about six different pairs of shoes in your bag. As an Aries, you love adventure, trying new things and, most of all, a challenge. So when it comes to classes, you're all over the map. Tap, jazz, ballet, character, modern—you'll try them all.

Something else you won't go without? Your signature red lipstick, obv. How else are you going to show off your fiery personality? (And look amazing while doing it, TYSM.)

Taurus

As a child of Venus, you always want to look your best, Taurus. So your dance bag is a hair salon/makeup station, all in one. If your dance besties need to borrow a hair tie, or are looking for a fun accessory to spice up their bun, they know you're the one to go to.

Also important to you? Smelling your best. Taureans love comforting, luxurious scents, so your dance bag is typically equipped with a favorite perfume or deodorant. (Or both.)

But what's most important is the bag itself—admit it, you've been using the same dance bag for years. We get it, Taurus, nobody likes change, and least of all the stubborn bull of the zodiac. But if your dance bag is really starting to smell like feet (or if your bobby pins are starting to slip through the holes in the bottom), you might want to consider investing in a new bag.

Gemini

Gemini, you love to switch it up. So you're pretty much guaranteed to have at least three different dance fits in your bag at any given time. And your dancewear is always on point. You love to keep up with trends and try edgy, new looks.

Ever the intellect, you usually have a book in your bag, as well. You're always making book recs to your fellow dancers, and you refuse to be bored between rehearsals or backstage.

Though you might act carefree, Gemini, we know that at heart, you're ruled by Mercury—and you have more in common with your sister sign Virgo than you'd like to admit. That's why you always have a toothbrush, toothpaste, and some floss in your dance bag. No way you're getting caught with food between your teeth (or bad breath during partnering class).

Cancer

Not to be obvious, but as a water sign, the first and foremost thing a Cancerian keeps in their dance bag? A water bottle, of course. (Preferably a Hydroflask, S'well or any bottle that comes in a fun color.) No dehydration here, please and thank you.

Your dance bag also functions as a de facto vending machine for your dance besties, since you always come prepared with the best snacks, and you're always willing to share. As a bonus, your snacks are almost always homemade, since you're practically a five-star chef.

And while we're wary of zodiac stereotypes, there is a pretty good chance your dance bag is stocked with tissues. And there's no shame in that—because, really, who can get through a performance of Romeo and Juliet without shedding some tears? Props to you for being in touch with your emotions, Cancer.

Leo

We'll state the obvious, Leo. You love to look at yourself, and sometimes the studio mirrors just aren't enough. So, naturally, you always keep a compact mirror in your dance bag, just in case your makeup or your bun needs an extra touch-up.

You also love bright colors, and you're not afraid to wear more daring dancewear than any of your besties. You've usually got a couple of leotards packed in your bag, just in case you need to make a fashion statement, and they're always fun. Bright colors, loud prints, stylish necklines—you'll try anything.

But something not everyone knows about you? You're an amazing friend, and incredibly loyal, Leo. That's why you've usually got something in your bag for your dance bestie, be it her favorite brand of granola bar, a fun sparkly pin for her hair, or a note reminding her she's a star, on and off the stage.

Virgo

You're incredibly hardworking, Virgo, so you've always got the tools for success in your dance bag. TheraBands, foam rollers, tennis balls—you're the one dancer your teacher can always count on to be stretching between classes.

You also love to be prepared, so you've usually got a makeshift first-aid kit in your bag. The thought of suffering a blister or floor burn without the appropriate salves or bandages makes you shudder, and, hey, it's always better to be overprepared, right?

What's most noticeable about your dance bag, though, isn't what's inside of it. It's what it looks like—your bag is pristine. It never smells like feet, and you've got a hard-core system for what you keep in each little zip pocket or compartment. And TBH, all of your dance friends are jealous, though they'd never admit it.

Libra

Like your sister sign Taurus, appearances are important to you, Libra. You like to look good (no shame in that), so your dance bag is always stocked with the essentials: extra hair spray, lip gloss, concealer, bobby pins and a spare leotard, in case you get just a bit too sweaty.

