• Finding Middle Ground in Nutrition

    Finding the middle ground in nutrition is near impossible. I opened the recommended articles search on my phone to a bombardment of write-ups ranging from how a vegan diet will make you live longer to why adopting a meat and dairy heavy keto diet will help you lose weight and gain vitality. There is research pinning sugar as the culprit for all disease, that all fat causes health decline, grains cause bloating and leaky gut, high carbohydrate diets are what our bodies were created to consume, and that a diet high in protein and fat is what our earliest ancestors ate and is therefore the most optimal way to eat. Is chocolate bad for you or is it a superfood? Are eggs the best source of complete protein or are they single handedly the worst cause of high cholesterol and heart disease? All of this information is enough to make anyone’s head spin out of control and cause a “heck with it” attitude towards food. We live in a world of conflicting information and extremes, and nutrition is not an exception.

    There are several factors that lead to conflicting nutritional information including how studies are created and funded, money in advertising, and lobbying. While these more political topics are important to note, I am not going to address them in more detail here. The second factor is you – you as an individual, who has different needs, taste buds, allergies, cravings, likes, metabolism, body type and composition, and DNA than anyone else. We also vary from one another based on factors like our upbringing, ethnicity, geographical location, gender, energy output, goals, and age. And finally we ourselves changing overtime, so what you need nutritionally is going to change based on your stage in life, activity level, stress levels, and so on. So why wouldn’t your diet also reflect these differences as well? Bio-Individuality goes along this line and implies that since every body is different, there is not one diet that fits everyone. This also means that there are very few blanket statements in nutrition that can be applied to MOST people.

    Intuitive eating has become a buzz-word topic over the past few years and connects to this concept of bio-individuality. It is not a diet plan and does not rely on willpower or deprivation, but intuitive eating is choosing what to eat in the moment and what makes sense for your body. It can help establish a trust with your body and its cues and foster a healthy relationship with food. Our bodies are amazing and were made to tell us what it needs to function at its best. This is the overarching philosophy of eating that has helped me combat food rules, and approach food and my body in a wholesome way. At first, it might feel like a lot of work in terms of taking the time, energy, and mental space to tune into your body, fight the diet culture reminders that might pop up, and give your body what it needs and wants. This process might seem slow, and even frustrating at times, but ultimately leads to balanced, middle-ground approach to eating. This is a topic that we will definitely explore later.

    Finding middle ground in nutritional information is an important unifying factor that can give us all a baseline to then explore our own personal food sketch.

    In general, whole foods are the way to go. Whole foods are often described as one ingredient foods, tomatoes, almonds, oats, strawberries, spinach, black beans, rice, and olives – the list goes on. Some of these foods have to undergo some sort of process to become edible, like wheat, oats, beans, and lentils, and others are processed to make a different form of the food, like olive oil or dried herbs. Some “processed” foods can even be good for you, think fermentation like in sauerkraut, or sprouting grains, which makes them easier to digest and take on a slightly different nutritional profiles. There are also growing sections in the grocery store with brands that make packaged foods made with the exact ingredients that you could pick up in a store and make for yourself.

    Then, there are foods that are not the best choice for a nutritionally optimal diet, and are best consumed on a less often basis. These are the processed foods that you think of when you imagine packaged food, fast food, and sometimes restaurant food. They are foods that have a laundry list of ingredients that are unidentifiable and are often laden with sugars, dyes, artificial flavors, chemicals, additives, food stabilizers, excessive amounts of salt etc.

    While these are often super delicious, they also don’t always add a whole lot of nutritional benefit. I think it’s important to not label foods as “good” or “bad”, but rather to see them as percentages of your diet. It’s totally great to have that cake or ice cream as a treat that feeds your soul, and truly enjoy those foods that you love in a restaurant on occasion. Deprivation and setting up foods as “off limits” often feed a binge/guilt/diet cycle – more on this in a later post. But it’s also good to keep balance in mind.


    Plant based foods are some of the most nutrient dense foods, and are what supply our bodies with so many important micronutrients that just aren’t found anywhere else. This definitely does not mean that you have to eat plant based, but it is important to include a wide variety of vegetables, fruit, nuts, grains, seeds, and legumes in your diet. If you do choose to eat plant based, it is important to note that there are certain micronutrients that are harder to get, like iron, B-12, and Omega 3s, that require diligence to ensure that you are getting adequate amounts in your system.

    Most of all, eat a balanced, well-rounded diet. I am totally guilty of eating the same things over and over again. Part of it is convenience and the fact that my grocery list can take up less headspace, but different foods have different nutrient profiles with essential vitamins and nutrients for our bodies. Eating seasonally and trying new recipes and new foods really helps me with this.

    Just because something is good for you doesn’t mean that more is better.

    There are some pretty crazy ways of eating out there that promote only eating one or two foods or types of foods for a period of time, including juice “cleanses”, as the optimal way to eat. Not only does this do away with the whole balance thing, it can also promote definicencies, disruption to your gut, and food rules that lead to diet cycling, it can actually be quite dangerous for your body.

