Ingredients of a Healthy Singing Body

Young Guitarist Singing
Registered dietician Sharon Zarabi points the way for singers to achieve a healthy lifestyle.

When we take the right steps to care for our WHOLE being (physical, mental and emotional) on a consistent basis, the result is a higher quality of overall life. 

Let’s look at the main ways we can help our body and mind function at the highest potential. In a nutshell this has to do with moving our bodies daily, choosing the right foods, and taking time to quiet the mind and developing tools that allow us to deal with stress and daily toxins. These activities lead to better feelings which, in turn, allows us to be more patient and present, to think more clearly and to be kinder towards others and our environment. 

Although I am not a singer by trade nor singing specialist, for more than a decade I have been guiding professionals to integrate healthy living into their daily life, so they can show up their best selves every day. I view singing as a highly physical activity and singers can be challenged to balance both vocal and holistic health.

One of the biggest challenges for singers is living a healthy lifestyle amidst all-engrossing recording projects, social gatherings, poor sleep hygiene, late night eating, and skipping meals, all of which accumulate to stress.  So whether your goal is to better your eating habits, improve your sleep regimen, manage your time, or incorporate physical activity, here are a few tips to keep in mind as you embark through your new routine.

1. Movement – adding activity to our day

We are more sedentary now than ever.  With a pandemic that has affected our work and social life, most of us are working from home, and not walking nearly as much as we should.  Back-to-back zoom meetings and face-timing with family and friends from the couch have limited our ability to move.  We choose passive forms of entertainment (movies, video games, observing performances) rather than active ones (hiking, ice skating, golf).  Most physical labor is now largely automated.  

This was not the way our body was created.  As Rachel Wolchin says, “If we were meant to stay in one place…we’d have roots instead of feet.”  Movement is our body’s vehicle to release our energy. 

Find a time in the day where you can schedule purposeful movement or try to add some NEAT (non exercise activity thermogenesis) to your day.  Thermogenesis, just as it sounds, is the “genesis” or creation of “therm” which means heat.  So any motion you perform will burn energy or heat.  Some activities include, walking , typing, performing yard work, cleaning, even fidgeting can get you to burn some fuel!

Tips for Your Body

I am as guilty as anyone else during a work from home phenomena, so here are a few tips to give your body screen free time. 

  • Walk and chat –  If you have any meetings or discussions take them outdoors and do a “walk and chat” if it does not involve you needing to look at material.  
  • Stand UP DESK – this is a great resource for several reasons.  First, it helps improve your posture so you’re not slouching over your keyboard.  Second it demands you to use a little more energy throughout the day when you are on your feet.
  • 2 hour rule – impose a regimen where every two hours you take a 5 minute walk around the house, or the stairwell of your building.  Fill up your water bottle or grab a cup of herbal tea. These few steps can make a world of a difference to give you a break from the screen, and let your mind recharge its batteries…that is where the creativity lies and breakthroughs really happen!
Late night eating

2. Mind – get control of late-night eating

We all talk about willpower and the too often episode of “falling off the wagon.”  We need to understand and accept that life is not linear; unexpected events will always veer us off the trajectory to success and goal setting. However, let’s not ignore “hiccups “and acknowledge that change needs to be made.

An example I’ll share is the goal of wanting to lose weight but engaging in late night eating. This is often followed by waking up feeling a buildup of acid in the early morning. That’s your body “talking” to you and literally crying for help with salty tears of attention!

Take these 5 Steps:

First- Pause when you realize you should be in bed, but find yourself in the kitchen gorging on leftovers from the day before, (we’ve all been there). Many of us get “stuck” in our head, ruminating on our thoughts and feelings.  We feel guilt, and shame when we “cheat” and this hinders us from empowering ourselves to improve. This pause creates a space for us to respond thoughtfully, rather than react emotionally.

Second- Take a step back to look at where you are (e.g. the kitchen at an odd hour of the night, when the circadian clock and the moon have told your body it is time to rest, and dinner should have been eaten hours ago)

Third- Evaluate the situation (Ask yourself, why am I eating at this time? Did I not eat enough at dinner? Did I skip breakfast? Was my last meal missing a balance of protein, carbs and fat…. Am I even hungry?!?!?! Was I watching a commercial of food porn? Am I eating my feelings of stress, anxiety, loneliness, overtired?)

Fourth- Action – Change something and DO IT! (Eat better throughout the day to avoid late night snacking, add more fiber and protein to your meals to avoid recurring hunger, get to bed earlier to prepare your body for rest. Don’t forget: your body is under daily strain with your line of work. Your batteries need to be recharged.  Some singers find it helpful to keep a food journal to identify eating patterns throughout the day. This really helps to hone in on areas of stress so that we can begin to better manage those areas.  

Fifth- Assess (consider how the changes you made above are working in your favor, and if not go back to step one and identify another change that can be made)

3. Food  – asking the right questions

We’ve all heard the expression, “you are what you eat.”  Food is the cornerstone of a healthy body and the true building blocks to our nerves, tissues, cells, bone, muscle, etc.  Think before you eat.  

Food is the cornerstone of a healthy body

I find it helpful to ask myself the following questions when I consider the food I want to eat:

  • Where did this come from? A factory or farm?
  • How will this nourish me?
  • Will this satisfy my hunger?
  • Do I have a colorful plate chock full o’ antioxidants and polyphenols?

We nutritionists like to use these technical terms.  In a nutshell an antioxidant is a substance that can prevent or slow damage to the cells.  Think of them as your body’s immune boosting cells warding off cancer, heart disease and other ailments.

Polyphenols are micronutrients (tiny nutrients that are found in foods we consume) that we get through certain plant-based foods such as berries, cocoa, and wine. It’s thought that polyphenols can improve or help treat digestive issues, control our blood sugars, manage weight, etc. They are your body’s natural immune fighting ninjas! The vitamins and minerals that we get from the whole foods we eat contain thousands of compounds that keep us focused, content, calm, energized, and overall boost our emotional well-being. 

4. Self Kindness – feel emotions without judging them

Most importantly be kind to yourself.  Too often we put the weight of the world on our shoulders and when we are not “perfect” or “disciplined” we become disappointed in the outcome and experience a downward spiral in life.  

By practicing self compassion we allow ourselves to feel, and acknowledge the trending emotion.  Do something beneficial with it. Let it change you for the better. As singers we must engage in performance enhancing behaviors.  Your mindset, fuel, energy management and kindness are key ingredients to building that ONE BODY YOU OWN – treat it as your temple.

Movement, mind, meals and kindness is key!

0 replies on “Ingredients of a Healthy Singing Body”