If you follow ballet darling Juliet Doherty on Instagram—which you probably do—you already know that the two-time Youth America Grand Prix gold medalist is a self-proclaimed "plant-powered ballerina." Doherty has followed a vegan diet for four years now, and though she never forces her lifestyle on her followers or IRL friends, she does love sharing her daily eats and the plant-based meals and snacks that help her perform at her best. Curious as to what that entails? Here's a day in the life of Juliet's meat-and-dairy-free diet.
I always start my day with a big glass of water.
Today, I squeezed the juice of half a lemon in because I have a lemon tree in the yard and a surplus of them to use! I love adding lemon not only for the flavor, but also because they are alkalizing to the body and help restore a balanced pH, they add extra vitamin C to your diet to fight against colds and the flu, and they increase peristalsis, which helps eliminate waste from the body, and cuts down on that bloated feeling.
Then it's oatmeal for breakfast.
Rolled oats are a go-to breakfast food of mine. They're filling, and the complex carbohydrates along with the protein from the oats gives me sustained energy. Plus they're quick and easy to cook!
Here are all the ingredients I used for my breakfast:
- 1⁄2 cup rolled oats
- 2 tbsp ground flaxseed
- 1 cup frozen organic blueberries
- 1 banana
- 2 tbsp maple syrup
I add ground flaxseed for some good omega-3 essential fats. Even Gandhi once said, "Wherever flaxseed becomes a regular food item among the people, there will be better health." I try to incorporate a bit of flaxseed into my food each day either in oats, a smoothie or even salad. The blueberries and banana each have their benefits: antioxidants, fiber, vitamins, minerals, the list goes on and on. I always have different fruits with my breakfast, and they make the oats taste sweeter. Natural maple syrup contains trace minerals like zinc, but I really just added it because it's sooo delicious. This all keeps me fueled through three hours of rehearsal in the morning.
Next up: a quick snack before technique class.
I had an apple and 16 oz. of coconut water with a scoop of chocolate plant protein. Fruit is such a great option for fast energy because your body digests it quickly. I love coconut water, which replenishes the electrolytes lost while sweating. Sometimes I add a bit of plant protein powder if I feel like I want more protein that day. The protein powder I use is a blend of proteins sourced from peas, brown rice, and hemp. Nutrient dense and yummy!
After class, it's time for lunch.
I got lunch from a smoothie bar. I love smoothies because you can pack a lot of nutrition in and you won't feel stuffed while you're dancing. Here's what was in my green smoothie:
- 1 large banana
- 1 cup mango
- 1 cup kale
- 1 cup spinach
- 1 tbsp coconut butter
- 16 oz coconut water
Then it's time for a two-hour pas de deux class, followed by dinner.
Finally, time to go home and have dinner! I kept it quick and simple tonight by making a salad and popping a sweet potato in the oven. My salad was super high-protein and took less than five mins to put together. Here's what I ate:
- 1 large handful of arugula
- 1⁄2 head of romaine heart lettuce
- 2 stalks of celery
- 2 cups of garbanzo beans
- 1⁄4 cup raw sprouted pumpkin seeds
- 2 tbsp fig balsamic dressing
- 1 large baked sweet potato
Everyone knows how important it is to get your greens each day. Maybe I'm weird, but I love salads and enjoy the taste of fresh raw veggies. Beans and lentils are so good for you, so I aim to have at least a cup a day. By using two cups of garbanzo beans in my salad I added 30 grams of protein! I topped my salad with some raw sprouted pumpkin seeds. Studies have shown that sprouting seeds boosts their nutritional value and makes them easier to digest. Today I opted for a dressing without oil, but other times when I have fewer fats throughout the day I like to add a little olive oil to my salad.
I'm not afraid of fats!
Natural plant fats such as avocados, nuts and seeds are necessary for the mind and body to function properly. Especially as highly active people, we need fats to recover and repair.
An extra active day requires a stretch and a late-night snack.
