How to Crush Your Fitness Goals When Performing on Cruise Ships

Performing on a cruise ship is a pretty sweet gig.

You get to do what you love while exploring the world. No rent. Free food. Plenty of downtime to hang out and work on personal projects.

And oh yeah… you’re getting a paycheck that’s probably double or triple what the local theatre production of Mama Mia is paying.

I’m a realist to my core, so I need to tell you that performing on a cruise ship isn’t all shimmies and sunshine.

You live with your coworkers (drama WILL ensue).

There are loads of nonsensical ship rules that you have to follow.

And you’ll encounter some serious roadblocks to your health and fitness goals.

One day you’re a starving artist hustling through the streets of *insert city here but probably NYC.*

Next you’re a contracted employee with a stable income, cheap booze, unlimited free food, and loads of free time.

There are hot pancakes and bacon every morning?

Wine for $2 a glass? I can stay up until 2 am without worrying about the A train not working or that 6 am alarm?

Next thing you know, you’re stepping onto a scale for weigh-ins*, and the wardrobe manager is whipping out the dreaded tape measurer.

*The industry is rapidly changing to accept all shapes and sizes.

However, whatever body size you are when you’re fitted for costumes is the size you need to maintain.

The costumes need to fit, and it’s often cheaper for them to send out someone new than have a new costume made.

How do I know all of this? Well, I’ve experienced it.

Maybe It’s Time to Introduce Myself…

Hi. I’m Katie!

I was born and raised in Staunton, VA and a wannabe competition kid throughout my youth. (I say wannabe because the team didn’t go to many competitions… maybe 3-5 a year.)

A member of said competition team with the fearless founder of DWL herself! Dance was my life, love, and passion, so I pursued it in college.

I graduated in 2015 with a BFA in dance and BS in economics from George Mason University.

I proceeded to dance professionally across the tri-state area, across the country, and across the world.


Which segues us back to ships….

I’ve spent 21 months performing on cruise ships. And an additional three months (and counting) at sea as a partner on board. (My fiancé works on ships, and I’m currently sailing with him around Africa!)

My first contract was a trainwreck in terms of fitness and wellness.

Recall those pancakes and $2 glasses of wine I mentioned earlier.

Well… that was my life.

Food-wise, I was going ham on the buffet because I had just spent three months needing to budget for every single item in my grocery cart.

Booze-wise, I was living out the college days I never got to have because of my double degree workload.

Sprinkle on pasta and gelato in port because my contract was in the Mediterranean.

The next thing I know, I’m 10 lbs heavier, and that dreaded tape measure is being wrapped around my legs.

I was mortified.

So, I went on a crash diet. Nearly zero carbs and no alcohol, coupled with skipping meals and an intense gym routine.

I lost the weight.

But I also lost so many amazing experiences in Spain, Italy, and Greece because I was so obsessed with everything I was putting in my body.

Then BAM. Hamstring strain.

No more gym, and no more willpower to live on chicken, egg whites, and vegetables.

Surprise! I gained the weight back just as the contract came to an end.

My second contract was also a trainwreck, but in a different way.

I walked onto the Konningsdam with an intense fear of gaining weight.

Instead of having a coach and a plan, I restricted carbs, and I told myself that a quest protein bar was acceptable as a meal.

I lost weight and was super lean and fit.

Everyone told me how great I looked, which further fueled the fear of weight gain.

Here’s the thing, I WAS enjoying alcohol from time to time and I WAS enjoying food in the Baltic.

Plus, I was lifting heavy things and getting stronger.

At the time, I truly believed I was making smart choices and being “healthy.”

In hindsight, I see that I wasn’t treating my body kindly.

Which brings me to my third contract (and beyond…)

After taking a year off from ships, I headed to the Westerdam with a coach in my pocket (oh HEY DWL!) and much more knowledge about fitness, health, and nutrition (during my year off from sea, I was working as a fitness professional in NYC while auditioning and performing around the tri-state area.)

I FINALLY cracked the code on how to turn cruise ship goal-busters into goal-boosters to live a well-balanced life.

Which is what I’m here to chat with you about!

I’m sharing the top tips and tricks I’ve learned over my time performing on a cruise ship to help you walk off that gangway for the final time happy and confident.

First things first, set your goals and/or wellness bench markers you want to reach/maintain during your contract.

While they can be aesthetic, I personally have found much more happiness and success when I set intrinsic and performance-based goals instead.

Everyone’s goals will be different!

