Camilla Dallerup

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The fomer star of Strictly Come Dancing talks about the importance of healthy eating.

Raise Your Game: How important is your diet if you're a dancer?

Camilla Dallerup: Diet is very important for a dancer. It's important no matter what job you do. You realise that as you get older. To stay alert in the mind and to feel good in your body you've got to fuel it with the right kind of food.

RYG: How did you come to have such a balanced diet?

CD: I used to eat a lot of crisps when I was younger. Then I realised that they didn't give me enough fuel to carry on with my sport and my dancing. A nutritionist said to me 'What about nuts?' If you eat healthy options, like bananas, then you don't actually feel like all the bad stuff.

I say to myself 'If I have a lot of good stuff, I can have a little bit of the bad stuff too.' Chocolate is the one thing I'll never cut out of my diet. That's okay because I eat a lot of vegetables, fruit and nuts. I always carry nuts with me instead of crisps. You've got to carry something with you that's healthy.

RYG: What sort of nuts do you eat?

Profile

Name:
Camilla Dallerup

From:
Aalborg, Denmark

Game:
Professional Dancer

Achievements:

  • Two time semi-finalist on Strictly Come Dancing
  • Second place - UK Closed Championships (2005)
  • Asia Pacific Pro Champion
  • New Zealand Pro Champion

CD: I started with salted nuts, but they're not very healthy. You've got to train yourself to just eat plain nuts. After a while, when you're used to eating things like apricots, dates or plain nuts, you don't even feel like crisps and sweets.

RYG: Do you eat healthy snacks instead of meals, or alongside them?

CD: I eat healthy snacks alongside meals. I'm always hungry around 5 o'clock when it's too early for dinner, so I'll have a healthy option like a banana, light cake, cashew nuts or almonds. I also have dates if I feel like something sweet. Dates are brilliant. If you get used to eating healthy food, it's not boring. I used to think cashew nuts without salt were boring! Now I love eating healthily because I feel better in myself, my skin is better and I feel that I've got more energy.

You need to find your own healthy diet and lifestyle. I'm Danish but I love the Italian way of eating. Try a few options and see what suits you. I'm very lucky with my metabolism. I don't need to think about weight loss or anything like that. For me it's purely about how I feel within myself, how my skin is. I like feeling fit and strong, and when I eat right, I feel good.

RYG: When you're dancing you must use so much energy - do you have to keep refuelling?

CD: I've got to keep eating because I burn so many calories, especially when Strictly Come Dancing is on. When I'm on tour with Strictly I have to eat twice as much as normal to keep my weight stable.

You've got to make sure that the number of calories you consume is equal to what you burn off through exercise. If you sit in an office all day, you've got to think about that when you're deciding what to eat. You could even walk to work, or do a sport in your spare time, but find something that you enjoy.

RYG: Do you do exercise as well as dancing, such as going to the gym?

CD: Running is a passion of mine. I don't know why, but I love to be out in the fresh air. When Strictly Come Dancing is on, I don't do extra training because that's enough. When I'm in my normal routine I only dance three times a week. Sometimes I go to the gym, sometimes I go for a run. I also love walking very fast with my iPod on, listening to my favourite music.

RYG: What sort of exercises do you do at the gym?

CD: Whenever I exercise I find things that I enjoy. If it's boring I just won't do it. If I go to the gym I might do some yoga or go for a run. I've got a routine that I feel comfortable with. I go to the gym for an hour, if I had to stay for longer than that I'd never do it.

RYG: How do you structure that hour?

CD: I run for 20 minutes, then I spend five minutes on the Stairmaster. I love the rowing machine because it's really good for the arms. It keeps you strong and fit. I do some sit-ups and a few weights.

I stick to very simple routines. I'm not into complicated routines. I need something I can remember without having a script next to me. Then it becomes a habit to do it, and you'll start to enjoy it. I always take my iPod and play music that works for me. If I go there without music I can't be bothered.

RYG: You've got an extremely hectic lifestyle, How do you fit in dance and exercise whilst taking regular breaks for meals?

CD: When we're touring with Strictly Come Dancing, we're travelling up and down the motorway and it's hard to fit in regular meals. When we first started I didn't take it seriously until my body started feeling very tired, and fatigued. You end up getting colds all the time. I sat down with my dance partner and said 'We need to do something, we need to respect our bodies more.' My body is a tool for my job and I need it.

Now, wherever I am, I will have a lunch break. If I'm driving up and down a motorway I will find a place to stop for a proper lunch. I will drive for 10 extra miles if I need to, just to get something healthy. On Strictly we schedule in breakfast, lunch and dinner. Without that we can't do our jobs. We'll end up with injuries and won't be able to perform.

RYG: Lots of youngsters skip breakfast and don't eat anything until lunchtime, would you recommend that?

CD: The worst thing you can do when you're trying to lose weight or stay fit is to not eat. When you do eat your body will store more as fat because you're starving it of energy. What you need to do is start your system as soon as you get up. Have a healthy option like muesli, fruit or porridge. I often eat porridge in the winter and fruit in the summer.