If I have time, I like to stretch at night. I feel that helps me sleep better, because my muscles are more relaxed, and I wake up less sore. Tonight I stretched for 30 minutes. A little later in the night, I had a cereal craving. It's important to listen to my body when it's telling me it needs more nourishment! I ate one cup of Kashi Autumn Wheat cereal with a cup of organic soy milk. Kashi cereals are my favorite; they're minimally processed compared to most cereals, and they have very few ingredients, which is always better when it comes to eating packaged foods. I make sure my milk is organic and non-GMO.
Why did I go vegan?
When I ate animal products, I used to have chronic stomachaches. I was always so bloated and uncomfortable. Since eliminating meat and dairy from my diet, I don't get the stomachaches, I feel lighter, and I'm more energized. That's a great feeling to have when you spend the whole day in a leotard, and need to be dancing intensely. I rarely get sick, and have never had a dance-related injury. And I've found it's not hard to nourish my body and thrive as a plant-based athlete.
Here's my advice for going animal-free.
Eat mindfully! Choose foods that will best support your training, performances and recovery. Fueling my body properly is something I consider essential to feeling and performing my best!
Nearly two years after its Broadway debut, Hamilton is still the hottest ticket in town. The show is still sold out every single night, and for Kamille Upshaw, that means bringing her A-game every night—even if she doesn't end up onstage. As one of the cast's swings, Upshaw may fill in for an injured or vacationing cast member, or she could end up getting called in mid-show if something happens to an ensemble member. (No pressure.) She needs to know all the choreography at all times, and needs to be warmed up no matter what. That also means Upshaw, a Juilliard grad and former Dance Spirit cover girl, needs to fuel her body properly so it can be ready to rock in a moment's notice. What does that entail? We got Upshaw to dish on what a day in the life of her diet is like.
8:30 am: Breakfast
"Breakfast is half a bagel with three eggs and two pieces of bacon," Upshaw says. "I like to have a full breakfast to make sure I give my engine enough fuel."
11:30 am: Snack
"Time for some sunflower seeds," Upshaw shares. "They really help keep my energy up until I break for lunch. I also drink a lot of water throughout the day. Warning: It makes you pee a lot."
12 pm: Treat break!
"Sometimes during rehearsal we get treats," Upshaw says. "Today it was Dunkin Donuts."
2 pm: Lunchtime
"It's always so hard for me to figure out what I want to eat for lunch because there are so many options near the theater," says Upshaw. "Today I chose Green Symphony, which has fresh protein shakes and smoothies along with a variety of food. I got a Funky Monkey shake—it's banana, peanut butter, and rice milk—and a curry chicken salad wrap with avocado."
8 pm: Dinner
"Nothing fancy tonight," says Upshaw, who didn't have to perform in that evening's show. "Chicken breast with Brussels sprouts and couscous."
Before each Pacific Northwest Ballet show at Seattle's McCaw Hall, the green room is full of stretching dancers—and massage therapists. “If a dancer is about to go out onstage but their calf is hurting, we get them on the table, loosen up the calf and send them out," says Christopher Kagen, LMP, who coordinates massage therapy services for the company. A preshow massage increases blood flow to the injured tissue and, Kagen explains, more blood means more oxygen and more energy. The presence of a backstage therapist highlights the importance of massage for dancers. “Massage helps to decrease tension in the muscles and increases the body's healing response," says Johann Howard, DPT, of the NYU Langone Harkness Center for Dance Injuries. Dance Spirit turned to the experts to demystify five different types of massage and what they can do for dancers.
If you have no specific complaints but want a generic massage, the pros recommend Swedish massage. “It's a full-body massage and you'll feel like dough on a bread board," Kagen says. Swedish massage can be part of a regular massage routine. There's just one caveat, which applies to all massage types: Cool down first. “You never want to work on a dancer who's still hot and sweaty from whatever they've just been doing," Kagen says. Doing so risks damaging tissues that are inflamed from exertion, which can lead to bruising or soreness.
Sports massages are categorized by when they take place: pre-, intra- and post-event, where events are classes, rehearsals and performances. Pre-event massages are common, while intra- and post-event massages are less likely. Generally, sports massage is used as a form of treatment rather than relaxation. The bulk of sports massage for dancers addresses an injury or physical limitation—such as range of motion in the shoulders (particularly for men doing lifts) or reduced spinal mobility. Sports massage may include myofascial massage, neuromuscular masssage and trigger-point therapy. All three of these massage types can be either superficial or deep; in the latter case, they can also be called “deep-tissue massage."
