Many dancers struggle to keep up with their iron needs, however. Research suggests that when compared to the general population, dancers are at a higher risk for low iron stores—a likely culprit being restrictive eating patterns. This can be a result of either restrictive dieting or a busy schedule that makes it challenging to eat enough throughout the day.
While cooking from scratch is often touted as the ideal approach to healthy eating, it’s not always feasible for dancers during busy rehearsal and performance periods. Elaborate home-cooked meals are also not the be-all and end-all of nutritious eating. Particularly when time is scarce, turning to nutritious snacks and relying on packaged and frozen foods can be part of a healthy eating plan, offering convenience without sacrificing nutrition.
A healthy approach to eating during recovery involves an abundance and a variety of foods that offer the body tools to support tissue repair, muscle building, energy replenishment, and immunity. In addition to nutrition, it’s important that dancers focus on mindset—and the ability to stay motivated and confident—during injury recovery.
Just as nutrition is important to a dancer’s fuel plan, eating patterns that support a dancer’s relationship with food can have an incredible impact on performance potential onstage and in the studio. Yet research suggests that dancers are three times more likely to struggle with an eating disorder than the general population. This often involves inflexibility around foods that diet culture deems to be “bad” or “unhealthy,” like processed foods or desserts.
While the intent behind “What I Eat in a Day” posts is often harmless, the reality is that they can lay the groundwork for a dancer’s struggle with food. Dancers are already more vulnerable to harmful food and body beliefs that risk disordered eating—adding another source for comparison can leave dancers feeling doubtful.
At its most basic level, a hunger cue is your body’s way of communicating a need for energy replenishment. In other words, it’s time for a meal or snack. For dancers, however, hunger cues can be less straightforward, especially when restrictive eating and/or busy schedules can cause these cues to diminish or go unnoticed.
The concept of prepping meals in advance can be daunting for busy dancers. Add the unspoken pressures of picture-perfect meals from social feeds and you’ve got a recipe for meal-prep avoidance. But meal prep can be a vital tool for balanced nutrition—even for dancers navigating the busiest of schedules.
Lane’s approach to cooking is closely paired with her interest in nutrition. Since leaving ABT she’s had the chance to turn that passion into a profession. In addition to guesting with companies worldwide, during the pandemic Lane received her nutrition health coach certification from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, and now works regularly with other dancers.