    Water and hydration really are important.

    This is one of those reminders that might make you think “ugh” and reach for your water bottle as you are reading this, but hydration from water, not coffee or tea, is important for bodily functions like digestion, waste removal, protecting your joints and tissues. Our hydration levels impact so many of our functional systems in our bodies, so take a sip of that water, and add some lemon, lime, cucumber, or other fruit to make it even more tasty if you like.

    Lastly, nutrition is not just about what you eat.

    You fuel your body with relationships, home life, education, physical activity, work, spirituality and everything else that you surround yourself with. You could have the most “on point” diet and yet still feel unsatisfied. This concept of balance is so important as it relates to food and lifestyle. It’s something that will be constantly fluctuating and will involve continual feedback from your body, but I believe that over all, it is what leads to a well-rounded and intuitive approach to life.

    I hope this post provided some interesting topics to think about as you start to assess where you are in your relationship to food and how you eat. While sifting through all of this conflicting information on food and nutrition, I hope that you can start to see that there are some core intentions that we can all agree on. There is some middle ground in nutrition. Ultimately, it is most important to take an intuitive look at your body in exploring your bio-individuality. This is the start a nutrition series where we will take a deeper look at topics such as the difference between dieting and healthy eating, how to fuel your body as a dancer or pre-professional student, and what role each macronutrient plays in your body, and so much more. I am so excited to dive deeper into these topics with you!

    make sure to check out my youtube channel here!
  • Inspiration and Making Changes

    Photo by Bruce Aoki

    I have to admit that I am someone that can lose motivation when I lack inspiration. While it might not always show, because I am also extremely determined and goal-oriented, I notice a difference in myself when I work from a place of inspiration and joy rather than out of pure commitment. The truth is, we are all going to find ourselves in that place of discouragement, where we kind of take a step back and ask ourselves: “Why am I doing this? Do I really love what I do?”. While I think those times can be an important catalyst for introspection and reevaluation, there are a few proactive steps that I sometimes like to take.

    If inspiration is lacking in one job or project, try a side outlet or grow a hobby. Learning a new skill or working towards my degree was always an important way for me to experience success and fulfillment outside of ballet. I cannot express enough how important it can be for dancers to find another outlet for creativity and passion. For me, baking, hosting dinner parties, writing, hiking, enjoying an evening with friends, pursuing education, and working on strength in the gym have all been important avenues of personal growth that boosted my confidence as an individual and grew my skill set that I could then bring into the studio. That sense of accomplishment or excitement in other areas of your life can provide a spark to keep going during a long rehearsal day in the back of a studio.

    Sometimes changes in your routine, big or small, can help get you out of a rut. It allows you to take notice of what is going on around you and helps you to shift your focus outward . There is something to say about finding a routine that works, but even those routines can become stale after a while as we grow and change as individuals. Changes as small as trying a new recipe or cutting your hair differently or even changes as big as moving to another city or starting a new side hustle can bring a breath of fresh air. Take yourself to a new coffee shop, try that new ingredient that caught your eye at the grocery store, walk a different way to work, pop into that new workout class that piqued your interest! The options for change are limitless.

    Treat yourself! This is huge if you are someone like me who can be hard on yourself for not feeling inspired and motivated. Approach this place of discontentment with kindness and compassion toward yourself, knowing that it is natural to have fluctuating feeling and different levels of enthusiasm. Instead of beating yourself up with the “I should be”s and guilting yourself into trying harder, stop, and do something that will nourish you as a person. This doesn’t have to involve spending money. You can read a book, light a candle, meditate, take a bath, do a homemade face mask, make yourself dinner, look through old pictures, self-massage, call a friend. This can what truly whatever your heart desires.

    Take time to step away. This one is difficult because it sometimes makes us face the reality of something we have been ignoring for a while. Taking a break can allow you to come back with a fresh perspective, new inspiration, and a rekindled love for what you do. But, it can also bring clarity that it’s time to go a different route for a while. My path with ballet has never been straight forward. I have taken breaks that were forced on me because of injuries, but I have also taken time to step away and try out a new career because at the time that was best for my well being. On paper, it can sound easy, but it is SO DIFFICULT to step away from the thing that you have known and loved your entire life. Taking time off can bring up emotions from going into the unknown, feelings of inadequacy, and even a sense of loss for who you think you are, but it can also unlock freedom to pursue other parts of yourself. If I would not have listened to my intuition to take time off from ballet, I would not be who I am today.

