With an abundance of information flooding our media feeds, it’s difficult to decipher truth from trends in regards to dance nutrition, dancer health, and dancer wellness. Dancers are not just artists, they’re also athletes. Therefore, trusting credentialed practitioners, such as Registered Dietitian Nutritionists, helps to maximize a dancer’s strength and endurance in a way that promotes sustainable habits without the risk for injury and burnout.
This article will dive into the various reasons for why dancers should consult with a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist for health and wellness coaching. We’ll also dive into the importance of building an interdisciplinary team for a dancer’s whole-body approach and what to look out for when choosing various health practitioners.
In 2009, I was dancing full-time in preparation for company auditions. I was also a full-time college student balancing a schedule packed with classes, rehearsals, and academic coursework. During this time, my interest in nutrition began to skyrocket. What I didn’t know, however, was that my obsession with “health” stemmed from a place of disordered eating. I needed to figure things out.
While pursuing a professional dance career, I grew more and more passionate about nutrition and how to build sustainable habits while utilizing an all-foods-fit approach to food. I soon began my path towards attaining the necessary coursework needed to attain licensure as a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RD/RDN). Read more about my story here.
Why A Registered Dietitian Nutritionist?
As a pre-professional dancer, I experienced a plethora of individuals providing resources in areas of mentorship, health coaching, and nutrition. It was at one particular summer intensive, however, when I experienced an incredible amount of support from the company’s affiliated dietitian. Actually, it was this dietitian who convinced me to consider a road towards the RD license. Here’s a blog post all about the road I took to gaining my license as a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist for dancers.
Fast forward and I could not be more thankful. My experience as both a dancer and as a dietitian has enabled me to fuse my passions in the pursuit of redefining The Healthy Dancer®. But it’s not easy deciphering qualified nutrition professionals from health and wellness enthusiasts. The titles of “nutrition expert” and “nutritionist” are not regulated. Therefore, anyone can refer to themselves as a nutrition expert or nutritionist! Since dancers are especially vulnerable to the development of disordered eating and eating disorders, it’s essential that they seek qualified advice for appropriate nutrition intervention and prevention.
Registered Dietitian Nutritionists (RDNs) can support dancers needing food and meal guidance, nutrition assessment, nutrition education, performance optimization, body image healing, and lifestyle sustainability. To help dancers rebuild their relationships with food, dietitian nutritionists are trained in listening to your story, making space for your narrative, exploring your readiness for change, and helping you identify specific goals in order to tailor evidence-based approaches for your personal journey.
Here are 4 reasons why dancers, whether pre-professional or professional, should consider a licensed Registered Dietitian Nutritionist for their food- and nutrition-related information.
Dancers are especially vulnerable to the development of disordered eating and eating disorders. It’s essential that they seek qualified advice for appropriate nutrition intervention and prevention.
1. Dietitians Undergo Extensive Training
Similar to the rigorous training required of a dancer, Registered Dietitian Nutritionists receive years of clinical training in medical nutrition therapy and in nutrition research. For me, this meant over 6 years of academic education in areas of clinical nutrition, sports nutrition, life cycle nutrition, counseling, and more. Medical Nutrition Therapy is the root of food and nutrition intervention, especially for areas surrounding pre-performance meal planning, injury prevention, and injury recovery.
2. Dietitians Must Complete Continuing Education
In order to maintain professional licensure, dietitians are required to complete continuing education throughout their professional practice. Since nutrition is an evolving science, continuing education ensures that dietitians remain up-to-date on nutrition research. Such training sets dietitians apart from “nutritionists” and “health coaches.” Since acquiring my RD license, I continue to advance my practices in areas of Sports Nutrition, Intuitive Eating, Disordered Eating, and more. As a Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics, I’ve attained advanced certification into the unique demands of physical performance. As a Counselor of Intuitive Eating, I’m trained in utilizing a non-diet approach to teach you how to have a healthy relationship with food and body.
3. Dietitians Are Well-Versed In Research
As part of the licensure, dietitians must complete training in courses like research methods and research applications. Therefore, dietitians are always turning to published research for evidence-based approaches to nutrition. This unique background enables dietitians to analyze qualitative research outcomes and accurately translate scientific jargon into accessible information.
4. Masters of 2024
Beginning in 2024, to become a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, individuals must have a Master’s degree to sit for the credentialing exam. This new mandate further sets RD’s apart from nutritionists and other non-credentialed wellness enthusiasts.
But now, let’s talk about YOU. When might a dancer benefit from credentialed resources? And is there a benefit to working with a professional familiar with the dance industry? Let’s chat about the various reasons why you might benefit from consulting with a dietitian for dancers.
1. You Want To Optimize Your Performance
Dietitians offer goal-oriented approaches to educate you on the specific foods and habits needed to level up your training. Whether you strive to improve your energy levels, sharpen your mental clarity, reduce your risk for injury, or you’re looking to improve your relationship with food and body, working with an RD can help you achieve these goals.
