The truth about quick-fix cleansers

When it comes to healthy nutritional practices, the messages that dancers believe and follow greatly affect their health. Even when armed with positive and reliable information, it can be a challenge to make smart choices that will help them maintain a healthy performance weight. This is particularly the case when it comes to new diet trends like cleansing detoxes.

The allure of these diets is their claim to increase energy and quickly result in sleek, lithe bodies. The regimens range from a one-day to a three-week duration, from a liquid-only to a fruit, vegetable, legume and nut plan, and they claim to cleanse the body of toxins from smoke, alcohol, pollution, caffeine, pesticides and processed foods. The danger is that the low-calorie content of these regimens does not provide dancers with the energy and nutrients needed for a demanding dance schedule. And if practiced over a long period of time, detox diets can lead to major problems for dancers: injury, vitamin/nutritional deficiency, decreased immunity, and digestive difficulties. Here is what you should know about the most common cleanses—and their side effects.

Most Popular Cleanses

Master Cleanse: This diet suggests a minimum of 10 days during which you consume a mixture of distilled, purified or spring water, fresh-squeezed lemon or lime juice, cayenne pepper and maple syrup. The resultant weight loss is due mostly to water loss, which is surely to be gained again, and since it includes no protein, muscle tissue can waste away.

Juice Fast: Often encouraged for three days, these types of diets have specially designed blends of fruit, vegetable and nut combinations. Juice fasts often claim to replenish cells and support health. However, they don’t contain enough vital nutrients required by dancers to live up to that promise, because these fasts are very low in calories, protein and fiber. Plus, plans ordered online can be pricey—$60 or more a day. (Imagine how much fresh, nutritional food could be purchased!) As with the Master Cleanse, the weight lost is easily regained.

Food Cleanse: On this type of three- to five-day cleanse, eating “clean” and simple is encouraged by eliminating alcohol, caffeine, sugar, meats and dairy. Humans can live without alcohol, caffeine and even refined sugars, but a dancer’s body needs appropriate protein. A plus is that since whole food is consumed in this diet, the digestive process should not be adversely affected.

Side Effects

*Headaches and fatigue can occur from low blood sugar caused by the lack of food intake. This can impair a dancer’s ability to concentrate and her sense of timing.

*Eating so little for a short time may decrease bloating and cause a temporary sense of emptiness. However, in the long term, this action can actually increase bloating, as stomach motility slows down.

*Constipation and dehydration occur when sufficient calories and fiber are not ingested, whereas a laxative solution flush on a liquid fast can deplete the “friendly” intestinal bacteria, putting the immune system at risk.

*Eating too little protein and calories weakens the body’s muscle-repairing abilities, which increases the risk of injury. Inadequate carbohydrate intake makes muscles unable to restore used energy, and dancers can become overly sore after dancing.

*Metabolism regulates downward with low-calorie dieting, so over time, muscle mass and neurological function can deteriorate.

*The most dangerous side effect is becoming addicted to cleansing as a way to purge.

A Safer Approach

Dancers can try a few days of eating whole foods (fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, low-fat dairy, nuts, seeds and legumes), avoiding sugar, alcohol and caffeine and drinking more water. This will help them return to more mindful eating without subjecting themselves to the dangers of a detox cleanse. Getting in the habit of eating smaller portions several times a day will better distribute nutrients and caloric intake, and it will provide dancers with a healthy nutrition practice and weight-management control for life. DT

Heidi Skolnik is president of Nutrition Conditioning, Inc., and oversees the nutrition program at several performing arts schools. She is the author of Nutrient Timing for Peak Performance.

(Photo ©iStockphoto.com/Brian Balster)

Dance Teachers Trending
Roshe (center) teaching at Steps on Broadway in New York City. Photo by Jacob Hiss, courtesy of Roshe

Although Debbie Roshe's class doesn't demand perfect technique or mastering complicated tricks, her intricate musicality is what really challenges students. "Holding weird counts to obscure music is harder," she says of her Fosse-influenced jazz style, "but it's more interesting."

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by Dean College
Amanda Donahue, ATC, working with a student in her clinic in the Palladino School of Dance at Dean College. Courtesy Dean College

The Joan Phelps Palladino School of Dance at Dean College is one of just 10 college programs in the U.S. with a full-time athletic trainer devoted solely to its dancers. But what makes the school even more unique is that certified athletic trainer Amanda Donahue isn't just available to the students for appointments and backstage coverage—she's in the studio with them and collaborating with dance faculty to prevent injuries and build stronger dancers.

"Gone are the days when people would say, 'Don't go to the gym, you'll bulk up,'" says Kristina Berger, who teaches Horton and Hawkins technique as an assistant professor of dance. "We understand now that cross-training is actually vital, and how we've embraced that at Dean is extremely rare. For one thing, we're not sharing an athletic trainer with the football players, who require a totally different skillset." For another, she says, the faculty and Donahue are focused on giving students tools to prolong their careers.

After six years of this approach, here are the benefits they've seen:

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips
Thinkstock

Dance teachers are just as apt to fall into the trap of perfectionism and self-criticism as the students they teach. The high-pressure environment that is the dance world today makes it difficult to endure while keeping a healthy perspective on who we truly are.