Myofascial massage, as the name suggests, tends to muscles and the connective tissues, called fasciae, that surround and nourish them. Fasciae can get torn and, under stress, stick to muscles, other fasciae, or tendons and ligaments, Kagen says. Myofascial massage unsticks the muscles and fasciae, so they can slide past each other with ease. Myofascial massage can feel like a gentle-to-deep stretch in the area being treated. Because it often involves stroking, myofascial massage creates friction, so you may also feel a warming sensation. Like other sports massages, it's used on injuries or limitations and—gently—as a preshow massage.
“When a muscle is tight in the body, it's because your nervous system is telling it to be tight," Kagen says. This type of massage involves teaching nerves to relax so that they can, in turn, relax muscles and increase the range of motion in your joints. A neuromuscular massage might include guided stretching motions in which you push or pull (your head against your resisting hand, for example), or you might be more passive as the therapist works on you. This treatment massage is usually used between performances. Neuromuscular massage before a show risks throwing a dancer off by changing the way his or her body reacts to its own instructions.
This therapy involves identifying and dissolving muscular knots, which form at sites of injury and repetitive stress, and can then cause pain elsewhere in the body. Trigger-point massage can feel like prolonged pressure on the trigger point to release the muscle contraction. This is primarily a massage to treat injury, pain or limitation.
“Deep-tissue massage just means you're targeting deeper things, like ligaments, tendons and deep muscles," Kagen says. This massage can help relieve chronic muscle tension, says Jessica Labunski, LMT, of Athletico Physical Therapy, in Chicago. Like any sports massage, it can also be used to aid injury treatment or address limitations. It's the style that she, Howard and Kagen most commonly use on dancers. But deep-tissue is not a good choice for the green room. “You don't want to perform any techniques that would completely relax the athlete or create a drastic increase in range of motion, because they may not be used to the additional movement," Labunski says. In fact, because deep-tissue work can leave you sore, Labunski recommends leaving a few days between your massage and intense dancing.
Don't Stress It
Though dancers should avoid strenuous massage before shows or before they've cooled down, the choice of massage type is not something to agonize over. Your therapist will assess the situation and determine what would most benefit you. “Any style of massage will help you achieve easier, freer movement," Kagen says.
A version of this story appeared in the January 2017 issue of Dance Spirit.
Whether you're fighting mid-morning hunger, the midday-slump or mid-rehearsal stomach grumbles, we've rounded up the best things before, during and after dance class to eat to keep your energy up and your hunger down.
1. Protein-Packed Snacks
If you're just about to head to rehearsal in the morning, your body will need protein to power through the long day. Think string cheese, cottage cheese or yogurt.
2. Complex Carbs
According to Rachel Fine, registered dietician and founder of To the Pointe Nutrition, things like lentils, wheat bulgur, quinoa, wheat berries and barley give your body sustained energy. "I recommend primarily nonbread carbohydrates, because they offer the highest fiber content, which is good for digestion," says Fine.
3. Breakfast for Dinner
If you get home late from the studio, don't ignore your hunger pangs and go to bed without eating—scramble some eggs! When paired with a toasted slice of whole grain bread, the protein from the eggs and the carbs from the toast help release an amino acid called tryptophan—crucial for triggering the good kind of drowsiness!
Having trouble fully reaching your splits? These stabilizing and strengthening exercises will have you hitting 180 degrees in no time.
OK, so going to the gynecologist isn't exactly fun. But the good thing about your annual visit is that it's a one-stop, totally confidential way to get your most sensitive questions answered. And it's essential that you ask them! After all, there's nothing more important than keeping your dancer body—every part of your dancer body—in tip-top shape. If you're feeling shy or embarrassed, just remember: Gynecologists have heard it all. Here are the answers to some of the questions they get asked the most.
My periods are irregular. Should I be worried?
