Dianne M. Buxton is a graduate of the National Ballet School of Canada. She taught at The National Ballet School, York University, and George Brown College, in Canada, and taught at Harvard University in the U.S. Currently, she pursues a career in writing children’s stories and science fiction adventures with co-writer Vone Deporter. She also runs a ballet website/store http://theballetstore.com/index.php.
Q. Is there one diet that every dancer can follow or should different dancers follow different diets depending on their physiology?
Diet is individual, though there are general guidelines. And I will probably repeat this a few times because it is the bottom line for health. The best diet consists of fresh food, the best you can get (organic, grass-fed meats, free-range chickens, locally grown, if you can get it, or some of it).
Q. Should diet change with age?
Yes, though at different times for different individuals. As needs change, and routines change. For instance, as we age, our BMI, or body mass index, usually begins to show a higher percentage of fat. Our metabolism slows down, and we have to exercise more to burn calories. BMI, or body mass index, is the percentage of your body weight that is fat. It can be too high, but it can also be too low. Our health depends on us ingesting a small amount of the right fats every day.
Q. What are the best foods for preteens? Teenagers?
Teens and preteens need all of the food groups of whole, unprocessed foods every day. No one needs the empty calories of processed foods and most “energy bars.” Processed foods have a lot of negatives. Processed foods are pre-cooked, and pre-packaged. They are canned or frozen foods so you can quickly zap them in the microwave to thaw or heat. This processing requires preservatives, food colors, and food additives (containing MSG) to over-stimulate your brain into absorbing the little flavor left in the food, or the flavor that has been added (chemicals). Now you are eating a drug. If you are eating artificial sweeteners, know that they also make the brain work differently and also leave a residue of formaldehyde in your brain. Trans-fats, or hydrogenated oils, are added to foods to extend the shelf life.
Q. What about adults?
The same is true only with less calories, and possibly more of certain vitamins and minerals, as aging conditions begin early in our culture – (I’m most familiar with the North American diet.) Adults who dance or are athletic need to be aware of the small aches and pains, and take care of their muscles, joints, brains and hearts with good foods. Their anti-aging, anti-inflammatory education needs to be expanded so adults can prevent degenerating conditions.
Q. What’s the biggest mistake most dieters make?
Eating “diet food”, artificial sweeteners, and too little oil. Not understanding the amounts of protein they need, and for some, eating right for their blood type. Our blood types are irritated by different foods, and if a person has food allergies, indigestion, weak muscles, or other uncomfortable conditions, and disease has not been found, eating the right foods for your blood type can help. Especially for someone who does eat good quality fresh foods but who does not feel energetic a lot of the time. Protein intake is important, and at the end of the interview there’s a site you can go to which will help you make that calculation.
Sometimes a dieter will try to go “no fat.” But our liver manufactures our brain hormones, and other hormones out of healthy fats. That’s why a diet can be so depressing! Omega 3 oils are good to have in the diet because they suppress inflammation in our blood, veins and arteries, joints, skin – everywhere! Essential fatty acids (the ones our bodies cannot make) are found in butter and egg yolks. The trick is to eat just enough, but never none.
Q. What’s the most important thing a dancer should know about proper nutrition?
Dancers should know that real foods are the best and that time spent preparing food at home is an investment in their health and their future. They need to understand that feeling too full, or having digestive problems from eating raw foods is not because of the foods, but because they might need enzymes, or acidophilus to digest properly. Processed foods containing white flour, sugars found in packaged foods (even meats) promote yeast growth in the intestines. Healthy bacteria needed for digestion does not thrive. So if a person suddenly starts eating fresher foods, they can feel bloated and gassy. Usually this goes away over a short time, especially if sugar intake is cut down or eliminated. If no disease is present, then balance can be restored with correct nutrition.
Q. You emphasize eating green vegetables. Why?
Mostly because people don’t like them! Green vegetables provide more than vitamins and minerals – they provide many enzymes and co-factors that instigate all cellular activity – assimilation, communication and waste removal. Yellow, red and orange vegetables are important too, but people don’t seem to need as much prompting to eat them. Green vegetables are less starchy, which dancers care about, and they have good fiber and complex carbohydrates.
