How would you define your relationship with food?
I am quite relaxed about food. I work hard so can eat as much as I like but I rely a lot on my body to let me know what it needs. I don’t deny myself much but I also don’t often crave rubbish. I absolutely think there is a link between what I am eating and how I am feeling. I can maybe get away with a few days of lazy, on-the-go eating, and then the tell-tail signs start to appear.
“I drink a lot of water – a good habit I got into from years of ballet training and performing under hot stage lights. Your muscles don’t work as well when they are dehydrated.”
I feel sluggish, my concentration suffers and, although I think I am saving time by grabbing something in a packet as I rush around, it actually takes me longer to get what I need to do done. Water is a big factor for me, too. I drink a lot of water – a good habit I got into from years of ballet training and performing under hot stage lights. Your muscles don’t work as well when they are dehydrated and if I neglect this, the signs are even more immediate.
Do you follow any specific way of eating?
I don’t – just a balanced one. As I said, I rely a lot on my body to let me know what it needs. If I have ever needed to get trimmer or super lean to dance a specific role on stage, I cut down on my carbohydrates and eat lots of protein and veg. For me, this really does shift any unwanted pounds, any excess water retention disappears and I get better muscle definition almost immediately.
“If I have ever needed to get trimmer or super lean to dance a specific role on stage, I cut down on my carbohydrates and eat lots of protein and veg.”
What foods or groups of foods (if any) do you avoid, and why?
Refined carbs – cakes, pastries, white bread, pasta and biscuits. For me they are just empty calories with little nutritional value. They make me feel lethargic during the day and retain excess water.
Does your diet change throughout the year?
We would all love to be consistently good about our food choices but it is easier said than done. Despite knowing the pitfalls, on a cold wintry day it feels far more comforting to tuck into a slice of cake with a cuppa than it does a piece of fruit. I am prone to it, too, but the less I do it, the less I crave those food types. What you snack on and at what time of day becomes habitual for most people. If you are keen to change your choices, try changing something in your routine.
“What you snack on and at what time of day becomes habitual for most people. If you are keen to change your choices, try changing something in your routine.“
Making healthy choices is always easier if we are satisfied with the taste. Eating seasonally has become increasingly important to me over the past few years not just because of the impact on the environment and wanting to support local farmers – produce that has not been shipped and stored for lengths of time or artificially ripened just tastes better.
What do you think are the most nutritious foods?
Fruit and vegetables all the way for me. I incorporate them into almost every meal and snack, whether it is in a smoothie at breakfast, dried fruit and nuts to snack on, a side salad with lunch or at least two different vegetables with an evening meal. I can’t get enough of them and there is so much variety. I never get bored.
What is your food routine?
When I am performing I want energy but not to feel overly full, so smaller portions more often throughout the day works better for me. Now I have a bit more time between classes and my day is mixed up, with exercise and emailing, I usually make time for three meals a day.
“I will drink coconut water until the cows come home…”
Your favourite snacks?
I will drink coconut water until the cows come home and I buy frozen edamame beans from the Chinese supermarket. Steamed for a few minutes with some added salt or chilli, they are a delicious, low-fat, high-protein, high-fibre snack.
Are you a breakfast lover?
I love my smoothies and if I keep a selection of frozen fruit in the freezer to mix in with the fresh pieces I have, then I can have a different combination every day. I love mixing in some yoghurt and muesli to finish it off.
How do you treat yourself in terms of food?
My favourite food is Japanese/pan Asian. I lack patience and most definitely the skill to prepare it, but I will treat myself to my favourite Japanese restaurant, Roka, on Charlotte Street in London. I love everything about their food, from the unusual taste combinations to the beautiful fresh ingredients and clean, fresh feeling you get after eating it.
Are there any changes that you would like to make to your diet that you haven’t already done yet?
To eat less sugar – namely in the form of chocolate!
What is the hardest part of the day for you to avoid temptation?
After dinner, while sitting at my computer or watching a bit of TV. Far less so if I have had a proper evening meal, but my sweet tooth still likes to rear its head about this time. I can usually curb it with some dried apricots or dates, but every now and then, nothing but chocolate will do.
“Every now and then, nothing but chocolate will do.”
Is there anyone you consider a healthy role model?
Not a role model as such. I do get a little envious of my friends who live abroad and enjoy a warmer climate than ours. Their lifestyles seem far more effortlessly healthy. I am naturally more active in warmer weather, spend more time outdoors, and all the fruits I love to eat grow bigger, tastier and in more abundance in the sunshine.
How do you stay on track when you travel?
It is hard when you are travelling to keep up a healthy eating routine. Fortunately with Sleek Technique, I can exercise and keep up classes wherever I am, as long as I have an Internet connection and a small space.
When you go out to dinner, how do you navigate the menu?
I order what I fancy but avoid rich sauces or ask for them on the side. I don’t overdo it on the carbohydrates and if I fancy something sweet, I will perhaps order a hot chocolate at the end of a meal rather than a full-blown dessert. Eating out is a hugely social and enjoyable thing for me, though. If you are being sensible 90 per cent of the time, I am happy to let my hair down a bit.
Does your interest in a healthier lifestyle cross over into any other parts of your life?
I don’t use a lot of harsh products around the house any more. Aside from the chemicals, they all use so much plastic in the packaging, which has a huge environmental impact. I have a steam cleaner that I use on everything from floors to kitchen surfaces, mattresses and carpets. My beauty regime is equally simple. I use a range of gentle but effective products by NU Skin that I order online.
“I don’t use a lot of harsh products around the house any more. Aside from the chemicals, they all use so much plastic in the packaging, which has a huge environmental impact.”
What’s your exercise routine/schedule?
Flik Swan, co-founder of Sleek Technique, and I practise what we preach. Both of us are in the Sleek studio taking classes every day, but with so many other parts of the business to run, often this is for no more than 30 to 45 minutes a day. If it is focussed exercise performed with good technique, that’s enough.
Describe your work out wardrobe…
Vast would be the first word that springs to mind. I have a broad mix of dance and fitness gear. I often pair my ballet leotards with sports leggings or my sports bra top and shorts with ballet legwarmers. Ballet is the basis for all our Sleek workouts, but with its blend of fitness training, it is accessible to every woman.
We encourage women to wear what they feel comfortable moving around in but nothing too baggy so the lines of the body are hidden. That is paramount for me, too. I have to be comfortable but if I can’t see the shapes my body is making, my technique is never as good.
“We encourage women to wear what they feel comfortable moving around in but nothing too baggy so the lines of the body are hidden.”
Have you noticed changes to your body and health as a result of exercise?
Sleek Technique has kept my body in the same shape as when I was dancing professionally. I find it astounding that I have gone from training six hours a day to 30 to 45 minutes a day and have still kept my shape. If anything, I have lengthened the look of my muscles further still.
Flik and I worked very hard to put together our method, taking all the parts of tried-and-tested ballet technique that dancers have used to shape their distinctive physiques for many years and layering it with all our current fitness knowledge. It was designed purely with a woman’s body in mind, to refine and develop length and strength in muscles, rather than bulk them out.