Dancer Health
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Miami City Ballet corps de ballet dancer Christina Spigner has always suffered from foot cramps. But the problem was especially troublesome during the company's 13-show run of Ballet Imperial, a hallmark of Balanchine's demanding choreography. “We're onstage for such a long time and not just standing and posing, but doing a lot physically," says Spigner. “My feet would cramp up and it was painful. That's a hard thing to recover from onstage."

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Last spring, Miami City Ballet corps de ballet dancer Chloe Freytag decided to eat vegan. With a passion for nutrition, she was concerned that toxins and preservatives in certain foods were preventing her from becoming her best dancing self. "Before veganism I was more rundown and I would get tired easily. My body was weak and heavy at times," she says. "Now I feel like a lighter person, more happy and energetic. I feel more like myself."

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Photo by ©iStockphoto.com/Luis Albuquerque

Energy Enhancers

Eat breakfast. This may seem like the oldest piece of nutrition advice, but it's also one of the hardest to follow. Skipping this meal really does make it hard to keep energy levels high during a full day of teaching. Breakfast should consist of carbs, protein and fiber. Traditional oatmeal (there's not much fiber in instant), yogurt and an orange (juice has little fiber) would be a healthy option. If you're not hungry in the morning, eat dinner earlier the night before, and if you wake up ravenous, you probably didn't get enough sleep. “Less than six hours of sleep a night makes your body release hormones that make you hungrier in the morning," says Linda Hamilton, a clinical psychologist who works with performers, and co-author of The Dancer's Way: The New York City Ballet Guide to Mind, Body and Nutrition.

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Now that fall has arrived, there are some fabulous fruits in season. Here’s what they can do for a dancer’s diet.

Portable and delicious, apples are full of fiber. One medium-size apple provides nearly 20 percent of the USDA’s recommended daily fiber intake.

Pears are best eaten when soft to the touch. In October, they’re full of flavor and actually contain even more fiber than apples.

Late-season grapes are especially sweet. A delicious bag of red or green grapes contains loads of polyphenols, which have antioxidant properties.

Boost your Vitamin A intake by eating a persimmon. Vitamin A helps maintain skin health, cell growth and good vision and fights infection.

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In our May issue’s Health column we share some of the prime culprits for bloating. Don’t get caught in an uncomfortable situation in class. Beat the bloat.

Eating too quickly or too much can cause gas and bloating, and so can certain types of foods. Many foods that make your insides gurgle are good for you, but you may want to avoid eating too much of them before class. Here are some top offenders:

  • High-fat foods. Fat takes a while to digest, so it keeps you full, but the breakdown process can cause gassiness.

  • Beans and lentils are high in fiber and protein, but they contain sugars that can only be broken down in the intestine, not the stomach, which causes gas.

  • Sugars and starches in fruits and vegetables like brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, carrots, prunes and apricots can also cause temporary bloating and gas.

  • Chewing gum. Artificial sweeteners like sorbitol in gum can cause gas, and gum-chewing causes you to swallow air, which contributes to bloating.

If you experience frequent bloating, talk to your doctor.

Source: WebMD

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New federal dietary guidelines have the food, meat and beverage industries buzzing. Released once every five years, dietary recommendations are updated based on the most recent medical research. A few of the new guidelines came as a surprise to some, yet health experts insist they don’t go far enough to have a significant impact on the overall health of the nation. Here are some of the highlights.

• Men and women of all ages need to seriously cut back on sugar, specifically added sugar. The guidelines recommend that you not let it exceed 10 percent of your daily caloric intake.

• Males ages 14–70 currently consume more than the maximum recommended 34 oz./week of protein via meats, poultry and eggs, and they fall drastically short in their consumption of other protein sources like seafood, nuts and seeds.

• Previous recommendations for a limit on dietary cholesterol of 300 milligrams a day have been removed. The cholesterol limitation was thought to help reduce the risk of heart disease, but now, per the new report: “Adequate evidence is not available for a quantitative limit for dietary cholesterol.”

To read more, visit health.gov/dietaryguidelines.

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"I hate the word 'skinny.' As a dancer, you're an athlete." —Caroline Lewis-Jones. Photo courtesy of Adrenaline Dance Convention

“My mom is always the story I lead with," says Caroline Lewis-Jones about her relationship to health and wellness. “She was sick my entire life, and I'd do anything to have her back." A certified health coach who teaches for Adrenaline Dance Convention, Lewis-Jones is passionate about training healthy, mindful dancers. And while it might seem rare to witness a nutrition course during a jam-packed convention weekend, Lewis-Jones always finds a way. She incorporates wellness into her workshops and master classes on the circuit, empowering young dancers to take control of their bodies—and what they put into them.

A Columbia, South Carolina, native, Lewis-Jones trained with Nancy Giles at The Southern Strutt. After high school, Lewis-Jones headed to New York to attend Marymount Manhattan College as a communications major, and, while in the city, performed with Jason Parsons and Mia Michaels' RAW, as well as in music videos for Madonna and *NSYNC. But after five successful years in NYC, Lewis-Jones moved back home in 2004. “My mom had been sick with breast cancer, and I didn't have a good feeling about her prognosis this time," she says. “She died a year later, and I haven't left."

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You know the scene—you’re running out the door, so you grab a snack for the road. According to new research, however, eating on the run may not be the best idea. In a recent study, test subjects who snacked while walking were more likely to eat more food later on than those who snacked while watching television. The study’s lead author, University of Surrey psychology professor Jane Ogden, believes that the walking test subjects were less likely to mentally register what they were eating. The takeaway? Make healthy snack choices and consume mindfully to avoid overeating.

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