The Unexpected Way You Might Be Sabotaging Your Diet

Stress could be doing more damage to your dancing than you know.

It's no secret that stress has a detrimental effect on our bodies as well as our minds. In addition to mental and emotional strain, stress can cause injury and prevent muscles from recovering quickly. A new study points to another way that stress impacts the body, and it might make you think twice about how you're prioritizing your emotional health.

According to a new study in Molecular Psychiatry recently covered in the New York Times, stress could counteract the benefits of a healthy diet. The study looked at two meals consumed by a group of women two weeks apart—one healthy (low in saturated fat) and one unhealthy (high in saturated fat). The subjects completed surveys assessing their symptoms of stress and depression before each meal. Blood samples taken before and after the meals indicated that the women with low levels of stress showed fewer signs of inflammation after eating the healthy meal than the unhealthy meal, while women with high levels of stress had similarly high markers of inflammation after both meals.

Activating your core is a good short-term solution to dealing with stress. Photo by Erin Baiano.

As dancers, we carefully plan our diets to fuel our dancing. Could we be throwing those plans away by not properly managing stress? Sounds like it's possible. Luckily, we have lots of suggestions for how you can reduce your stress levels—and most of them are as simple as starting up a conversation with a new friend in the studio, practicing meditation or doing a quick set of crunches. For more expert help, watch this lecture from "Advice for Dancers" columnist Dr. Linda Hamilton.

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July 2021