Diet Secrets of a 'Dancing With the Stars' Instructor: Meet Ms. Chelsie Hightower
First chosen for Team USA's prestigious dance team and international competitions, then Fox's "So You Think You Can Dance", Hightower, now 21, has spent the past few years whirling around stage on ABC's "Dancing With the Stars", teaching the likes of "The Bachelor"'s Jake Pavelka, Michael Bolton, and rodeo star Ty Murray how to shake it like a pro.
She recently co-starred in two new "Dancing With the Stars" exercise DVDs, "Fat-Burning Cardio Dance" and "Ballroom Buns & Abs" (hi, we're totally getting that), so we wanted to find out how, behind-the-scenes, Chelsie stays healthy and what she eats to give her the energy for all that moving and shaking.
In between dance appearances -- and seasons of DWTS -- she gave us the skinny, though we're not sure we could ever be quite this disciplined. OK, maybe, if like Chelsie, we were prepping for our appearance in the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue...
MyDaily: You're in great shape. Other than your dancing, how do you stay so healthy?
Chelsie Hightower: For me, growing up as a dancer, among dancers, we're always looking in the mirror. So, since I'm 15, I've always taken notice of what's good for me and what isn't. I've been doing it a long time, even though I'm only 21. I know I can't tell myself "I can't have this, can't have that" or else I'll want to run out for it. I keep small portions.
Do you ever try to actively lose weight or diet?
When I want to really cut back and lose weight, I'll cut out some food groups. I'll cut carbs, except whole wheat, all dairy, all sugar ... I'm eating everything, just not those few items. Then I feel like I can have whatever I want, in the remaining categories. It's how I trick my brain into thinking I can still eat whatever I want but still eat healthy. I'll do that for, like, two months.
If I really want to slim down even quicker, I've done a liquid diet. I once dropped six pounds within three days, which I'm sure was mostly water weight. It was mostly just organic juices. I'd juice celery and carrots –- real fruit and real vegetables -- and drink that, plus organic fruit juices.
I didn't mind it. I didn't use any preservatives or sugar, just straight juice. But when you have that goal in the back of your mind, you don't think about how it tastes, you just want to get there.
What worked best, in the end?
Cutting back on dairy, carbs and sugar -- basically eating vegan, with whole wheat carbs, tofu and soy meat, salads, fruits, vegetables. It's easy in L.A., since there's a lot of vegan places around here, and makes it a lot easier on me. It made me feel so energized and light and clean.
Why not stick with a vegan diet all the time?
It's hard when you're traveling. You can't find those foods everywhere. I'm never in one place more than three days. It is something I plan to stick to at one point when I'm able to settle down.
Did you feel any pressure before you shot the cover of Fitness or when you were recently featured in the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue?
I felt definite pressure for Sports Illustrated, because you're in a magazine with these models. That's when I did the hardcore food-group cutback. We shot it a year ago in February. Then with Fitness, I didn't have much time. I lost probably 10 pounds, and at least 5 of it was water weight. I was eating a lot less, since it felt so good, I didn't want to take in more than what my body needed. I was eating at least half of what I was used to.
I've trained myself to stick to water. Soda is so bad for you. Juice is just extra calories you don't need, and it doesn't quench your thirst.
Did you ever follow any diets that you didn't like, or that weren't good for you?
Even if I wanted to be anorexic, I couldn't. I enjoy food too much. I have taken appetite suppressant pills, but most don't work and it's not healthy. The way to be most successful is just to be super-healthy. No sugars. Organic -- everything should fuel my body and not harm it. I've had a great mom who has been great at steering me in that direction, with good body image. Dancers always stare at our bodies in leotards, thinking about our bodies in every way possible, when in reality dancers have great bodies. It's a weird world that we grew up with. I've been pretty good at being healthy with my body.
What's your secret food habit?
Snacking. If it's not on my plate, the calories don't count, even on Thanksgiving and Christmas. That'd be my biggest downfall since I'm young. I nibble on anything good that I see. Mostly chocolate, and cheese and crackers.
When you've worked with your various dance partners on "Dancing With the Stars," did you ever have to coach them on their eating habits, in addition to dancing, so that they were strong enough to make it through DWTS?
I'm always encouraging people to bring snacks to rehearsal, especially with guys since their metabolism is so high. We're in studios for six, seven, eight hours per day. That's working out more than ever in their lives, except for Ty who was used to it. They're constantly moving every part of their body. I encouraged them to eat every two to three hours. Jake would have to do that or he would get so grumpy. I told them not to come without healthy snacks, preferably without preservatives.
What are your favorites?
Lara Bars. They're gluten-free and really clean. Fruits and vegetables, like apples and bananas, are great when you're working out. And granola bars too.
Stephanie Jo Klein is a New York-based freelance writer who contributes to MyDaily.com and Shape.com. She once tried a 3-day juice fast, but became incredibly grumpy and went out for Chinese food by the end of day two.
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Tags: celebrity diets, CelebrityDiets, chelsie hightower, ChelsieHightower, dancing with the stars, DancingWithTheStars, so you think you can dance, SoYouThinkYouCanDance, what celebrities eat, WhatCelebritiesEat
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