In our age of instant information in media, accessing information can become extremely difficult to gauge, in terms of credibility.
As mentioned in my video from July 2021, "Why We Need to Stop What I Eat in a Days," it is particularly important to receive nutrition information from a reliable source.
As a ballet student for most of my life, I have attended a multitude of "Nutrition sessions." From Summer Intensives, Masterclasses, and even year-round programs, I have been on the receiving end of many discussions regarding the nutrition health of dancers. However, it never occurred to me to question the credibility of those running said programs.
Most people do not realize there is a major difference between being a "nutritionist" versus a "registered dietitian nutritionist."
To take that even further, dancers are athletes and are more active than the average person. Despite the clearly physical demands major components of the industry, many directors encourage eating as little as possible. Hence, why finding a nutritionist that specializes in athletic needs- particularly that of dancers- is essential for all dancers.
Studio owners do their best to provide resources for their students but I guarantee most are not aware of this difference, having grown up with a similar sort of structure. Former students who may be a "nutritionist" or even just demonstrate an interest in nutrition often come speak to the students at studios to guide them as "Nutrition experts." Their intentions may be good, but the results can be incredibly damaging as they do not have the credentials to advise anyone, let alone growing dancers, in regards to their nutrition.
Rachel Fine, better known online as To The Pointe Nutrition, started her program The Healthy Dancer after finding herself exhausted and burned out from attempts to seek the unattainable perfection in dance I often discuss.
Now I'll admit my opinion is a tad biased in that I am partaking in the Healthy Dancer Elite program and have grown to have contact with Rachel. However, even before I began working with Rachel one-on-one it was audibly evident how wonderful of a person she is. Genuine and caring about making a difference in the dance community, Rachel provides free resources to make nutrition information accessible for a wide range of dancers. Before partaking in any of her programs I used numerous of her free resources on Pointe Nutrition and still do supplementally to this day!
Rachel provides FREE resources to make it accessible for a wide range of dancers.
Now that I know what to look for in terms of my nutrition information, I can recognize the "red flags" with much more ease. I was cleaning out my old paperwork from my summers at ballet programs and the pages regarding nutrition were mind boggling. It's honestly no wonder I have set such unrealistic standards for myself from such a young age. I was exposed to opinion based information on"health" that were presented as fact.
My first move when students have any nutrition questions, is sharing Rachel's bountiful blog and instagram!
But it can't be the responsibility of the students to call these sources out, the best we can do is educate them so they know who to listen to. The ultimate goal would be to remove these sources entirely, but as I've learned through navigating my recovery in everyday life, it is physically impossible to prevent misinformation from emerging. In other words, we can't protect them from unsolicited nutrition advice but we can prepare them enough so as not to let it affect their understanding of health.
Rachel's work across the internet has already provided so much change in the dance world. Even teachers that weren't aware of these key differences in the past have used her content as an opportunity to better educate themselves- and therefore their students.
I know for a fact that I would not be in the stage of recovery that I am without the support of Rachel. Before I was even able to admit I had a problem, her resources steered me in a better direction. Better than if I had been left to my own devices or even the direction of instructors- (aka unqualified nutrition "experts").
For dancers and non-dancers alike there is an abundance of faulty information out there, which can be overwhelming and straight-up confusing to follow.
I find a lot of dance directors and instructors speak in a manner of absolute authority on nutrition. Their intentions, again, are likely coming from a good place as they are sharing what "works best for them." However, they're neglecting to identify that every body is different and has different nutritional needs. Instead of putting the pressure on themselves to give advice, they should steer their students and dancers in the direction of a qualified individual.
Just because something works for them nutrition wise, doesn't mean it is the only way or the "best way" to live.
Mechanics fix cars and are well versed in that aspect of their field. However, you wouldn't ask them for their advice on your knee surgery. Even if they have a hobby or interest in the "mechanics" of anatomy, they aren't qualified to make such suggestions in regards to your health.
So why would you give advice in a field you aren't educated in?
Painting the scenario like this makes us realize just how out of control the nutrition world has become. It's no wonder young dancers are confused.
It's no wonder young dancers are confused.
I won't mention any of those creators because I do not encourage interacting with their content, and in order to protect my mental health in my current stage of recovery have them blocked across all platforms.
If someone refers to themselves as a "nutrition expert" or "nutritionist," you may want to consider the source and find a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist.
One of Rachel's best tips I have ever followed is to "cleanse your feed," by simply unfollowing accounts that promote disordered lifestyles. Then, instead follow various accounts that advocate body positivity.
This has done wonders for my mental health and my beginnings of body confidence.
Rachel's work across the internet has provided so much change in the dance world,
A simple but major step we can all take when healing our relationships with ourselves.
I obviously have a complicated relationship with food, as I have shared time and time again on my platforms, but I will never give advice in regards to nutrition to my students. The only time I mention or have mentioned food in any way was to encourage them bringing snacks on longer days at the studios before steering them in the direction of Rachel for more resources on how to do so.
I NEVER list foods or ingredients to avoid,
Nor praise a certain food group over another.
I can vividly remember a few discussions with students where teachers would bring up the topic of nutrition and what equates to a "healthy snack."
Again, the intentions may be good-and they were-but wouldn't it be in the student's best interest to seek a professional for any sort of advice?
In July of 2021, Rachel started the first Healthy Dancer Summer Intensive.
I was so fortunate to be able to attend and further my understanding of Dancer Nutrition.
Being a dancer herself, Rachel knows that Summer is often cram time for dancers, compared to the school year. So, she designed the course to be accessed at your convenience.
-Whether that means attending the master classes live, or revising the tapings afterwards.
It was through this program that I became aware of how much danger I was putting myself in, health wise. I consider it to be my "lightbulb moment" where I knew I didn't have a choice but to actively make a change.
I am already looking forward to the 2022 Intensive and encourage all dancers of all ages and abilities to make the same consideration!
I cannot thank Rachel enough for helping me learn how to choose to use my passion to dance with a desire to "Live" instead of sacrificing myself entirely for the sake of dance.
Rachel continues to inspire me to use my experiences in the dance world in order to be a part of the change for future generations of dancers to come!
To find out more about The Healthy Dancer Program, visit the links below :)
-Living With Grace