One of the great things about ballroom dance is that it supports good health, and promotes a healthy look and weight. From time to time, however, many of us get to be a few pounds above or below where we feel most comfortable. When this happens, the one thing that is certain is that no dancer wants to change their diet in a way that will drain the energy needed to dance. With that, here are a few things to think about and method of dieting in levels that really works!
1. As soon as you think you need to make a change – Just Do It!
- Don’t make a big deal of any change to your eating. Don’t think that you need to find the right time or the perfect diet.
- Waiting 3-4 weeks to start means that you may have missed the opportunity to loose 3-4 pounds with a very modest change.
- If you do make a big deal of being on a diet, you are more likely to take extreme measures, which may compromise your health and energy.
2. Dance more!
- Quickstep, Samba, Salsa and Jive burn 600 calories an hour. That is about the same as vigorous cycling or playing high-intensity basketball.
- Ballroom dancing is most similar to interval training. Both involve a burst of intense aerobic activity, followed by short periods of recovery, versus continuous activity at the same level.
- This is great news! Studies have shown that about 20 minutes of high-intensity interval training provide the same benefit as much longer periods of endurance focused aerobic training.
- Add a little more time or intensity to the dancing that you love doing anyway (BTW this gets my vote for the best suggestion ever!!). Very often we take very long breaks in practice sessions, to review technique and learn choreography. This is of course important, but does not stop you from spending a few minutes at the end of each session doing consecutive dances with full intensity, the way you would in competition rounds or energetic social dancing. Doing this will help you build your stamina for competitions, and it is fun!
3. Remember that getting a bit older does not mean you need to get a bit heavier.
- As teenagers, we grow quickly and burn a lot of energy. From 16-18 years old in girls and 18-21 in guys, this growth slows and eventually stops. If we keep eating the same as we did when growing, weight will go up.
- A few pounds more are generally attractive in early adulthood to flush out curves or build a look of strength. However, while 1-2 pounds a year is OK for a couple of years. It can VERY easily get to 10-20 pounds in 10 years and 20-40 in 20 years.
- Even if you keep up the same level of activity and maintain your muscle, most of us still need to cut back just a bit when we are no longer growing.
- Really, the main thing is to pay attention to when you are actually hungry and full. Your appetite will go down after teens, but often habits keep us eating the same amounts.
4. Think of adjusting your diet and habits in levels
- The biggest risk to successful weight loss is feeling deprived and giving up. It is pretty hard to go from burgers and fries straight to lettuce and rice cakes, and it hardly ever works anyway.
- If you try to do the splits or run a marathon without easing into it, you are likely to feel awful and give up. The same is true for any change in eating. Your best chance for success is to ease into any diet change.
- Think of making changes in levels. Do the first level, and go to the next only if you need to, and only after you have become comfortable with the level you are at.
Level 1 – Eat and drink in a healthier way, and do not eat when you are not hungry.
- Drink water before, during and in-between meals. You will feel weak and may feel hungry when you are dehydrated. Getting enough water is essential to avoiding extra calories.
- Eat un-processed food as much as possible. Whole grains and fruit will fill you up more than processed foods.
- When you want to eat, wait at least 15 minutes before actually doing so. If you are eating in a healthy way, you may feel stomach hunger, but you will not feel light-headed or irritable. Many times the urge to eat will disappear completely. Even more important, however, is that you will be teaching yourself that you do not need to eat immediately when you think of food. You really can be in control.
- With this level of change, you will feel more energetic, which equals more active. You will also likely consume less calories, so you will be well on your way.
Level 2 – Pay Attention
- Weigh yourself every few days or at least every week. This does wonders for your awareness of what you eat from day to day, and helps your commitment to healthy changes. There is a saying that you cannot manage what you do not measure. The same is true for weight. In weighing yourself regularly, just remember that it is to keep you committed to a trend, not to make you expect a reduction every day.
- Try to remember what you eat in a day, and write it down for a day or two. If you are like many of us, you forget what you eat and may eat more than you think. Food is your fuel. Food can also be very pleasurable. If you are very aware, you will more likely focus on eating things that are delicious and make you feel healthy, instead of random eating of empty calories.
- Move around more. Think of how great it feels when you are moving around on the studio floor. You may even get to a point when endorphins elevate your mood, and make you feel on top of the world. Think of the opposite situation, which may happen when you are not in the studio. You may sit in front of a computer, in a car or at a desk – no endorphins, no energy spent, just blah. If you must sit, make sure you stand and move every 15-20 minutes. In-between, more your feet in circles, stretch your neck, just do not stay completely still. People who fidget burn more calories a day than people who don’t, so even small movements help.
Level 3 – You can lose 1 pound a week with changes that you barely notice.
- Reducing just 500 calories a day can give you 1 pound of weight loss a week.
- 500 calories can come easily from two less tablespoons of butter on bread and in cooking (200 calories). Water instead of a large latte with sugar (230). No sauce on a sandwich or burger (70)
- Be patient. If you started 2 months ago, you would be almost 10 pounds lighter today with this alone. If you start a crash diet that you can only keep up for 2 days, you will lose nothing but your motivation.
Level 4 – Reduce portions, but only if you ARE larger and truly feel the need to cut back more to feel healthy
- Aim to reduce no more than another 500 calories, with smaller portions of food.
- One slice of toast less (100). Extra salad instead of half a sandwich (150 calories); a smaller portion of meat (150). And one less cookie (100).
- Consider the kind of changes that you will be able to stick with for a while. After 30 days, any new behaviour can become a habit, so it is important to make changes that you can keep up for at least that long if needed.
5. On the other side, some of us feel the need to gain a bit of weight to feel our best, not lose. If so…
- Do not start unhealthy habits of eating fatty foods or super-sized portions. It is too easy start bad habits that will be hard to break.
- Do make sure that you are eating a balanced diet and not missing any food groups. This is one of the foundations of health and a healthy weight.
- Do add calories that are healthy and easy to control. You can add 200-500 calories a day by drinking meal replacement beverages for example. They are nutritious, but when you no longer need the extra calories, you can cut back and hardly notice.
With all this that said, the most important thing is not a few pounds here or there, but what makes you feel your best. This is something only you know for yourself. A healthy weight may help, but there is so very much more as well.