THe American Ballet Theater's ballerina Misty Copeland wants everyone to know that, yes, ballerinas actually do eat.
"We eat! We eat!" She recently told People Magazine. "That’s one of the hardest things when I meet people—and I think it’s just about educating people—is that if they don’t really understand what our days look like, and that we’re athletes, then of course they’re going to be like, 'Oh, they’re just these pretty, thin people.' But we are working 8 to 10 hours of the day, hardcore physical activity, so if you weren’t eating there’s no way we could last."
Curious about what those super strong dancers like Copeland do eat in order to keep in tip-top shape? Here's a peek into the ballerina's diet.
She's a Pescetarian
Like most pescetarians, Copeland forgoes red meat and poultry and instead eats all kinds of seafood, including fish, shrimp, and clams, plus dairy, eggs, and plant foods. She gets all the nutritional benefits of a vegetarian, plus she also gets high-quality protein, omega-3s, and other nutrients from the fish in her diet.
In her book, "Ballet Body," released last year, Copeland emphasized the importance of fat like omega-3s found in tuna, sardines, or her favorite -- salmon.
"Eating it, absorbing it, and burning it for energy is the key to building the muscle and providing strength so important for ballerinas," she writes.
Following a pescatarian diet could also potentially lower your risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, dementia, and depression.
She Believes in Moderation
"If you want to have a cookie, have a cookie, but maybe don’t have ten," she told People. "It’s all about moderation. I don’t have cheat days. If one day I’m like, ‘I’m going to have a Domino’s pizza,’ I’ll do it."
Treating yourself to your favorite snack not only tastes good, but it can also help you achieve greater weight loss. For example, treating yourself to a cookie can be a great motivator for achieving a weight loss goal. And, as Copeland also mentions, it can also deter you from a night of binge eating, which is something Copeland struggled with as a young ballerina.
"It’s really just about finding a good balance of not eating everything but also not depriving yourself of things you may enjoy because if not, you’re just going to lose your mind and binge eat at night," she said.
She Understands That Her Body is Unique -- Like Everyone Else's
"It’s just been like this trial and error of figuring out what works for my body and it’s something that I’m constantly sharing with other women but it’s about the journey," she told People. "No one’s perfect. You should find what eating habits work for your body. Not everyone is the same. I don’t believe in diets, I believe in just changing the way you approach a healthy lifestyle."
Copeland doesn't believe in diets and you shouldn't either, simply because crash diets just aren't effective. Studies have found there is a 95 percent chance you will gain back the weight within one to five years, if not sooner. Which is why, in order be a healthy weight, it's crucial to listen to your body and to learn what works for your body. Educating yourself on health and nutrition is key, but as Copeland says, it's important to realize that what works for someone else, or what doesn't work for someone else, doesn't mean it will or won't work for you.
As Copeland demonstrates, yes, ballerinas eat. But what's important to note is that a ballerina like Copeland eats to live, not lives to eat. As she told People, she "never looked at food as nutrition" until she discovered ballet at age 13. Through some trial-and-error, she's found a healthy diet that works for her; one in which she eats healthy and nutritious food, but also one in which she treats herself to the occasional dessert or pizza.
Sounds pretty realistic, right? With that in mind, you might find yourself pirouetting into your local ballet class just yet.
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