Q. Should there be a difference in diet for males and females? What are the differences?
Men typically can eat more calories than women without gaining weight. Don’t women just hate that….men and women need to eat the same basic nutritional requirements, and their appetites generally reflect their needs. In ballet and sports men can get obsessive about foods just like women can, and get into protein supplementing, for example, which they do not need unless they don’t have time to eat well. Pre-menopausal women may need more iron.
Q. Is it better to eat a few large meals or many smaller ones?
There are different opinions about this. I think for dancers the need is to have the right food with you for long rehearsal days, according to the demands of the schedule. Dancers do not necessarily want to eat a big meal at a lunch break, but will want to snack during small breaks to make up for that.
Q. Are there snacks you recommend?
Nuts like walnuts (omega 3 oils), almonds and peanuts. Raw veggies, and fruit are excellent. Celery with peanut butter is a good snack – that is real peanut butter with no added oils and sugars. Fruits and/or “energy” bars should be eaten 45 minutes to one hour before class or rehearsal – then the calories will get worked off. I have found it difficult to find an energy bar with enough protein in it to justify the carb content, unless it is sweetened with aspartame or sucralose (splenda etc.) which are neuro-toxins.
Q. What are some of the best foods for a pick energy boost?
Fruit, a spoonful of honey, a small portion of lean meat/chicken/fish/eggs, a small portion of whole mixed grains.
Q. What are the best drinks?
Water, kefir, freshly squeezed fruit and vegetable juice.
Q. Are there some foods dancers should just avoid?
Same as everyone, avoid all processed foods, as much as you can.
Q. Do you recommend food supplements?
I do because very few people prepare their own food, and know what to eat. The more good food a person eats, the less they need supplements, generally. When a person experiences lack of energy or muscle strength and has not discovered disease, then diet and nutritional needs should be assessed. I think chiropractic and applied kinesiology have an edge on this since muscle testing customizes the type and dosage of supplementation, which can be changed as a person improves.
Q. What got you interested in nutrition?
Dancing and life’s other demands! Raising a child and wanting to do my best.
Q. Are there books on diet you recommend?
“Protein Power” by Eades, M.D. and Eades, M.D. “Slow Burn” By Frederick Hahn with Eades & Eades. “Eat Right 4 Your Type” by Dr. Peter J. D’Adamo with Catherine Whitney.
Q. What are some common eating problems?
Eating empty calories and processed foods without good nutrition which is anything prepared, boxed, frozen, “diet foods”, and even fresh salads that appear fresh but look that way because of sprayed preservatives. These foods take more energy for the body to process, yet there is no nutritional reward.
Q. How do you know if you have a nutrition problem?
Feeling run down, not sleeping well, muscle cramps, bad period cramps, mood swings, attention problems, minor depression. If no disease is present, nutrition makes you feel good!
Q. Any final nutrition advice?
Be curious! There is tons of information available and easy to find.
http://www.findmybmi.org/ to calculate your BMI, body mass index
http://www.russellblaylockmd.com/ for expert info on food additives and artificial sweeteners
http://ezinearticles.com/?Protein-Requirements-for-Athletes-Sports&id=10… is a link to an article about protein. It is good general information, for a fairly complex subject.
http://www.seriousstrength.com/ About Slow Burn workouts
for information on healthy oils and fats
http://www.4yourtype.com find out your blood type and the best diet for that
http://www.criticalbench.com/protein-calculator.htm article explaining protein daily intake and how to calculate it. He is a body builder, and he is recommending a product I do not know about, but his instruction is good..
http://www.alsearsmd.com, a great site about nutrition, metabolism, heart health, and interval training.
DISCLAIMER: The content and information contained in this interview is for educational purposes only. It should not be construed as medical advice, or used to diagnose or prescribe any forms of treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking it because of something you have read. It is a clinicians’ responsibility through their experience and knowledge of their patients to determine the best plan of care.