How can dancers keep a balanced lifestyle while away on holiday or vacation? Do dancers need to make adjustments to their eating habits while traveling on tour?
For even the seasoned intuitive eater, straying from your normal routine, especially in regard to food, exercise, and dancing, can feel scary. So much of this work involves learning how to rebuild trust with your body’s cues of hunger, fullness, and satisfaction. This isn’t easy! With diet culture so prevalent in the dance industry, practicing intuitive eating often feels anything but intuitive for most dancers.
“Eating healthfully,” in the context of nutrition for dancers, is less about avocado toast and kale salads, and more about your relationship with food. And this isn’t just in regard to food. Movement plays another role in how we experience life through the lens of intuitive eating. Allowing dance (and even sustainable cross-training) to be outlets for joy rather than punishment is key to preventing burnout from what’s considered a physically demanding career. So when traveling, we want to keep up this work. Let’s dive into how dancers can continue to fuel their bodies in a way that integrates performance nutrition and intuitive eating.
Why is it challenging for dancers to eat intuitively while away from home?
Whether you’re on vacation, on holiday, or even on tour, you’re temporarily navigating a new environment. Learning how to listen to and trust your body in a new environment presents a new set of challenges. Here’s why:
- The scarcity mindset– visiting a new place and experiencing foods not usually available can leave you wanting to “get in while you can.” Though we often discuss how to avoid this all-or-nothing mindset while at home, when on vacation, it can make you more likely to experience feelings of over-fullness more often than not.
- Inevitable scheduling constraints– from sightseeing to touring, you might find yourself going extended hours between meals. And even with proper planning, sometimes, food (and drinks) might not be permitted in the places you explore (such as in some museums). This can leave you with extreme hunger cues.
- Language barriers– if the menu is in another language, it can be challenging to decipher a food that you enjoy let alone tolerate.
5 tips for dancers to keep a balanced diet while traveling
Consistency is a tool I use within The Healthy Dancer program to help dancers rebuild trust in how to fuel their bodies. But when away from home, consistency is challenged by the unknown. Here are helpful tips to consider for your next trip.
#1 Reevaluate Priorities
Depending on why you’re traveling, you can reevaluate the role food plays for some or all of your trip. If you’re solely on vacation or on holiday, you won’t need to be as proactive in planning ahead. Remember: a proactive fueling plan is a technique dancers can use to ensure they’re eating enough throughout a busy and active day. It’s not a rigid or restrictive meal plan. But if your vacation involves relaxing on a sunny beach, then you’ll be better equipped to both hear and feel physical hunger cues.
#2 Bring Snacks (when possible)
Now if your time away involves lots of movement (like walking, hiking, and touring) then my recommendation is slightly different. You’ll want to continue our work of consistent and proactive fueling. This is especially important for dancers on tour who are balancing their hectic dance schedules with sightseeing. Long bus rides, walking tours, and museum hopping can leave you with long blocks of time between meals. Pro tip: grab some extra snacks at breakfast. Options that are convenient, packable, and non-perishable are ideal. Here’s a quick list:
- Fruit (apples, bananas, oranges)
#3 Focus on Satisfaction
Similar to the above, practical hunger is not something that you’ll have to prioritize if your vacation involves more beach sleep and less city exploration. Choosing foods that satisfy you physically and mentally means honoring cravings, even if for more indulgent options. Check out this article to learn more about satisfaction AKA the fourth macronutrient.
#4 Consider Mindful Eating Techniques
When you’re away, it’s common to, well, eat more food! It’s also common to eat more of what diet culture often considers “indulgent.” First, remove the moral value from food in a way that grants yourself permission to eat without guilt (a topic I discuss here).
But even while away, you can eat in a way that leaves you feeling energized and not over-full or sluggish. Contrary to what many might believe, vacation isn’t your ticket for a free-for-all. If time permits, then take advantage of it. Mindful eating techniques are described in this article and can help you navigate those indulgent meals.
#5 Consider Compassionate Curiosity
Feel like you’re eating “too much?” Rather than feeling food guilt, remember that you’re human. It’s very normal to feel both excited and sad around food. Your excitement is likely because at the moment, these foods are novel (and hopefully) delicious.
But your time away is likely temporary, and therefore, these experiences won’t necessarily be around again anytime soon. This can cause feelings of sadness and bring about a mindset of scarcity. First, make space for these feelings of emotional discomfort. And rather than falling into the all-or-nothing “I’ve got to get this in now” mindset, consider how you could bring these novel experiences home. Obviously, I’m not referring to leftovers. It’s easy to take pictures of your favorite meals and menus. From here, you can attempt to recreate them at home. The ideas are endless!