    Now, let’s talk about what happens if these feelings are persistent. Keep a journal of your thoughts and feelings about it, which can help you look back and see if there are any patterns in emotions. Sometimes, a decision of change can become obvious. Realize that it is okay to be exactly where you are. Give yourself permission to just be in that space and recognize that you don’t have to have a five-step plan of action. Know that it is normal to go through periods of intense motivation and inspiration, followed by periods of just feeling kind of meh. As dancers, we think that we have to be at 110% capacity all the time, that we are only allowed to make progress. In reality, there are going to be times of stagnation and even degression, and that is okay. Lastly, give yourself a deadline to reevaluate where you are. Make a few small changes and then give yourself a few months, or whatever timeline you choose, to see if anything has shifted. If nothing has progressed, head back to the drawing board.

    Finding inspiration is more than a Pinterest board, more than a collage of inspirational quotes and photos, and even more than watching other people do amazing things that make you want to work harder. As cheesy as this sounds, it’s about looking for those answers inside yourself for what truly fits you. You are unique and your path is going to look different from everyone else. That is what makes you as an individual, amazing.
  • Find What Fuels Your Dancing

    The name for What Fuels a Dancer came out of the idea of finding a lifestyle that complements our entire self so that our whole body, mind, and spirit can thrive. Your lifestyle should help you find what fuels your dancing. It is so easy to reach for a temporary solution like an extra cup of coffee when working long days or skipping self-care for scrolling on Instagram. While doing this every once in a while might not provide anything but a headache and a tired body the next day, over time, this pattern can totally throw off every sense of balance. Trust me, I am totally guilty of this too. It’s sometimes easy to just look at what will get us from one hour to the next, one ballet to the other, the next promotion, the next part. We so often forget to take a step back and look at the big picture to see if what we are actually doing is going to serve us in the long run. So, let’s take a look at what it means to find your life fuel!

    First, it means that nutrition plays an important role, but it is not the main character.

    In fact, there isn’t one aspect of life that is the magical key to finding health and happiness. In order to find what fuels your dancing, you will need to look past nutrition. Our bodies need more than just food to thrive. Meaningful relationships and connections, self care, restful sleep, a fulfilling career, physical exercise, and even fun are all aspects of life that fuel our bodies from the inside out and create the true meaning of health. Think about it, no amount of kale or broccoli alone will turn anyone into a happy and healthy individual. Have you ever seen someone who looked angry and stressed while drinking a green juice, or to the opposite extreme, blissfully happy eating ice cream? While this is not an excuse to eat all junk food all the time, it goes to show that eating a perfect diet doesn’t bring happiness. We will definitely go in depth on the topics of nutrition, emotional health, mental rest, and so much more but they shouldn’t be treated as life hacks that will suddenly change everything forever and ever. It’s the combination, the balance, of all of them that lead to a fueled life.

    Second, finding your life fuel involves self discovery, experimentation, and some amount of grace.

    An idea that we will explore later is the concept of bio-individuality. This is what allows a vegan and a meat eater to enjoy Thanksgiving dinner around the same table, with different foods of course, and both feel like they have nourished their bodies and souls. It’s what makes a crossfit athlete and a yoga instructor total devotees to their workout of choice. To put it simply, bio-individuality means that we are all different, unique in our wants, needs, and what is right for our own bodies. What works for me might not necessarily work for you. You probably won’t turn into a plant-based, ballet dancing, mountain hiking, smoothie bowl addicted, Bon Iver listening, natural skincare using, want to be yogi from reading this blog. Actually that’s probably a good thing because I’m pretty sure the world only needs one of me. This example might be silly, but too often we see someone who is #goals to us and then think that we have to follow EVERY. SINGLE. DETAIL. of their workout, diet, and morning routine in order to have happiness and balance. When this fails us, we get frustrated, throw in the towel, and try to find another extreme in hopes that it turns out to be the perfect fit. But, what if we take the aspects from all of our experiences and personal research that we like, that resonate, that actually work for us and create our own hybrid of a lifestyle that not only makes us feel our best, but is also maintainable? Just something to think about.

    Lastly, it’s about the journey not the destination.

    I know that might sound as cliche as a girl in an oversized sweater sipping a pumpkin spice latte, but let’s look beyond the basic for a second. Our lives were made for growth. As soon as we reach that thing, that promotion, that health goal, that number in the bank account, that stage in life, we realize that we aren’t actually done. There is something more that we are searching for. I know for me personally, I always thought I would be satisfied if I made it into that ballet summer intensive, that professional program, that ballet company, and achieved that role and that accolade. If we are constantly living for the end result though, we lose the things that are around us, the things that actually sustain us and keep us going. The spontaneous coffee date, the ten minutes sitting in sunshine, or the failed dinner that turned into the most memorable night of laughter can actually give us space to exemplify health and provide fuel for the future. Sometimes it takes a whole lot of humility and self-love to be just right where you are. Forging your own path and going against what is conventional isn’t always easy, but it is so rewarding to listen to your own body.

    This week, see if there is something that is keeping you from living a fueled life. Is there a small change you can make that will give you more energy and focus? Do you need to reframe a day around self-care? If you need encouragement, leave a comment with a change you want to make, contact me here, or head over to my YouTube channel for more inspiration!