Teens often expect to get their period on the same day each month, but normal cycles range from 21 to 35 days. “It's also common to have periods outside this range when you first start having them," says Dr. Raegan McDonald-Mosley, chief medical officer at Planned Parenthood Federation of America. If you've already started your period but it's frequently irregular, check in with your doctor.
Dancers, like many female athletes, often get their first period later than their peers due to their intense activity level. Dr. Colleen Cavanaugh, a gynecologist in Providence, RI, says there's usually no reason to worry (unless you're severely underweight). Getting a first period anywhere between the ages of 10 and 15 is normal. Your doctor may recommend going on a contraceptive pill to help get your periods started or make them come more regularly.
My periods are so heavy and painful. Any advice?
For those prone to painful periods, Dr. Lauren Streicher, a gynecologist and associate professor at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine, recommends popping an Advil the day before you start menstruating, to ward off excessive cramps and even lighten bleeding. Then continue as needed during your period. A heating pad can also be a lifesaver on painful days.
If your period pain regularly forces you to call in sick to school or the studio, or if you need to change a large tampon or pad every hour, it's time to talk to your doctor. Very rarely, severe cramps during menstruation may be a sign of endometriosis, a condition where uterine lining grows outside the uterus. If you're otherwise healthy, your doctor may prescribe a birth control pill or suggest a hormonal intrauterine device (IUD), a tiny T-shaped object that can stay in your uterus for up to five years—certain types have been proven to reduce bleeding and discomfort.
My body is changing—and I'm not sure if I look normal. What does “normal" even look like?
Every teen wonders if her body looks normal—but this is especially true for dancers, who go through puberty in front of full-length mirrors. Remember that normal development looks very different on everyone.
For vulvas (the visible part of your vagina), Streicher says there's a broad range of normal. “They can differ drastically in color, shape and amount of pubic hair, and they're often asymmetrical," she says. “Just like noses can be short or long, so can your labia—the inner and outer folds of the vulva at either side of the vagina."
The same is true for breasts and nipples, which can range drastically in size, shape and color. Asymmetry is also common, especially while developing, so don't be alarmed if one of your breasts is larger than the other. “Nipples range from light pink to brownish black. Some stick out like buttons, and others look more like slits," McDonald-Mosley says. “Remember, different is normal."
How much vaginal discharge is normal?
Most teens will start to notice some clear or white discharge on their underwear starting during puberty. This liquid, called leucorrhea, is completely natural. It may have a mild odor, but it actually helps your vagina stay clean.
How much you see will change slightly throughout your menstrual cycle, getting heavier when you're ovulating. “That's all completely normal," Cavanaugh says. “But if it's dark, itchy, has an intense odor, or comes with pelvic pain, you should see a doctor to check for an infection."
My doctor recommended birth control (for acne/heavy periods/pregnancy prevention), but I'm worried about gaining weight and other side effects.
According to Streicher, scientific studies say that the correlation between birth control pills and weight gain is a myth! That being said, each type of pill affects each body differently. Your doctor will do his or her best to prescribe the best option for your needs. (Streicher says that's usually a pill with a low dose of estrogen). You're most likely to experience nausea, spotting (bleeding between periods) or breast tenderness within the first two to three months after starting birth control, but then those symptoms usually go away. If you continue to notice unwanted side effects, feel free to ask if you can try something different. Just give it some time before making a switch.
What's the deal with the HPV vaccine? Do I need it?
HPV stands for human papillomavirus, a very common virus that is usually sexually transmitted. Some high-risk types of HPV can cause genital warts or cervical or other cancers, while other, low-risk types don't have harmful effects at all.
The HPV vaccine, called Gardasil, protects against the most common types that cause genital warts and cancer, and it's administered through three shots over a period of six months. “I encourage all my patients to get vaccinated as soon as possible," Streicher says. “Ideally, they'd do it even before they become sexually active, and it's FDA-approved for girls as young as 9 years old." No matter your age or sexual experience, ask your doctor about it—your body will thank you later
As a teenager, contemporary dancer Eveline Kleinjans felt like nothing she did was good enough. Auditioning for university dance programs paralyzed her: “I was so focused on every move I made and what people would think that I wasn't able to be free, to be myself," she says. And her intense perfectionism had real repercussions. “I'd get negative feedback saying, 'We don't see you.' "
Perfectionism is extremely common in the dance world, because dancers hold themselves to terrifically high standards. It's easy to get a little discouraged when you aren't improving as quickly as you want. But there's a difference between healthy self-criticism and an unhealthy obsession with perfection. How can you tell when your drive to be better has crossed the line—and what can you do to get back on track?
