Me and My Health: Darcey Bussell

Darcey Bussell, 34, is a principal dancer with the Royal Ballet. She started dancing when she was five and joined the Royal Ballet School at 13. She lives in London with her husband and two children

Were you a healthy child?

I always had too much energy as a child so I suppose that that helps keep you healthy. I think I ate well – as a child I was a total cereal fanatic. Though equally I did live on tinned ravioli and fishfingers and mash, which are not really the healthiest of things.

Would you say that you are a healthy person?

I suppose I have been unconsciously healthy. I’ve never smoked and I don’t drink tea or coffee. I’ve also always eaten quite well – though there are of course horrible things like diet cola that that I sometimes feel I can’t live without.

Do you have to watch what you eat?

I haven’t a clue how many calories I eat a day. As a dancer, it is terribly important to eat a lot as you burn food off so quickly. People think that we’re so thin because we don’t eat, but it’s the exercise – a single performance can be three hours long. The only restriction on your eating is that you can’t eat too close to a show – being thrown around with a full stomach is not nice!

What raises your emotional blood pressure?

The only thing that really irritates me is people wasting time. When you have two children, you suddenly become very conscious that time is so precious.

How do you cope with stress?

On the night before a performance I will have a long hot bath with Epsom salts. Epsom salts are actually for constipation when you swallow them, but dancers bathe in them as they relax muscles brilliantly.

What are your favourite foods?

I love Italian food – so a really yummy bowl of Italian pasta, followed by a chocolate mousse is perfect for me. I do love chocolate!

Are you allowed to drink?

I do drink alcohol, though not in the week. I do love a glass of red – and I don’t think that is a bad thing. And I would never turn down a glass of champagne.

How did you cope with your pregnancy?

I performed for the first three months – I felt fine and they say if you feel all right just to go for it. After that I just took class, which is for an hour and a quarter every day. It was quite difficult going from such a hectic schedule to that. Luckily, when I was pregnant the second time we were doing up our house, so I was totally preoccupied with that. But I was at a bit of a loss.

Would you say that dancing is a healthy occupation?

No! I think it’s totally unnatural. The sort of lines that you must hold are extremely unnatural and ballet is very athletic and physical, so much more than it ever used to be. You are really pushing your body to the extreme. You will always have some ache or strain but because you put yourself through it so often you become a bit numb to it. Dancers actually have a very high pain threshold.

What’s in your medicine cabinet?

I have to say I am a fan of ibuprofen as it is an anti- inflammatory – though I would only really take it before I go to bed. I wouldn’t take it during the day as obviously it is a painkiller as well, so you can’t gauge what you are doing.

Do you use any alternative remedies?

I do believe in acupuncture and I always go to an osteopath. When I had an operation last year on my ankle to treat my bone spurs I used vitamin E oil to help the scarring.