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my story: embracing body acceptance + food freedom

Hi Everyone!

There are a number of new followers to my blog and my email lists, so I thought it'd be a great time to revisit my journey through dance, my relationship to food + my body, and what food freedom can look like for you. I cannot iterate just how uniquely similar each of our stories might be. Our journey is completely our own and there tend to be underlying similarities between us. These similarities might be based in diet-culture, a demanding + degrading ballet director, a desire to "be healthy" or "lose weight" or "increase muscle tone" or whatever your initial goal was that derailed your innate balance with food + nutrition.

My journey as a professional dancer began shortly after I completed my undergraduate studies. I was excited to dive into the freelance lifestyle, taking on a range of jobs to support myself and somehow balance my social life. However, old habits from my pre-professional training and high school days crept back into my life as I tried to lose weight through various diets, which eventually led to a fractured ankle right before my performance as The Sugar Plum Fairy in my first professional production of The Nutcracker. Despite the setback, I turned to yoga to aid in my recovery and eventually found myself in a yoga teacher training program in 2016 to share this newfound love of a different movement/asana practice.

Years later, I began to prioritize balance in my movement, nutrition, and mindfulness practices, leading to a new, and oddly welcome, confidence in my body and liberation from strict dieting. I found particularly helpful support in a number of books that helped me to see "The Man Behind the Curtain" that is diet culture, and I begin to question the "truths" that had been ingrained in me since a young age. Two notable books include: The F** It Diet and Unprocessed - both of which you've heard me discuss before.

I have a number of years remaining in my professional performance career, and I knew that I needed to begin planning for my years beyond the stage. After a few years working at a dance service organization, I knew that I had a knack for helping people and, knowing that I wanted to focus on helping dancers and the dance community, a pathway towards specializing in health, wellness, and nutrition for dance seemed most appropriate. I decided to go back to school, complete the required prerequisite science courses and was accepted into the University of Bridgeport's Masters of Science program for Human Nutrition and graduated in May 2021.

During my studies, I launched eMpower health + wellness, a nutrition practice that allows me to accrue the 1000+ clinical hours needed for licensure and support my yoga students and followers virtually. In 2022, I rebranded as eMpower performance, working with dancers and performance athletes as a nutritionist in the Washington, DC and surrounding DMV region. I continue to perform, co-founded a contemporary ballet company, dance as a freelance artist, and guide yoga students through their practice. At eMpower performance, I specialize in working with dancers, performance athletes, and fitness enthusiasts to help them reach their full potential with balanced food + nutrition habits - beyond the studio.

This journey of food freedom and body acceptance is a continual one. I still have good and bad days - both with my perception of my dancing and how my body appears. I find solace in knowing that I understand what my nutritional balance can look like and I ride those ups and downs - just like we navigate good and bad dance days. That's where I can be there for you - a support system to develop your optimal nutrient balance and to help you navigate the challenges that arise in your busy schedule. If you're curious to dip your toe in, check out my Fueling for Summer dancer nutrition program. If you'd prefer to dive straight in, let's do it! Schedule your strategy session today.

Melissa, dance nutritionist

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I'm a Nutrition Educator & Wellness Coach based in and serving Washington, DC and the DMV region. My lifestyle-focused method has successfully helped clients achieve personal results and enhance athletic ability, eMpowering performance in class, rehearsals, and on-stage. As professional dancer myself, I have gained nutritional balance and improved my own relationship with food through many years of practice and a Masters of Science in Nutrition from University of Bridgeport. I bring this depth of personal and academic experience to a variety of clients, particularly performance athletes and fitness enthusiasts. In my spare time, I teach yoga and manage Ballet Embody, a professional contemporary ballet company.
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