2. You’re Looking for Confidence In Your Food Choices
When it comes to adequate fueling, dancers benefit from convenience, balance, flexibility, and variety. Speaking with a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist that understands the mechanics of hormonal balance, digestion, and metabolism allows dancers to make more educated choices that will fuel their bodies and lead to greater success both in and out of the studio.
3. Your Relationship with Food Needs Repairing
Dancer diet culture normalizes disordered eating behaviors. Whether you’re avoiding one specific food group, striving for “clean eating,” or eliminating whole macronutrients (such as carbs) you may be headed down a road of unsustainable eating habits. Dancers can seek a dietitian with additional certification as a Counselor of Intuitive Eating to learn more about the benefits of rejecting the diet mentality and building a sustainable non-restrictive approach to eating.
4. You’re Not Sure What’s “Good” and What’s “Bad”
From “All Natural” and “Organic” to “Dairy-Free,” “Clean,” and “Gluten-Free,” an endless array of options depict a confusing story. Speak with a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist to sift through the data and decipher options that support your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing.
5. You’re Not Feeling Great After Meals, Physically and Mentally
Food should be an enjoyable experience. From stomach discomfort to preconceived guilt or that “I shouldn’t be eating this” mindset, a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist can help you heal your mind-body connection. We’ll work together to construct a whole-body approach that supports sustainable performance and lifestyle goals.
6. You’re Confused About Meal Planning
Busy schedules and average pay rates make it tough to find balance amongst our food choices. From convenient snacks to menu ordering, Registered Dietitian Nutritionists teach you how to navigate busy times, tight budgets, and on-the-go routines.
Virtual nutrition coaching and HIPPA-compliant telehealth make it easy to receive qualified nutrition services for even the busiest of dancers. While some may question the virtual approach, the accessibility and convenience of telehealth allow dancers to work with board-certified nutrition professionals despite an over-booked schedule.
If you prefer an in-person experience over virtual work, The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics provides tools to help dancers find a dietitian in their area. As I said earlier, consider a Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics to better meet the physical demands of your dance training. Additional credentials, such as specialties in eating disorders (CEDRD) and certification in Intuitive Eating can benefit as well. Use The Academy’s helpful search tool to find a licensed dietitian in your area.
Dietitian Nutritionist for Dancers
As a former professional dancer, I get it. I’ve been there: the stress of placement classes, the gut-wrenching feeling of audition decisions, and the pre-performance anxiety! On top of it, we balance the high demands of our art with industry pressures that promote unrealistic ideals around food, body, and work ethic. My experiences in both pre-professional and professional dance life provide me with a deep insight into your lifestyle and your performance goals.
The Healthy Dancer® community offers free and paid resources that can help dancers build sustainable habits. Start your journey here to determine where you stand in your relationship with food. You’ll receive a free workbook to start the work. From there, consider joining our free 3-day crash course that dives into your nutrient needs as an artistic athlete. You can also find free downloadable guides covering topics like Dancing In College, Emotional Eating, Injury Recovery, and Healthy Snacking.
For continued support with a budget-friendly price tag, move through The Healthy Dancer® Survival Guide, a series of downloadable ebooks. Choose from a variety of versions, including:
To take it a step further, consider online training courses for dancers. One-on-one coaching is also offered through The Healthy Dancer® Elite Program. Group coaching through The Healthy Dancer® Summer Intensive offers an ongoing community with professional masterclasses and more.
Because Rachel was a serious dancer, she brings a wealth of knowledge from the ballet world combined with diet and nutrition that other dietitians cannot. She is a dietitian, not a nutritionist; there is a difference. Rachel is incredibly knowledgeable in her field. She was also able to establish a connection with my daughter early on and is very easy to work with.Meg S, mom to a Pre-Professional dancer
Consider A Team Approach
An interdisciplinary team is a technique used to coordinate care between various medical practitioners. These practitioners work together to construct a specific plan for you. Oftentimes, an interdisciplinary team is encouraged for dancers needing a higher level of care in regards to healing their relationships with both food and body. Teams can include dietitians, mental health therapists, and medical doctors such as endocrinologists, primary care physicians, gastroenterologists, among others. Holistic health coaches and other wellness enthusiasts might be useful to the interdisciplinary team in offering career support, mentorship, and acting as an overall cheerleader for a dancer. However, these individuals cannot prescribe nutrition plans, offer nutrition interventions, nor conduct nutrition-focused assessments. This would be outside their scope of practice. Food advise in the realms of meal timing, macronutrient analysis, nutrition assessment, and performance optimization should be provided by a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist. Together, dietitians, therapists, doctors, and health coaches can support a dancer’s career tremendously. This is especially true if these individuals have a deep understanding into the dance industry. Adopting an interdisciplinary team can result in a more thorough, personalized, and tailored approach to a dancer’s needs and goals. To begin forming your team, reach out!
I’m reassured working with a dietitian. I saw Rachel’s name in an article for Dance Magazine and felt compelled to connect. Rachel’s personal background as a dancer makes our work together relatable and enjoyable. For dancers, it’s not easy finding a medical professional who just gets it. I now have insight into my body and its needs as a dancer. I feel stronger in class and more confident on stage.Ashley, dancer with New York City Ballet