BWW Blog: THE IDEAL BODY by Samantha Palermo
The abundance of fitness related articles, diets, and trends can make your head spin. Will that 7-minute ab routine actually give you abs? Will that 30 day cleanse actually help you drop 5 pounds? Fad workouts at boutique fitness studios sound amazing, but can your body handle the added pressure while you're working 8 shows a week? Will those workouts really benefit your body at $35 a class?! Can you actually eat healthy, on a budget, while living in one of the most expensive cities in the world?
Everyone should love their body. But for performers, the body is not just the sum of our physical parts, it is the tool used to create art and make a living. With my background as a successful professional dancer in both New York City and Los Angeles, along with expertise in fitness and nutrition (Nike and Equinox trainer with certifications from NASM, Pn1, NESTA FNC, TRX, Power Pilates, Mad Dogg Athletics, and Schwinn Cycling), I have uniquely experienced both worlds and understand the very specific physical demands of being a performing artist. I am here to help you bridge the worlds of health, wellness, and your career.
One of the most common questions I receive from new clients is: "I am 5'6, how much should I weigh? What's my ideal body"? The good old 'ideal body' question is something almost all of us have, at some point in our lives, stood in front of a mirror and wondered. Before I get into this 'ideal body' quagmire, I want to share with you my own journey in finding my ideal body. Hopefully, this will spark some reflection and contemplation from you.
In college, I was an average to medium sized girl who ate and drank like an average college kid. I drank fancy (high calorie) coffee drinks and ate fast food on a regular basis. How could I not, with Chik-Fil-A in the dining hall?
I was a sociology/anthropology and dance double major. On top of dancing constantly, I was taking Bikram yoga, and using the elliptical at the gym on a regular basis. Like most busy college students, I was also eating crap, and my overall body shape reflected that. When I looked in the mirror, I did not see the stereotypical 'dancer's body' and my dreams of working in a ballet company went out the window (though my bruised toenails from pointe shoes were thankful).
Just before graduation, I remember begging one of my trusted mentors to give me honest feedback about my shape. She eventually told me that losing ten pounds would help me book work. (Bless her for being the only person who was completely honest with me prior to moving to NYC). I had never considered myself overweight, nor would anyone have said that I was. I always thought I had just inherited my family's big boned structure. From my uneducated, college-aged perspective, I assumed I was genetically predisposed to be a thicker, curvier girl. Did that mean I was at my ideal weight?
Despite all of that, I booked my first professional job with The Rockettes the day I moved into my New York City apartment. After my first contract, I had lost a bit of my 'baby fat', but was still told that I needed to keep a sharp eye on on my 'physical fitness'. In an attempt to be rehired for a second season, I increased my activity as much as possible. I was running myself ragged between pilates, cycle, and ballet classes, as well as dancing in a contemporary modern company. I was exhausted, not a pound lighter, and not a bit leaner.
All of that changed when an athletic trainer first introduced me to strength training. Though I had been 'going to the gym' for years, I had never embarked on a true weight lifting regimen.
I spent the next three months on a set program lifting three to four times a week, and for the first time in my life, I started to see muscle definition in my legs and stomach! More importantly, this came without destroying my body or my bank account running around New York City like the crazy workout-aholic I was only three months prior. I felt a sense of pride being the only woman in the weight room, and I loved the feeling of being strong. Was that the body I was meant to have? Had I reached my ideal weight?
Fast-forward a few years to my cross-country move to sunny California, where the fitness scene is huge. I was on the opposite coast, in a new city, and I wanted to see what else my body could achieve. I have always pushed my limits, physically and mentally, so I decided to take it a step further and I signed up for my first bikini fitness competition.
I trained for four months; unbelievable amounts of strength training and cardio, an insanely strict diet, and tons of chemical filled workout supplements filled most of my daily life. By the end of this process, (including purposely dehydrating my body and getting an oompa loompa spray tan), I had lost a total of 19 pounds (on my 5'6 frame). For the first time in my life, I could see every ab, rib, striation, and vein in my body.
I can't lie, I loved witnessing these crazy physical changes. I thought for sure this was my ideal body, my ideal weight. I had abs! Those abs made me feel great at auditions, my Instagram pictures were rockin', and my online coaching business exploded.
Then, one day I found myself on the phone with my mom, crying guiltily about not going to an audition because my legs were too sore from spending 90 minutes on the stair mill. Hold the phone.
If you are a dancer, you know that getting a casting from your agent means potential work, more potential connections, and even more potential opportunities. On the outside, I looked fit, healthy, and like I had finally achieved my ideal body, but was I really willing to sacrifice my career and sanity to look this way?
What I've learned through these different phases of my journey is that there is no right answer for any one person. Our bodies respond differently to different stimuli, and nutrition is a huge portion of the equation (don't worry, we'll get into that in another article). In order to find your ideal body, I challenge you to define what 'ideal' means to you. Take a minute to reflect, and ask yourself what that means. Be specific. How does it relate to your career? How does it relate to your happiness? This is step one on your journey.
I define my ideal body as one that is strong, athletic, and feminine. A body that is strong enough to protect itself from injury, agile enough to perform whatever a choreographer asks of me, feminine enough to feel confident in an audition, and beautiful in my everyday life. When I have put in the necessary time, energy, and focus into my fitness and nutrition and am feeling balanced, confident, and happy, I have found my ideal body.
Have you found your ideal body? Are you struggling? In what areas do you need the most guidance? The main goal in creating my online health and wellness business was to utilize the science of fitness and nutrition to support the demands of the entertainment and performing businesses. Let me guide you to your ideal body so that you can live your life FULL OUT.
Photo Credit: Lee Hagen