We’ve all experienced this monster more often than we’d like to admit:
It can make you feel heavy.
It can make you look puffy.
It can restrict your flexibility.
It can impair your movements.
It can cause your costume fittings to be a disaster.
It can make you just plain uncomfortable.
Bloat. It may not be a sexy topic to talk about, but after experiencing such visible destruction from this monster while on vacation in Mexico a few weeks ago (I felt like a blimp in a tiny bikini!), I thought it might be interesting to talk about in relation to our dancing. During my vacation week, I set aside all my rules and let myself eat and drink whatever I wanted – we are talking bread pudding for breakfast, consuming my body weight in chips and guacamole for lunch, and four course dinners. Judge me all you want…it was delicious…and I totally recommend letting loose like that once in a while;p But, as delicious and pleasurable as the experience was, I felt really uncomfortable in my body, and I couldn’t help comparing it to how I normally feel when I eat to minimize bloating during my ballet season.
Nutrition is such a hotly debated subject these days. What’s the optimal way to eat for performance? What foods should I eat for fat loss? What foods should I NOT eat for fat loss? Should I go paleo/vegan/vegetarian/low carb/ketogenic/etc.? Should I juice/cleanse/fast/eat frequently? Should I supplement with magic herbs or protein powders?
There are half a million different strategies out there; it can be easy to get lost when trying to find a nutrition plan to follow. As with so many things in life, there is no magic solution in this situation. As desperately as we want someone to tell us the perfect way to eat that will fix all our problems and give us optimal health, it’s not going to happen (or, if someone does tell you they have the exclusive answer for you…run as far away from them as possible!). There is so much still unknown from a scientific perspective in this area…not to mention the variety of body types, activity levels, genetics, lifestyle factors, and such…that there isn’t likely to be an easy answer in the near future.
When we label ourselves and adhere strictly to one diet or another, that is when we can run into trouble. You risk letting your diet take priority over the purpose of your diet. Your diet can become almost like a cult where you sacrifice things for the sake of your identity as a cult member, while losing the connection to what your body really needs. (ex. “I’m paleo, so I can never touch a peanut ever again because it’s on the ‘forbidden foods’ list.”)
But, I digress. I say all this just to illustrate the point that the following strategies are what work for me to decrease bloating symptoms to help me feel lean and mean in rehearsals. I’m certainly not saying this is a cure for everyone, but if you are game for experimenting, take these factors into consideration.
Factors that contribute to Bloat:
- Food Type: The first thing I do is cut the “junk” out of my diet. This includes sugar, alcohol, grains, processed foods, etc. I’m not saying this stuff should never be eaten (I certainly enjoy indulging from time to time!), but when I’m feeling like a blimp already…it’s gotta go. These are the food items that can cause you to retain excess water and look puffy under your skin. Popular grab-n-go breakfast options like a bagel or muffin also get cut out. While the carbs may serve as a quick energy source, the gluten (plant proteins) in the wheat can cause intestinal bloating, especially for those with gluten sensitivities, making it uncomfortable to pull your stomach in during class.
- Volume: Don’t get me wrong, I love sitting down to a giant salad or bowl of veggies. But, it doesn’t feel good to have all that bouncing around in my belly during rehearsals. The amount of veggies required to get the nutrients to sustain my body and energy levels is just too much volume for me. So, I tend to consume foods that are more nutrient dense with less volume (think foods rich in protein and healthy fats like eggs, smoked salmon, avocado) before and during rehearsals and save volumous veggies for post-rehearsal refueling. Think of it as “concentrated” nutrition. Even though veggie and fruit meals contain lots of nutrients, they also usually contain lots of water, too. The diluted nutrient content requires you to eat a lot more volume in order to get enough out of the meal, leaving you with a full belly. When you eat a bowl of watermelon or a bunch of raw veggies – you feel full and sloshy afterwards, but not necessarily satisfied. Your body craves more nutrients, but there isn’t room left because the high water content takes up so much space. So, you are left with a bloated, empty feeling. Contrast that with eating concentrated-nutrient foods like eggs where there is very little dilution factor. You can almost feel how densely the protein, lutein, zeaxanthin, phosphorus, choline, and vitamins B, D, and E are all smooshed in there. Not only does the nutrient density sustain me through long rehearsals without crashing from a sugar high, but the smaller volume required to give me adequate energy takes up very little space in my stomach, leaving me feeling svelte for my dancing day.
- Fiber: Foods with too much fiber are other things I avoid during my dancing day. Since fiber is essentially the food stuff our bodies can’t absorb, it just takes up space in the belly until it can be eliminated. Again, this is not to say that fiber is bad…just that when trying to avoid excess bulk during rehearsals, I save high-fiber foods for post-rehearsal refueling. To get a little more science-y, fiber is food for the good bacteria that live in your gut, and when they eat the food, methane gas is produced as a by-product of fiber breakdown (cellulose). In simple talk, when your gut bugs eat, you get gassy and bloated. So, when you down that green smoothie for breakfast thinking you are being super healthy…it might be great for your gut bugs but not for your svelte ballerina lines during rehearsal. Again, I’m not saying high-fiber foods are bad, they are super important. But, if you want to beat the bloat while dancing, the timing in which you eat them is even more important. I like to save these foods for post-rehearsals/class.
This is a short preview of my Fat Loss Game Plan and Elite Coaching strategies, in case you are interested in learning more details. While true fat loss can’t be fixed overnight, addressing these bloating factors can help you feel more comfortable and confident during your dancing day, while you work towards building your best body.
I love what Jess from The Whole Dancer has to say about not putting yourself in a box and labeling yourself as one thing or another, but rather experimenting, listening to your body, and finding what really works for you. This is part of the process she will guide you through in The Dancer’s Best Body Program, helping you determine an eating strategy to reach your goals. This is not a one-size-fits-all mentality, but a unique approach to your personal health and situation. I love Jess’s passion for helping dancers get comfortable in their bodies. Check this program out below…it’s only available until Sept. 17!
When you sign up for either the "Elite" or "Pro" version of The Dancer's Best Body Program through the button below, you will receive a coupon for 50% off my Key To Your Core program (that's a $127 value for only $64!). Since cross-training is such a vital component to achieving your best body, these programs will work together to help you get killer results!
***Coupon will be emailed to you within 48 hours of your purchase of either the "Elite" or "Pro" version of The Dancer's Best Body Program through the button above. Coupon must be used before the Key To Your Core enrollment closes on Sept. 20, 2017
Photo Credit: Steve Vaccariello