To help you quiet your inner critic, and by extension set an example of self-love for your students, we caught up with sports psychologist Caroline Silby. Here she shares strategies for managing what she calls "neurotic perfectionism." "Self-attacking puts teachers and athletes in a constant state of stress, often making them rigid, inflexible and ultimately fueling high anxiety rather than high levels of performance," Silby says. "Perfectionistic teachers, dancers and athletes can learn to set emotional boundaries. They can use doubt, frustration and worry about missing expectations as cues to take actions that align with what they do when teaching/performing well and feeling in-control. Being relentless about applying a solution-oriented approach can help the perfectionist move through intense emotional states more efficiently."

Check out those strategies below!

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by Alternative Balance
Courtesy Alternative Balance

As a dance teacher, you know more than anyone that things can go wrong—students blank on choreography onstage, costumes don't fit and dancers quit the competition team unexpectedly. Why not apply that same mindset to your status as an independent contractor at a studio or as a studio owner?

Insurance is there to give you peace of mind, even when the unexpected happens. (Especially since attorney fees can be expensive, even when you've done nothing wrong as a teacher.) Taking a preemptive approach to your career—insuring yourself—can save you money, time and stress in the long run.

We talked to expert Miriam Ball of Alternative Balance Professional Group about five scenarios in which having insurance would be key.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips
Thinkstock

Since the dawn of time, performers have had to deal with annoying, constant blisters. As every dance teacher knows (and every student is sure to find out), blisters are a fact of life, and we all need to figure out a plan of action for how to deal with them.

Instead of bleeding through pointe shoes and begging you to let them sit out, your students should know these tricks for how to prevent/deal with their skin when it starts to sting.

You're welcome!

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teachers Trending
Photo by Brian Guilliaux, courtesy of Coudron

Eric Coudron understands firsthand the hurdles competition dancers face when falling in love with ballet. Now the director of ballet at Prodigy Dance and Performing Arts Centre in Frisco, Texas, Coudron trained as a competition dancer when he was growing up. "It's such a structured form of dance that when they come back to it after all of the other styles they are training in, they don't feel at home at the barre," he says.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by Turn It Up Dance Challenge
Courtesy Turn It Up

With back-to-back classes, early-morning stage calls and remembering to pack countless costume accessories, competition and convention weekends can feel like a whirlwind for even the most seasoned of studios. Take the advice of Turn It Up Dance Challenge master teachers Alex Wong and Maud Arnold and president Melissa Burns on how to make the experience feel meaningful and successful for your dancers:

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teachers Trending
Kendra Portier. Photo by Scott Shaw, courtesy of Gibney Dance

As an artist in residence at the University of Maryland in College Park, Kendra Portier is in a unique position. After almost a decade of performing with David Dorfman Dance and three years earning her MFA from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, she's using her two-year gig at UMD (through spring 2020) to "see how teaching in academia really feels," she says. It's also given her the rare opportunity to feel grounded. "I'm going to be here for two years," she says, which offers her the chance to figure out the answers to some hard questions. "What does it mean to not dance for somebody else?" she asks. "What does it mean to take my work more seriously? To realize I really like making work, and figuring out how that can happen in an academic place."

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by The Studio Director

As a studio owner, you're probably pretty used to juggling. Running a business is demanding, with new questions and challenges pulling your attention in a million different directions each day.

But there's a solution that could be saving you time and money (and sanity!). Studio management systems are easy-to-use software programs designed for the particular needs of studio owners, offering tools like billing, enrollment, inventory and emails, all in one place. The right studio management system can help you handle the day-to-day tasks that bog you down as a business owner, leaving you more time for the most important work—like connecting with students and planning creative curriculums for them. Plus, these systems can keep you from spending extra money on hiring multiple specialists or using multiple platforms to meet your administrative needs.

So how do you make sure you're choosing a studio management system that offers the same quality that your studio does? We talked to The Studio Director—whose studio management system provides a whole host of streamlined features—about the must-haves for any system, and the bonuses that make an excellent product stand out:

Keep reading... Show less
Dancer Health
Deanna Paolantonio leads a workshop. Photo courtesy of Paolantonio

Deanna Paolantonio had been interested in body positivity long before diabetes ever crossed her mind. As a Zumba and Pilates instructor who had just earned her master's degree in dance studies, she focused her research on the relationship between fitness and body image for women and young girls. Then, at age 25, just as she was accepted into the PhD program at York University in Toronto, she was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes (T1D).

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips
Robin Nasatir (center) with Peter Brown and Vicki Gunter. Photo by Christian Peacock

On a sunny Thursday morning in Berkeley, California, Robin Nasatir leads her modern class through a classic seated floor warm-up full of luscious curves and tilts to the soothing grooves of Bobby McFerrin. Though her modern style is rooted in traditional José Limón and Erick Hawkins techniques, the makeup of her class is far from conventional. Her students range in age from 30 all the way to early 80s.

Keep reading... Show less

mailbox

Get DanceTeacher in your inbox