As a non-diet dietitian, I’m thrilled to see the anti-diet revolution driving full force down our social feeds. The health and wellness world is evolving with powerful movements like intuitive eating, food freedom, and body positivity.
However, the idea of weight loss is still very much at the forefront of our culture, which is unfortunately encompassed by aesthetic ideals. For at least a century, weight loss has driven the billion-dollar industry we know to be “health and wellness.” It’s understandable when a dancer comes to me with the presumed goal to lose weight; I’d be naive to think otherwise.
Much of my social media presence centers around my non-restrictive approach to eating. I truly believe that we can reach a point of happiness within our body without having to sacrifice the very foods that we love. I also believe that dancers can be successful and have fulfilling careers without having to diet. As a result, however, it makes sense when a dancer hesitates to work with me in fear that this approach will not get them to his or her weight goal.
I want you to know, however, that I very much welcome dancers, who are looking to lose weight, into my practice. This is because weight loss can come from us working together. There’s a caveat though… let me explain.
I’m not going to guarantee you weight loss, and if anyone does guarantee you this, then I question the sustainability of that weight goal. When weight loss is the ultimate goal, we risk short-term habits like restrictive eating and overexercising, and from personal experience, I can assure you that these habits leave us tired, frustrated, dissatisfied, chronically hungry, constantly thinking about food, and likely to, eventually, overeat. This is why we must shift the focus away from weight loss; place this goal on the backburner.
Assuming they are realistic, this doesn’t mean that you won’t reach your weight goals. In fact, I work with many dancers who, along their journey towards food freedom, end up losing weight. I also work with dancers who eventually gain weight. And last, I even work with dancers who simply maintain their weight. How does this happen?
Because despite the level of control you feel is needed to achieve your goal weight, your body will eventually do what it needs to do. Family, friends, artistic directors, teachers, and choreographers cannot dictate your bodyweight goals. In fact, even you cannot dictate this goal and I, despite being a medical professional, certainly cannot dictate that goal. Rather, your body and its genetic blueprint, dictate this goal.
This leads us back to that original question: “Rachel, can you help me lose weight?” My answer? It depends. First, I ask that you trust me. Together, we can work to equip you with a lifestyle that’s both sustainable and enjoyable. Your goal, as of now, should not be a number on the scale. Rather, it should be a feeling: a feeling of strength, longlasting energy, and confidence in both your body and in your food choices.
Will weight loss eventually happen? It might! The facts about body composition, however, make it nearly impossible for me to guarantee this to you right now. So let’s work together to shift your goals away from a number and rather towards your capabilities as a performing artist.