My health has always been a source of anxiety for me. I’ve been overweight, underweight, all over the scale, but never intentionally. For most of my life, I ate intuitively. That is to say, when I was hungry, I ate, and when I wasn’t, I didn’t. I’m fairly sure almost everyone operates off of this system to some degree or another. However, when my health became a primary concern, I started counting calories and macros to give myself a better idea of how much I should be eating and where my energy should come from.
I haven’t tracked my food intake in roughly a year. Similarly to many people who follow their food for any period, I became a bit too involved in it and had to call it quits. I did gather a good amount of data on how I eat and how to optimize my intake before my control began to falter. Ever since then, I’ve maintained a healthy weight and continued my routine and diet.
When I stopped eating meat in October, I had to readjust to make sure I was still getting adequate amounts of protein and calories. I started eating more calorie dense foods such as peanut butter, frozen meals, and energy bars to make up the intake lost by leaving meat behind. I quickly learned that the energy held in these dense foods made it easy for me to get my calories without spending a half an hour eating. I restructured my diet to be calorically dense during the week and calorically spread out during the weekend to maximize efficiency and socialization.
Ballet changed that. I’m almost done with my four week intensive in Montreal, and I haven’t quite felt myself during it. I’ve been irritable, irrational, upset, lethargic, and not performing well. Yesterday, I tried on a pair of my shorts to find that they no longer fit. I was pretty upset; I hadn’t changed my diet that much, I had been working out more than usual, and I was walking everywhere. I decided to call it a night, not wanting to dwell on the knowledge that I had gained weight.
This morning I woke up early and realized I had no coffee in my apartment. I went to a nearby cafe and, essentially, said fuck it and bought a chocolate croissant and a vanilla latte. I don’t eat much sugar, but this morning I was hungry and unhappy about my experience during the previous night. Low and behold, my energy levels were significantly better today. I was able to focus better than I had since the first day of the intensive. I often talk to loved ones about the importance of blood sugar and keeping it stable to maintain my sanity, but I hadn’t thought much about it during this intensive. It still didn’t add up though – I realized that I hadn’t been eating enough to make up for all of my lost energy, but why didn’t my shorts fit?
The reality is, I have gained weight. However, that weight is primarily lean muscle. I was not eating enough, that I know for sure, and it was causing a lot of fatigue because what I was eating was being directed towards my exhausted muscles. So, my shorts don’t fit because I’ve lost fat and gained an inch of muscle because of my excess rotation during the day.
What did I learn? Well, I discovered the same thing that I learned from my intensive last year – weight fluctuates. I gained ten pounds when I went to CPYB last summer, but most of my clothes still fit when I went home. Everything I own except that one pair of shorts still fit well. I’m not willing to sacrifice all of the efforts I have put into this intensive because it’s causing my body to change. I came to Montreal because I want my body to change. I want it to become stronger and more flexible and capable of enduring six hours of dancing every day. If that means I lose a pair of shorts for the time, so be it.
When I find myself focusing on how much my body has reacted to this experience, I try to remember that there are many more ways to measure my success. I can lift my leg higher, I can hold my rotation better during difficult exercises, and I feel stronger than I did before I came to Montreal. Life is often about aesthetics, but health cannot be sacrificed for them.