You also love to socialize, so if this were the 1950s, we would say that you always keep your date book in your dance bag. As it is, you always have your phone with you, and it's usually blowing up with texts from your dance besties asking to make plans.

Your dance bag wouldn't be complete without your secret supply of chocolate. But to be clear: This isn't your average Hershey's bar. Libras aren't afraid to indulge, so you keep a bar of luxury dark chocolate tucked away for when the cravings hit.

Scorpio

You can't fool us, Scorpio—the contents of your dance bag aren't some big mystery, like you'd like us all to believe. In fact, they're pretty basic: For starters, you always have a black leotard or two in your bag. After all, black is your signature color.

One thing that isn't in Scorpio's dance bag? Toe pads. You love to look tough, so you'd never be caught dead wearing toe pads with your pointe shoes. However, this does mean you need a hefty supply of Band-Aids for the inevitable blisters.

You also love all things mystical and, dare we say, witchy. You're the Halloween queen of the zodiac, after all! So it's no surprise you always have a crystal or two in the front pocket of your dance bag. Let us guess…moldavite?

Sagittarius

You're an explorer, Sagittarius, and that applies to your dancing. You're always trying new dance styles, and that's reflected in your dance bag. You always have the trappings of your latest obsession in your bag: heeled shoes for ballroom, kneepads for contact improv, sneakers for breaking, the list goes on and on.

But on all of your adventures, there's one consistency: You love making memories. And that means literally—you document everything. At each performance or recital, you're bound to be the one with a Polaroid or disposable camera in your bag, and you can usually be found snapping backstage candids of your dance besties.

Your other favorite form of documenting? Writing it down. You love to learn, so you're always taking notes. You can usually be found after class scribbling down your dance teacher's latest piece of wisdom. Your dance bag is crammed with half-filled notebooks, and you wouldn't have it any other way.

Capricorn

You like to be prepared, Capricorn. And we mean prepared—for every bad scenario imaginable. That's why your dance bag is a mini survival kit. The first Capricorn dance bag guarantee? A stitch kit, of course. Losing a ribbon on your pointe shoe mid-rehearsal is your worst nightmare.

You also always have at least three spare leotards handy. After all, what if you spill something, or get too sweaty or, worst of all, show up to an audition in the same leotard as your dance rival? No, thank you. As a Capricorn, you're expecting the best and preparing for the worst.

Another key to your survival kit? Headphones, so you can drown out the noise around you and focus on your dancing. And before anyone asks, the answer is yes, you have the perfect playlist—for each and every occasion.

Aquarius

Aquarius, you love helping others. That's why it sometimes seems like your dance bag isn't even for you—it's filled with stuff you bring for your friends. Snacks for one dance bestie, Band-Aids for another, and tampons, of course, just in case anyone needs one.

But when it comes to you, you're all about originality. That's why you always have tons of fun accessories in your bag: striped legwarmers, colorful socks, tie-dyed sweats and more than a couple of fun additions to your ballet bun, just to make it a little more interesting.

You're also a rebel at heart, Aquarius, which is why there's usually something in your dance bag that just borders on breaking the rules. Maybe your studio is strictly black leotards only—and yours is gray. Or phones are completely banned—and you just put yours on vibrate. We see you.

Pisces

Like your fellow water sign Cancer, you're big on hydrating during dance class. But as a Pisces, you're a little more imaginative (and a little less practical), meaning you're usually carrying your water in something aesthetically pleasing, like a mason jar, a tumbler, or one of those fancy water bottles with a crystal in the base.

Unlike Cancer, you're a mutable sign, meaning you can adapt to just about any situation. Counterintuitively, this actually means your dance bag is pretty sparse. Unlike other zodiac signs who feel the need to overprepare in case of disaster, you're comfortable in most situations, and your dance bag reflects it. You like the basics, nothing else.

Something most people might not know about you, though, is that you get cold easily. We're not sure why, but it's a Pisces staple. That's why if you keep anything in your dance bag, it's the coziest of warm-ups.

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