Dancer Health

Keeping the body healthy over the holidays: 10 dos and don’ts

A group of friends enjoying themselves at a party. Photo by Freepik.
A group of friends enjoying themselves at a party. Photo by Freepik.

The holidays are upon us, and for many dancers, that means a break in terms of schedule and dancing. That break can be welcome, but we do want to come back in the new year feeling healthy and strong still. Here are Dance Informa’s top 10 holiday dos and don’ts for keeping the body healthy.

#1. Do take time to breathe.

Be kind to yourself and allow yourself time to breathe and to enjoy the special little moments that come up around the holidays. Remember that this time isn’t permanent. Do what is right for you. If you need to step away to take a breath, grant yourself permission to do it.

#2. Don’t worry about what others are or aren’t eating.

You have one body in this lifetime, and it is your choice what to eat. Even if your friend or sister is following the latest diet trend or talking about their weight, you don’t need to be influenced by those choices. The amount of calories and nutrients you need to sustain your energy and strength is completely unique to you. Fuel your body and mind in a way that supports your ability to get through the holidays in a way that you start the new year in a good place and not a place of defeat.

#3. Do continue to eat regular meals and snacks. And do start your day with breakfast!

Even if you’re not dancing as much over the break, it’s important to still eat well. This supports your metabolism, maintains muscle mass and stabilises blood sugar. This will also lead to better mood, less anxiety and less likelihood of overeating in the evenings.

#4. Don’t keep too many sweet treats in the house.

This can sometimes lead to overindulging, and it could potentially set up a negative cycle of overindulgence, then feeling guilt about food, then restrictive eating.

#5. Do allow yourself to enjoy sweets and treats in a social setting.

Enjoy this time of celebration. It’s a wonderful thing to have a few of your friend’s holiday cookies or your grandmother’s special recipe. Enjoying a serving of something delicious is a healthy way to enjoy your life. That’s not the same thing as overeating alone at home.

#6. Don’t allow guilt over food to make you feel bad about yourself as a person.

Our food choices do not define our self-worth or who we are as a person. If you have a healthy diet throughout the year, enjoying some holiday treats with loved ones will not derail that. Guilt often leads to restricting food, which, in turn, leads to hunger and then overeating. Leave the guilt behind, and keep your blood sugar stable by eating what your body needs and when it needs it.

#7. Do remember to get a dietary foundation of foods.

This means fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and plant-based proteins like beans, lentils, peas and soy. With this strong foundation of healthy, high fiber plant choices, it doesn’t matter if you have an occasional holiday treat. And it also helps maintain muscle mass so you can start January in a strong place. A bowl of apples and clementines on your counter makes for healthy, easy snacking. And do pair your fruit with a grain or protein if you need more energy.

#8. Don’t overconsume sugary beverages, energy drinks, coffee drinks or alcohol.

Some of those special holiday coffee drinks should be considered a dessert. They’re fine on occasion but not something to have every day.

#9. Do keep up with your vitamins and supplements.

Even during breaks or when you may not be as active, be sure to keep up with your vitamins and supplements. For instance, vitamin D is not only important for bone strength, but it’s also a hormone that boosts the immune system, mental health and focus, so you’ll want to be sure you’re taking in enough of that.

#10. Don’t forget to cross-train.

When you’re taking a break from dance, you can certainly benefit from cross-training. Yoga, Pilates or strength training are all great ways to keep supporting muscles strong and to reduce the risk of injury when you come back full steam in January.

dance nutrionist Emily Cook Harrison

By Emily C. Harrison MS, RDN, LDN of Nutrition for Great Performances.

Emily Cook Harrison MS, RD, LD 
Emily is a registered dietitian and holds both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in nutrition from Georgia State University, USA. Her master’s thesis research was on elite level ballet dancers and nutrition and she has experience providing nutrition services for weight management, sports nutrition, disordered eating, disease prevention, and food allergies. Emily was a professional dancer for eleven years with the Atlanta Ballet and several other companies. She is a dance educator and the mother of two young children. She now runs the Centre for Dance Nutrition and Healthy Lifestyles. She can be reached at

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