"You Aren't What you Eat!"

By Joe Donato,
all rights reserved © 2016


Apparently, something that a lot of us dancers take for granted is a revelation, considered newsworthy by others, when it comes to health and fitness. Some years back when I lived in Philadelphia, the local news team made a visit to our monthly swing dance. They were doing an article on fitness and health. Apparently it was news to them that this swing dancing thing was a form of exercise! One local dancer who happened to be very physically fit testified on camera that she dances 2-3 times a week, and it was the only exercise she gets all week! To quote the reporter who did the report “There's so much else to think about while you are dancing, your mind isn't on exercise.”


Here were the statistics they came up with... According to the report, 1 hour of moderate level social partner dancing for a 135 lb person burns 383 calories. You can compare that to an hour of Zumba-type aerobics, or singles tennis, or a spin class (cycling) which all burn about 405 calories. Even running (at about 4 mph) only burns a little bit more: 394!


Doing some simple math shows that if you dance for one song longer you'll easily clear the 400 mark! So what is that in “food” terms? And what if you aren't looking to “burn” fat? If you are one of the few Americans who don't need to lose weight, this may be the best way to assure you'll never gain any no matter what you eat!*


Really, no matter what? Let me clarify: 1 regular Krispy Kreme donut has 190 calories. That means I can eat 2 donuts for every hour of dancing and I won't gain an ounce! And no, Krispy Kreme didn't pay me to say that! It's just science! If you want to be legalistic about it, I'll actually lose weight: 3 whole calories!


OK, great! But for reasons I will outline below, the fact is, most of the time, I will do much more than just 1 hour of dancing. On any given Friday or Saturday night of the month, my wife and I dance at local dances for up to 5 hours or more if we're leading workshops or lessons! Although I do like to pace myself and often take breaks, so maybe I only do about 3-4 hours when you do the math. So, only 6-7 donuts for me instead of 10. :)


According to the McDonald's website, all of their Man-sized sandwiches, (like the Double Quarter-Pounder with cheese or the 1/3 lb. Sirloin Bacon Cheeseburger, which I love) are between 700-800 calories. Yikes! That includes the chicken sandwiches too! So, if you are a “milkshake half empty” kind of a thinker, that means, only 1 man-size sandwich from McDonald's per swing dance, and no soda or fries or apple pie! But if you are a “Milkshake half-full” kind of a thinker, that means I can eat that sandwich and I'll burn the whole thing off that night! This is significantly different than a “dinner, dessert and movie” kind of an evening when you put all the calories into your body and then just sit around the rest of the night.


My wife doesn't eat any of that stuff. She eats gluten free, avoids additives, and dairy, and just generally appreciates eating healthy. So do I, most of the time. But this article is not about which foods are healthier, this article is about the reality of burning off calories, no matter where they came from. And like most of us, my wife does have a bit of a sweet tooth. So, for people like her, what healthy things (along with a little sweet stuff) can she eat and not gain weight? Well, when we do go to McDonald's, she'll get oatmeal and a smoothie. One serving of McDonald's oatmeal is 290 calories, and a smoothie is 180 calories. So she's way in the clear! She'll actually start burning fat after the 3rd hour on the dance floor! Hmmm, what else can she eat? If the online calorie-counter websites are correct, then, in addition to the oatmeal and the smoothie, she can add a banana, 3 cups of oil-popped popcorn, 1 cup of almonds, and 2 Rice Krispy treats squares and she'll completely burn it all off after 3-4 hours of moderate dancing!


Now, if you are not a dancer, you're probably thinking “c'mon Joe. 3 hours of dancing? Really? I do 15 minutes on an elliptical and I need an iced latte and a nap!” Yeah, me too. But dancing is different. When I am on the machine from Hell, uhh, I mean, the elliptical, or any other high-tech piece of gym equipment, I am completely conscious the entire time that I am exercising! I can't wait to get off the thing. But, as stated in the previously mentioned news report, when I am dancing, I COMPLETELY forget that I am exercising. Instead, I coincidentally discover that I've been exercising all that time when really, I was socially interacting with friends, associates, and members of the opposite sex while enjoying great music.


Now, in the event this sounds like I'm giving you license to eat crap all the time, there's more good news... When I go out on the town looking for entertainment in my leisure time, It almost always involves eating; not just 'cause I'm hungry, but eating as a form of entertainment. But when I am dancing, I COMPLETELY FORGET ABOUT EATING! You know why? Because I'm NOT BORED ANYMORE!


I'll never forget the first New Year's party I went to after I had learned to dance. I am pretty sure it was the first social dancing event I went to where I was planning to ask multiple members of the opposite sex to casually dance. I remember it being about a year into my professional training and teaching. (Yes, it took me that long!) I don't remember much else of the night, except that it was about 3 a.m. when I left, and as I was leaving, I suddenly realized that for the first New Year's Eve party in my life, I had been dancing all night long, and hadn't eaten a single thing. I also realized I was starving. But that was the probably the best convenience-store hot dog I'd ever eaten. My point being? Yeah, you get the point: I totally FORGOT about entertaining myself with food for the entire night! I wish the same for each and every one of you!  


*the author's phrase “no matter what”, is not intended to give the reader license to “eat as much of it as you can” Diabetics should consult their blood meters before indulging.




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