Time and again, I always get asked why ballet dancers are so thin. And the usual follow-up question to that is how we’re able to do it.
And time and again, my answers would always be the same. We need to maintain an ideal dancing weight to be able to perform well, to look good onstage, and to be kind to our partners (especially for girls). And we are able to do this with a lot of perseverance, hard work and common sense.
If I were a regular girl, my ideal weight should be around 110 lbs. But being a ballerina, I should ideally tip the scale at 100 lbs. Fortunately, my job provides the long hours of physical activity that keep me fit so I don’t have to wake up early every morning to go to the gym. However, in the last few years, I’ve gotten into practicing yoga, which was introduced to me by my longtime dance partner and friend, Osias Barroso.
While it has been very useful for maintaining my flexibility and balance, I realized soon enough that the real value of yoga is in the inner peace and harmony that comes from its regular practice. I used to approach yoga like I did my dancing — no pain, no gain. I pushed myself to perfect the different poses until I started sustaining injuries in my shoulder, upper back and wrists. This is when I learned that yoga is not about being perfect as it is about being whole. Once I changed my attitude and approach to this ancient form of transformative discipline, I started reaping its rewards of mindfulness and peace. Today, putting in at least 45 minutes of yoga in the morning has become a daily habit.
Yoga has become a part of my daily routine and I try to put in at least 45 minutes of practice every morning.
As for diet, I was never one to deprive myself of food. I always eat what I want, and what I want is not always healthy, sad to say. While I don’t have a sweet tooth, I adore anything creamy and cheesy! Fortunately, I also love greens. I had always been confident that I can burn all the calories I eat but now that I’m older and more susceptible to inherited medical conditions, I also have to accept that with age comes great responsibility. So rather than eating sparingly, I’ve adjusted to eating sensibly.
What works for me is that I only eat two full meals twice a day. I have a power breakfast of oatmeal, banana and milk, plus my daily dose of supplements (antioxidants, Vitamins C, B, E). I also take a superfood shake and enjoy a cup of tea with Manuka honey. This keeps me going and tides me over lunch. My next meal is usually an early dinner at around 6 pm, where I go all out with salad, ginger ale, rice, and fish or meat. This is my reward after a punishing day at the studio. I don’t usually crave sweets, but every now and then I’d have some ice cream for dessert.
During heavy days of dancing, I would sometimes load up on carbs like pastas and breads, but I never eat four or six hours before a performance. I like going onstage on an empty stomach and energized only with adrenaline. I guess it’s different for other dancers, but this is what keeps me on my toes, quite literally.
When young girls ask me for advice on how to keep in shape, I always remind them that bodies are not made the same and that each person should discover the best combination of exercise and nutrition her body best responds to. And that it is always best to do research or inquire from professionals before embarking on the latest diet or fitness fad, as this will save you from heartache, disappointment or even physical injury.
Most of all, young people – especially girls – should constantly remind themselves that the objective is not to be “thin” but to be fit and healthy. Never compromise your physical and emotional wellbeing for the pursuit of the so-called “perfect body”. Health and happiness are very important factors to a fulfilling life. Create realistic goals. Commit yourself to achieving them slowly but surely. Be sensible. And don’t forget to reward yourself every now and then. Remember that the first condition for fitness is always a healthy attitude.