Think long and hard about yours and write them down. Maybe it’s to deadlift 1.5x your body weight. Maybe it’s to get 8 hours of sleep every night.

Maybe it’s the ability to enjoy a great meal without food guilt….

My current stint onboard is 52 days (35 days in at the time of writing this…), and I set 4 goals.

  1. Smith Machine Sumo Deadlift: 150lbs, 5 sets of 5 reps
  2. 3 Point Row: 45lbs, 5 sets of 5 reps
  3. 150 minutes of cardio every week. (I LOVE strength training, but since I’ve retired from dancing, I haven’t kept up my cardiovascular health. Getting that endurance back has been a rewarding challenge! A mini goal within in this was to run 3 miles without stopping…. check!)
  4. Write 30 minutes (for myself/The Frugal Foodies) every single day. (A mini goal within this is two blog posts a week for

And here are my personal benchmarkers for checking in with my mental and physical wellness…

  • Monthly Period: Me and my period have a rocky history. Getting it every month is one of my primary benchmarkers of total body health.
  • Shiny Nails
  • Sleep Quality

Now let’s get into 3 rules of ship life that will help you conquer whatever goals you might have set.

Rule #1: Prioritize Nutrition on the Ship, Enjoy Yourself When You’re on Your Trips!

The Cruise Ship Goal Buster: Free, endless food with no nutrition labels and no way to count macros.

The Cruise Ship Goal Booster: Free, micro nutrient-dense food is available every day! No meal prep, no $$$$ required!

You are a smart performer who already knows what a well balanced, fueling meal looks like.

The problem is that life gets in the way. Callbacks, getting asked to do a double, getting stuck on the A train for 30 minutes, and deciding to hop into a class last minute makes it really freaking hard to meal prep, cook, and stick to your well-crafted plan.

Those problems don’t exist on ships. And being on contract is your perfect opportunity to zone in on how you fuel your body.

“Okay cool… but Katie… there are no nutrition labels!!!! How do I approach the Lido?! Those goal busters are pretty brutal….”

You’re a savvy Dancer Who Lifts! It’s all about creating your “Lido Meal Plan” and sticking to it!

I am not qualified to give nutrition advice and I highly recommend working with someone who is.

However, I’m going to share what type of Lido Meal Plan works.

I joke that I eat every single meal out of a bowl… and it’s true. I do! So I’m officially coining it as “The Bowl Method.”

I start at the salad bar with a big bowl of raw veggies (micro-nutrients…check!) along with chicken or turkey (protein…check!).

Then I make my way over to the hot line and choose a protein that has minimal sauce (because we heart protein), whatever cooked veggies they have because they usually have oil on them (more micro-nutrients+fats… check!), and rice (carb… check!)

Then I dump the plate into the bowl, mix it all together, and dig in.

This method is what leaves me feeling energized and fueled.

Bonus Tips!!!

  • Having protein powder in your room makes it easier to reach your protein goals. (I put some in a little baggy and add it to my oatmeal for breakfast)
  • Counting macros isn’t for everyone… BUT doing it for a month or two can teach you how to guestimate your meals if you need a less intuitive, more concrete approach.

I prioritize my “Lido Meal Plan” on board to enjoy the amazing foodie opportunities in port!

Nutrition is like budgeting.

You have your allowance of carbs, fats, and proteins for the day, and it’s up to you to decide how to spend it.

Personally, I love new food experiences and trying cultural eats.

So, I take on the Lido with a “food is fuel” mindset, prioritizing micro-nutrients, whole foods, and protein.

And I save 20-30% of my budget as “fun funds” out in port.

(You can check out my blog and follow me on insta @the.frugal.foodies)

This approach makes me feel and perform my best while getting to fully enjoy new cultures free of food guilt because I trust my budget and know it works.

Rule #2: If You Booze, You Lose

The Cruise Ship Goal Buster: Cheap, plentiful alcohol.

The Cruise Ship Goal Booster: The occasional drink is a great way to socialize with the cast and crew without needing to spend a lot.

It’s pretty rewarding to sip on a bougie $3 cocktail by the pool in the middle of winter when just a year ago, you were lining up at 4 am for an open call.

It’s SO EASY to find yourself at the bar with tequila soda #3 sitting in front of you for the 3rd night in a row.

Booze is cheap, you don’t have to worry about how you’ll get home, and hanging out at the bar is a fun social outlet.

But excessive alcohol is going to take a toll on your goals.

