Christina Chagaris graduated from Montclair State University with a BS in Nutrition and Food Science Dietetics concentration with a minor in Sports Nutrition. Christina’s experiences as both a dancer and yoga instructor, along with her obvious passion for nutrition, blend into the perfect fit for our team. Let’s welcome her to the TTP community. Christina cannot wait to share her favorite recipes and experiences as a dietetic student.
1) When did you start dancing?
I began dancing at two. My older sister started the year before me and of course, I had to copy her. It quickly became my biggest passion and consumed a lot of my free time for most of my adolescence, and I even performed at Carnegie Hall! Once I graduated high school I went to college for a year, where I then decided I wanted to pursue dance professionally. I went into professional training and auditioning, prior to going back to school for dietetics.
2) Did you only dance?
I pretty much exclusively danced (and incorporated yoga in my later years). There was a brief period of time that I played soccer as a kid. It’s safe to say that it was short-lived!
3) When/why did you become interested in nutrition (enough to pursue it as a career!)?
I started college as an environmental science major and dance minor. But I missed dancing full time, and I wasn’t sure if environmental science was for me. So, I decided to audition for professional training programs and enroll in a basic nutrition course. The seed was planted!
Fast forward to completing professional training and starting to look for work as a freelance dancer, I noticed a major lack of qualified nutrition information and body image support in the dance world. I also struggled with a hyper-fixation of food and body image during this time... I could barely retain choreography! I decided I wanted to go back to school while pursuing my dance dreams.
3) What topics interest you most in nutrition?
To be transparent, it was my personal experience with disordered eating and how it related to my dance career. I’m really interested in helping fellow dancers and athletes who might be suffering from eating disorders or disordered eating.
I’m also passionate about the effects of plant-based diets on, well, pretty much everything (environmental, physiologically, psychologically, etc)! There are studies that show it preventing and minimizing various diseases and illnesses, and although it’s not a magic pill, it can be very beneficial! For me, once I repaired my disordered eating, going vegan was a big step in my journey of finding freedom with food.
4) The most difficult part of your college experience?
Realizing I couldn’t do everything all at once. When I went back to school, I was still dancing full-time, auditioning, and working part-time. I wanted so badly to be doing it all! Once I started to get into upper-level classes, I felt burnt out. This burnout led me to feel even worse about myself as a dancer and student and I noticed that my eating habits and my mental health were completely suffering. I had to make the decision to cut back on dancing, stop auditioning, and train for myself rather than for my pursuit of a dance career. In hindsight, this decision was the best thing I could have done.
5) What’s your go-to breakfast?
My favorite breakfast is either avocado toast or a classic bagel with vegan cream cheese. I usually opt for savory dishes, but occasionally, I will go for a delicious vegan waffle topped with vegan Nutella (yes it does exist!).
6) Favorite dessert?
Vegan chocolate chip cookies are a favorite! But, I am also OBSESSED with halva, which I will gladly eat any time of the day!
7) For you, what does it mean to be The Healthy Dancer®?
The Healthy Dancer® understands that they are not just a dancer and that their self worth is NOT based on their last greatest performance. They set boundaries and dance for themselves. The Healthy Dancer® pushes themselves to work hard, but acknowledges when their body needs rest. The Healthy Dancer® understands that food is not only fuel but something to be enjoyed rather than rewarded. The Healthy Dancer® understands that a momentary break in training is much more important and beneficial for the longevity of their career.