I bet I caught your attention. With over 15 billion views (and counting) on the hashtag, “What I Eat In A Day” vlogs are everywhere and dancers need to understand their impact. Oftentimes the intent is harmless. ‘What I Eat In A Day” vlogs are short-form videos that display everything a dancer eats throughout their day. Some include their dance schedules, along with how food fits into busy days of academics and cross-training routines.
At a glance, the display of eating patterns can seem inspiring— there’s never a limit on a dancer’s need for snack ideas and mealtime recipe inspiration. Pre-professional dancers who are often younger and more impressionable might turn to these snapshots for supposed advice to level up their dancing and in these instances, a peek into a professional dancer’s eating patterns feels like a treasured key that can open a world of secrets to performance success. Plus, seeing a professional dancer who eats dessert AND lots of carbs can be a positive. But these examples are few and far between. The reality of any dancer’s “What I Eat In A Day” vlog is doing more harm than good.
“What I Eat In A Day” vlogs are harmful to dancers— especially our youngest students.
At baseline and because of industry pressures, dancers are already three times more likely to develop an eating disorder when compared to the general population. ‘What I Eat In A Day’ vlogs are not helping the cause. Rather than feeling inspired, dancers are left to experience a plethora of challenges, including:
- A comparative mindset (especially in regard to food and movement patterns)
- Food guilt
- Disordered eating, mainly “clean” eating
- Disruptions in body image
We are all familiar with the pros and cons of social media: an influx of information available at no cost, any time it’s needed (or arguably, not needed). As a dietitian for dancers, I utilize my platform to offer accessible advice that is sound and evidence-based. But my voice cannot possibly scratch the surface. The information dancers gain from these platforms can ultimately make or break their performance.
Dancers should reconsider before posting “What I Eat In A Day” vlogs and this includes professional dancers and dance educators. Your positioning provides you with lots of responsibility— you need to set the stage for a healthier industry (and no, I’m not referring to the “clean” eating kinda “healthy,” but rather, the kind of “healthy” that supports a dancer’s performance AND mindset).
5 Reasons Why Dancers Need to Scroll Past ‘What I Eat In A Day’ Vlogs
#1: The comparative mindset negatively impedes dance potential
Comparisons are inevitable on social media: whether it’s in regard to training schedules, food choices, productivity, and/or performance progress, dancers are vulnerable to the onset of self-doubt when comparing themselves to others. But remember: eating patterns that support (or seem to support- because you don’t really know what’s going on behind the camera) one dancer will likely not be the same needed to support another dancer.
#2 Food and nutrition recommendations are not one-size-fits-all
If you’re relying on ‘What I Eat In A Day’ vlogs for mealtime advice, then you’re dismissing your body’s unique needs. Appetite regulation looks different for every dancer. In other words, your body will need varying amounts and types of foods.
#2: Disordered eating is a risk
I’ve worked in this field for long enough to know that many dancers (not all, but many) under-fuel their bodies. This can involve intentional or unintentional underfueling. It’s an unfortunate truth and one that I do my best to help them avoid.
Another reality is that disordered eating is not always obvious with many dancers partaking in behaviors that seem harmless and “healthy.” Clean eating lifestyles are the most common culprit. Start with this article to identify the risks and then move forward with this one to learn more about the negative implications of “clean” eating.
#4: Nutrition expertise is not common sense
Contrary to some posts I’ve read on social media, dancers will indeed benefit from expert nutrition advice. It can be super tempting to attempt to mimic the habits of another dancer, especially one who is at a higher level in their training and/or performance career. But this doesn’t mean that a dancer is qualified to provide nutrition advice. Think about it… would you take medical advice from a peer who never went to medical school?
Nutrition is an evolving science that involves extensive training in both clinical and research settings. If you’re looking for guidance, it’s best to seek it from those qualified to give it. As I’ve previously discussed, Registered Dietitians are required to complete ongoing training from accredited institutions and there’s a reason for it. Recall that statistic I shared earlier about a dancer’s risk to the development of eating disorders. Food- and nutrition-related interventions are an incredibly important topic for dancers and dietitians are uniquely trained to teach it.
#5: They’re misleading
Simply put: you’re likely not seeing the whole picture. These videos often lack a reflection of a dancer’s relationship with food and even if it’s discussed, these reflections might not be true nor fully depicted. Sharing snapshots of random meals and snacks is much different than sharing an entire meal plan in the format of “look at everything I’m eating today.” The latter can be considered a form of meal tracking and in most instances, this perpetuates unsustainable eating behaviors.
How to Respond to ‘What I Eat In A Day’ Vlogs
Unfortunately, ‘What I Eat In A Day’ vlogs are not going away anytime soon. Responding to triggering content is a topic I’ve covered at length here. What exactly should a dancer eat in a day? Well, I devote my career to helping you craft this answer (spoiler: one part of my work as a dietitian for dancers is to guide you on how to craft a meal plan for your individual needs). Read this article to get started.