Not only do liquid calories add up, but they also might encourage you to buy a bag of chips.

Or go up to late night at the Lido for a snack (that’s likely fried).

It also effs up how your body feels the next morning.

That hangover might make those pancakes and bacon extra tasty, and it might make you skip your gym session.

It also might make you sad, emotional, and feel unstable.

Here’s the thing, being social is fun, and there’s nothing wrong with the occasional drink.


Tips That Have Worked for Me to Fight the Booze Blues:

  • Sticking to/switching to sparkling water with a lime or a diet soda. It wards off those annoying, “Why aren’t you drinking?!?!” conversations that could peer pressure me into adding some vodka. It also gives my body time to register how I’m feeling.
  • Suggesting a game or movie night instead.
  • Surrounding myself with friends who are more likely to get up at 6 am for a day of exploring than closing the bar. This one is HUGE. Choosing an inner circle of people who share your ideals and have similar goals and habits make a world of difference.
  • Turning 29 years old…. The hangover just isn’t worth it!

Rule #3: Move Your Body to Stay a Bad Ass Hottie

The Cruise Ship Goal Buster: The more time you have, the less you get done.

The Cruise Ship Goal Booster: You have so much time! Create a movement schedule and stick to it.

In land life, you’re on the go, running from an audition to work, to class, and maybe even to the gym.

In ship life, it’s shockingly easy to stay in bed all day binging a tv show you snagged from someone’s hard drive.

“Get up and get moving!”

Lifting weights, moving your body, getting your heart rate up, and mobility is essential for your physical and mental well-being.

They are also important components of cross-training for avoiding injuries and tackling hard shows with ease.


Tips That Have Worked for Me:

  • Going to the gym at the same time every training day.
  • “Smart Girl” podcast walks on the outer deck (learning something new + fresh air + movement = a home run!)
  • Stairs > Elevator (My uphill endurance for challenging hikes has REALLY improved…just saying.)
  • Add in fun bonus movement sessions every week: give yourself a dance class.

Maybe your gal pal Allison is a yoga teacher. Perhaps you join the passengers for an AM spin class.

Remember… moving your body is supposed to be FUN.

“Move More, Drink Less, and Eat Smart.”

These are simple rules that will set you up for success. But, as you probably know, it’s not that easy.’


Here are two principles to help you stick to the rule book.

  1. Create Productive Habits Early, and Crush Your Goals; you Will do Surely
  2. Crushing your goals all comes down to creating sustainable habits.

If you aim to get more sleep, perhaps you create the habit of going to bed at 11 pm and waking up at 7 am.

If your goal is to get super strong, perhaps you create the habit of going to the gym at 4 pm every single training day.

If you aim to maintain your technique, perhaps you create the habit of warming up with a ballet barre before every show.

If your goal is to minimize stress, perhaps you create the habit of meditating every day for 10 minutes.

You get the picture!

Crash diets don’t work. And neither do crash habits.

Some gurus say it takes 21 days to form a habit; others say 66 days. One thing is clear: habits

don’t happen overnight. Take time to really pinpoint what habits you want to build, then add

them into your daily routine one at a time.

“Mindfulness is Key”

“Mindfulness” is one of those hot topic words that’s ironically thrown around in mindless ways.

However, once the meaning of being mindful clicked for me, I experienced so many positive changes in my life.

To me, mindfulness means having intention and being aware of what I say and do, and constantly checking in with myself by asking,

“Why am I doing/writing/posting/eating/drinking/etc. this and how does it serve me?”

Simple in concept but complicated in practice.

This fast-paced world throws overwhelming amounts of stimuli and information at us that disrupt the ability to be in tune with our bodies and minds.

It’s also easy to get caught up in doing things that we believe SHOULD serve us instead of assessing what things ACTUALLY serve us.


Ships are the perfect place to start being mindful of mindfulness.

There are fewer outside stimuli to pull you away from your original intention and more time to really think about and digest what said intentions are.

Plus, the internet tends to be slow, which means less social media scrolling.

Personally, this really helps me stop comparing myself to others to weed out those pesky “shoulds.”


Whether you’re at the gym, at the bar, in Lido, or hanging out with friends, take a second to

pinpoint your intentions and ask yourself, “Why am I doing this?” You’ll quickly realize what’s

serving you and what’s not.


Eat smart, move more, drink less, create productive habits, and do it all mindfully.

These principles will help you crush your ship goals so you can have an amazing contact and walk off that gangway feeling confident and ready to take on whatever is next.