Understand Your Tendencies
“Perfectionism is an inborn personality trait," says performance psychologist Dr. Linda Hamilton, “and it has a lot of positive aspects! Perfectionists have high standards. They tend to be organized and meet their goals." At what point does perfectionism go bad? “When you set unrealistically high goals and, when you can't reach them, become plagued with self-doubt," Hamilton says. If you're constantly questioning whether you're good enough, you could have a problem.
“Some people are perfectionists only in certain activities. For others, it permeates who they are," adds Carly Goldstein, a postdoctoral fellow at Alpert Medical School at Brown University and The Miriam Hospital. “Training to be a performer can be such an all-consuming process that feelings of inadequacy in one area can bleed outward: Having a bad dance class can make you feel bad at everything."
Watch for Symptoms
Not every perfectionist will experience the same issues. For Kleinjans, perfectionism was an emotional roller coaster. “Some days, I really wanted to work to be better. Other times I was like, Why even try? I'm never going to be good enough," she says. Many perfectionists, rather than experiencing up-and-down emotions, get stuck on one end of that spectrum—either pushing themselves so hard they become exhausted and injured, or trying to avoid the dance studio at all costs.
Is your perfectionism driving you to rehearse the same choreography over and over until it's exactly right? You might be at risk for burnout. Do you feel strong anxiety at the thought of making a mistake? You could develop stage fright, or avoid an important audition rather than risk failure. “I've known perfectionists who were so self-critical that they stopped dancing way before their prime," Hamilton says. Pay attention to how perfectionism makes you feel—and what behaviors it inspires.
Understanding your specific perfectionism problem is only half the battle. You also have to take steps to change your mind-set. Here are a few techniques. Try the best-friend test. When you start berating yourself, think, “Would I say this to my best friend?" “If your friend had an off day, would you tell her she had no talent and should quit dance?" Hamilton asks. “Of course not!" Recognizing how harsh you're being can help you stop harmful self-talk.
Distance yourself from your thoughts. Do you have a nasty inner voice that chimes in when things get hard? Goldstein suggests giving that voice a silly name. “Let's say you keep falling out of your turns," she says. “Your inner voice might tell you, 'You'll never get it right. You should just skip the rest of class.' But if you think, 'That's not me talking—it's the World's Worst Motivational Speaker,' you can see how those thoughts both aren't true and aren't helpful."
Put your struggles in perspective. It might feel like you'll never nail that triple pirouette—but is that really true? Instead of thinking in black-and-white terms, spend time in the gray. Remember how far you've progressed in your training to even be attempting such a difficult step. Consider that your favorite professional dancers once couldn't do triples either—and that they have moves that frustrate them now.
Avoid comparisons. “Put blinders on and work on you," recommends Nashville Ballet dancer Mollie Sansone, who struggled with perfectionism for years. In a ballet world seemingly filled with perfect bodies, she agonized over her less-than-perfect turnout and feet. But after getting so discouraged that she considered quitting, Sansone regained self-confidence by homing in on her strengths rather than her weaknesses. “Focus on what you have to give," she says. “I'm a good turner. I'm good at petit allégro. I connect with the audience. I took those qualities and ran with them."
In addition to reframing your negative thoughts, you can combat perfectionism by surrounding yourself with a strong support system. “When you're starting down a path that's destructive, it's important to catch it early," Hamilton says. Talking to a teacher, mentor, parent or therapist can ease your burden. “It's impossible to be perfect," says Ballet Spartanburg's Nichola Montt. “There's always something to work on! The most successful dancers are the ones who can accept their flaws and mistakes and learn from them. Then you can grow as an artist."