You need something to start the system, because otherwise you won't burn it off, you'll store it as fat. I've got a lot of friends who don't have breakfast and they're always complaining about their weight. Even if it's an apple, or if it's a banana, start your system in the morning. That way you get your metabolism firing. I couldn't imagine my life without breakfast.

RYG: You're given a celebrity dance partner on Strictly - how do you help them with their diet?

CD: I help my Strictly partners' diet by pushing my regime onto them (laughs). It didn't take Gethin Jones long to bring me in a smoothie in the morning, because he knew that I loved them, and then he started drinking them as well. He was quite healthy anyway and he always had breakfast. For him it was natural to break for lunch and dinner, so we made sure we did that. We managed to get all the way to the semi-final feeling fit, strong and still being alert.

RYG: James Martin's a wonderful chef, how did he cope when you made him eat healthily?

CD: James Martin has changed a lot since Series 3. We're dancing together on the tour and I asked him the other day if he still eats donuts, and apparently he doesn't. If you cut out all the bad stuff and replace it with good stuff you start wanting the good stuff instead, because it makes you feel healthier and fitter.

RYG: Why do you think there's such a problem with obesity in this country?

CD: Obesity and people being unfit is a huge problem. I blame the fact that unhealthy food is so easily available. If you want to eat healthy, you've got to plan.

I always carry a lot of healthy stuff around with me. If I go to the supermarket I'll pick up a bag of nuts or apricots that I can eat between meals. You can ask anyone on Strictly, in my changing room I always have a bag of healthy options. It's just simple planning, bring some stuff from home otherwise you'll end up eating crisps and chocolate.

RYG: There's a fast food culture in Britain, but people say that's because people are busier than they ever have been, what do you think?

CD: How long does it take to make a salad or boil a bit of pasta? Not long at all. If you shop correctly when you're out and make sure you always have onions, tomatoes, pasta and salad, you can rustle something up in five minutes.

RYG: What do you cook when you come in from a long, hard day?

CD: When I want something quick I prepare a bit of salad, a bit of pasta or rice and some chicken. You can season it any way you like - one day with chilli, one day with tomatoes and onions. It's ready in about five minutes and it's really healthy. I much prefer that to fast food.

RYG: Do you have any suggestions for young people who want to break out of these habits, what could inspire them to start eating properly?

CD: I think they need to watch those programmes where they test people and show them what they'll look like in 10 years time if they don't change their diet. Then they'll see how much rubbish there is in these ready meals. I think that's a wake-up call for everyone. Maybe we should all have some kind of health MOT! (laughs).

RYG: We've talked about obesity being a problem, is it important to not go too far the other way and be too thin?

CD: I think magazines and papers are to blame because it's all about size zero. We're all different and I think that's what is beautiful about this world - that we don't all look the same. Some of my colleagues have got curvier bodies than me, and I think they look amazing.

For me, Lilia Kopylova from Strictly Come Dancing has the perfect body. I look at her and think she's perfectly distributed. She's toned and she's got that gorgeous Latin look. She's not a size zero but she's stunning.

If someone walks past you, it doesn't matter what size they are, if they carry themselves with pride you think 'Wow, she's beautiful.' Being a Latin dancer with my shape wasn't fantastic. I used to think 'If only I had a bit more meat on my body I would look great doing the cha cha cha.'

As long as you're fit it doesn't matter what size you are. You need to exercise so that you're healthy in your body and your mind.

Forget the word diet. I'm so bored with that word, eat healthy and eat often. Respect yourself, get out there, exercise with your friends and have fun.

RYG: How difficult is it to be a professional dancer?

CD: There are still things I'm trying to perfect after 30 years, so it's not easy. That's what keeps us alert as dancers. When you're dancing with another person and you're trying to get your bodies to move across the floor together it can be very hard. When I go to work with my professional partner, I get to hang out with my best friend and we laugh a lot. That's what makes my job so much fun.

RYG: Why should people dance?

CD: It changes the way you carry yourself and boosts your confidence.

RYG: When you have a new partner on Strictly that hasn't danced before, how do you build up their confidence?

CD: Building up confidence is something that I really value. I find it exciting because I think there's a performer in everyone. With Gethin it took me quite a few weeks to find that side of him, because he was shy. It was the same with James Martin. Little by little, with encouragement and hard work, you'll get there.

RYG: People say the most daunting part of getting fit is making a start - what advice would you give to them?

CD: A lot of people say to me 'You've got a fast metabolism and you're slim, you don't have to worry.' I've worked on my body for the last 30 years. I use my body for my work so I treat it well. I train hard and I try to eat good food, but it's still hard work. If I sat down for a week and didn't go for a run, my body would start screaming 'Take me for a run, do something.' You get used to the discipline of exercise and your body likes to be used for sport.

RYG: How good is dance as a form of fitness?

CD: Dance gives you an all-over workout because you use your brain as well as your body. You engage your brain when you dance because you're always multitasking. You've got to think about timing, steps and having a partner. Dance works the mind as well as the body.


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