Well, Isn’t That Handy?!

Let’s talk about tracking our food. For a lot of people, tracking food can be a challenging habit to create. And, despite it being an excellent and precise tool for following a nutrition plan, sometimes it’s necessary to take a break from the app. But just because we aren’t using a fancy app doesn’t mean we need to give up on tracking our macros. In fact, one of the easiest ways to track your macros is with something you already have: your hand!  

It’s true; the appropriate serving sizes for your macros for each meal can be measured by looking at your hand. And the best thing is, your hands come with you everywhere–how handy!

All jokes aside, the fact that these measuring tools come with you everywhere is a huge plus. This way, when you’re out to eat or not able to weigh your food with a scale, you’re still able to get a good idea of what you’re consuming. Another perk about using your hands is that they are a consistent size and are scaled to the individual. Bigger people with larger macro needs will have bigger hands for larger portion sizes and vice versa. The main thing is, tracking your food this way is effective and simple. So let’s get started!

Let’s focus on protein first.

One serving of protein should be about the size of your palm. This will be about 20-30 grams, or four ounces, of protein. This could be chicken, eggs, greek yogurt, or any protein; the goal is to have one or two of these “palm-sized” portions per meal. 

Next, let’s tackle our vegetables.

While veggies aren’t a “macro” of their own (they fall into the carb category), they are an important part of every meal. They contain important micronutrients and fiber necessary to maintaining a balanced diet. At each of your meals, you’ll want to aim for your serving of non-starchy vegetables to be the size of one balled fist. This could be a side salad or some sauteed broccoli; the important thing here is to measure this in the form they will be eaten. Some veggies shrink when they are cooked – we’re looking at you, spinach– so you want to make sure you’re getting an accurate measurement of what you’re eating.

That brings us to our starchy vegetables and carbohydrates!

Using this hand measuring system, one serving of carbs will fill a cupped hand. So, hold your hand out like you are going to cup water and imagine that it’s full of rice, pasta, mashed potatoes, or whatever your carb is for that meal. Again, we are measuring these things in the form in which they will be eaten- if you measure dried rice in a cupped hand, you’ll find yourself consuming more servings of carbs than you might be aiming for. One cupped hand is usually about 20-30 grams of carbs. 

Finally, we get to our fats.

A good rule of thumb for measuring fats is “the rule of thumb!”  No, seriously, one serving of fats is about the size of your thumb! This is equal to about one tablespoon of cooking oil or 7-12 grams of fat-dense food. Depending on the meal, you’ll want one to two servings. This can be the trickiest because it’s easy to measure with your heart when it comes to olive oil and even harder to realize how much you’re consuming when you’re dunking bread in it at the Italian restaurant. Just remember, any adjustment is better than none. So, give the rule of thumb a try!

This system even works with more processed foods like chips or cookies. Let’s say you’re eating a chocolate chip cookie; look at the size of the cookie and take a look at your cupped hand; how many servings is it? Some cookies might be about one; others could be as large as three! Same with chips. Picture a small handful of salt and vinegar chips; you could count that as about one thumb full (one serving) of fat, OR you could measure it as one cupped hand (one serving) of carbs. You get to decide if you treat it as a carb or fat, depending on the food! 

Next time you need a break from counting your calories or when you’re on vacation and avoiding your phone, try using your hand to keep tabs on your nutrition. You might be surprised by how easy it is to make well-balanced choices with this method in mind! And who knows, maybe you’ll find that keeping track of what you eat doesn’t have to be so hard after all.


xox DWL Team 

PS. Do you want to claim everything that’s already yours– fitness, nutrition, and mindset? Connect with our team of experts and join The Embodied Artist Academy, our personalized coaching program for performers. 

10 Ways to Stay on Track While Eating Out

We’ve all been there.

You’ve been diligent with your nutrition, you’ve been hitting your workouts, and you’re starting to see major results.

Then a friend calls, “Let’s grab dinner this weekend! I heard about this great new spot!” 

You say yes, excited to spend some quality time with good friends, but then the anxiety starts to seep in. There are few things I love more than spending time with the people I love. Going out for a good meal and breaking bread deepens relationships in a way that few other activities can. But when we are in a cut or dialing in our nutrition, going out to eat with friends can easily become stressful.

Well, community is a big part of supporting our mental health, and we know that when our minds and bodies are healthy is when we see the most progress. So, I’ve put together a list of ten things you can do when eating out to ensure you stay on track without sacrificing a night with your friends!

