The "Breadless" Ballerina
As a little girl, my dream was to be a beautiful ballerina.
(I’m the redhead on the right.)
I would twirl around the house for hours wearing a sparkly crown and fluffy tutu. As I got older, the training became much more rigorous. Hours were spent at the dance studio perfecting grande jetes and pirouettes. Many nights dinner was a hurried affair consisting of a submarine sandwich or bran muffin from the corner bakery. At the time these foods provided the instant energy my young, active body craved in a convenient, readily available form.
Now, many years later, I look back and wonder: How does a dancer with Celiac Disease handle the demands of his or her craft while maintaining a gluten-free diet?
Enter Jaime Thompson, a professional dancer and dance instructor living and working in New York.
I “sat down” with Jaime (via the world wide web) to discuss her career, her gluten-free survival tips, and even her favorite recipes.
Jaime began dancing at the age of 5. In 2003, she graduated from the prestigious Boston Conservatory with a Bachelor of Fine Arts, but it wasn’t until 2007 that she was diagnosed with Celiac Disease. “…It completely changed my life and career”, she says. “I have struggled to maintain an appropriate dancers weight my entire life. After becoming gluten-free my body has changed drastically. It is easier to control my weight and my body is much more toned.”
A typical day for Jaime, involves traveling into Manhattan for a dance class, followed by a rehearsal or performance. But that is only the beginning of her day. She then hops on a train to Long Island to teach anywhere from 3 to 5 dance classes a day. This hectic schedule can make it difficult to find nutritious, gluten-free food options. So, what does Jaime do? “My solution is to pack my lunch and tons of snacks. I try to eat naturally gluten-free foods on the go.”
Her favorite, energy packed snacks include:
- Energy Bars (Jaime recommends KIND Bars)
While all this planning can be “overwhelming at times”, Jamie refuses to see her Celiac Disease as a limitation. “I feel so much better on a day to day basis…. Also, it has raised awareness in my own family, and now, family members who have struggled with stomach problems for years are getting tested, adjusting their diets, and seeing improvements in their daily lives.”
Finally, I had to ask, what is your all time FAVORITE gluten-free recipe? Without hesitation, Jaime responded with a recipe from The Gluten-Free Gourmet: Comfort Foods cookbook by the amazing Bette Hagman called Kona Chicken. “The smell of the coconut, curry, and orange juice makes the kitchen smell amazing while it’s cooking!” This lightly breaded chicken recipe calls for breadcrumbs that you can make at home from the end pieces of your favorite Udi’s gluten-free bread!
In closing, I asked Jaime if she had any advice for young dancers living with Celiac Disease or Gluten Intolerance. “I think the main thing is to do your research… to figure out what [foods] work for you.”
Thank you, Jaime! I am sure I speak for everyone when I say you are an inspiration. Now, if you will all excuse me, I have a tutu that is long over due for some twirling.