ONE: Don’t save up your calories all day.

It’s true that you want to be mindful of your macros if you’re planning on eating out at a more indulgent meal. But starving yourself leading up to dinner can lead to overindulging. Instead, wake up and have a regular breakfast and lunch. Instead of smaller portions, focus on eating lots of fruits and vegetables with protein to get your macro and micronutrients! This will give you lots of carbs and fats to use at dinner while ensuring that you’re still fueled for your day!

TWO: Look up the menu before you go!

One of the perks of living in the digital age is that you are able to find almost anything online! So, instead of playing the guessing game with your macros, take a look at the menu ahead of time and plan around whatever you’re hoping to order! It also gives you a chance to look at what dishes have more protein and what types of side dishes you could opt for instead of fries. Having these choices mapped out ahead of time can eliminate any stress that going out will knock you off track. 

THREE: Drink plenty of water!

This sounds incredibly simple, but foods from restaurants tend to be higher in sodium, making us feel more dehydrated, which can trigger our hunger signals. Staying hydrated helps us prevent overeating. Plus, staying hydrated will definitely come in handy should you decide to have a glass of wine or cocktail at dinner!

FOUR: Feeling snacky? Have a snack.

We’ve all been there. You get to the restaurant, hungry for a good meal, and the server plops a giant basket of chips and salsa in front of you. Before you know it, you’re salting the second basket and wondering if you even need to order your enchiladas after all. Having a healthy snack before dinner takes the edge off your hunger just enough so you can enjoy the chips without spoiling your supper. 

FIVE: Ask for what you need.

Let’s say you looked at the menu, and the penne a la vodka is calling to you, but it doesn’t have any protein. Ask your server if you can add chicken or shrimp. Nine times out of ten, even if an option for extra protein isn’t listed, a restaurant is happy to add some to any dish if you ask!

SIX: When in doubt, opt for veggies.

Just like when you cook at home, making sure you are getting as many vegetables as possible with your meal is important when you’re eating at a restaurant. Add a side salad, or order one as an appetizer. The best case scenario is you get extra veggies in your diet; the worst case scenario is you fill up on veggies, and you have leftovers of a delicious meal to enjoy the next day!

SEVEN: Get the sauce on the side.

Salads are often over-dressed, and lots of menu items come with any number of sauces. Asking to get the dressing or additional condiments on the side not only can save you some calories but also allows you to add however much or little you like!

EIGHT: If you are worried about controlling your portions, ask for a to-go box.

Restaurant portions are often bigger than normal. Asking for a to-go box right away and putting a bit of your entree in there can help you ensure that you’ll have leftovers for lunch the next day and ensures you will only eat until you’re full. 

NINE: Eat slowly.

Did you know that your first bite of food has a much stronger taste and creates a stronger sensation than each bite after?  It’s so easy to eat quickly, especially when the food is tasty. But try and take the time to actually savor and enjoy your food, noticing the textures and flavors of each bite. This not only helps you slow down and listen to your hunger signals but keeps you present while enjoying your meal. 

TEN: Drink water while you eat.

I get it, the food is so good, and the conversations are flowing; it’s easy to forget to pause and take a sip of water. But stopping and taking a sip of water not only helps you slow down, but it aids in digestion and helps us listen to our bodies when we are full. 

Being stressed about food is not our goal. Having a healthy relationship with food is. Having a healthy relationship with food means that we have the power of choice. If we understand how food fuels us and what we need to reach our goals, we have the power to make choices – even at a restaurant – that get us closer to those goals. So make that reservation, go out, and have a good time! And if you are worried about going off the rails, choose two or three of these tools to keep your anxieties at bay.

You’ve got this!

xox Am 

PS if you want to work with a pro-dancer/ certified personal trainer who can make tailored training, nutrition, and recovery plans for you, you should check out our 1:1 coaching program, The Embodied Artist Academy

Make Your Food Work For YOU – Not the Other Way Around!

You’re ready.

You’ve worked out your calories and macros, you’ve gone grocery shopping, and you’re set to zero in on your nutrition.

The only thing stopping you is figuring out how to map out your meals and macros.

How often should you eat? What if you don’t have time for three sit-down meals in a day?

It’s no secret that dancers’ schedules are not always conducive to what most people consider a “normal” food schedule, and while culturally we talk about having “three square meals a day,” that might not be the best setup for you every day. Between rehearsals, tech weeks, and audition season, our days fluctuate, and staying full throughout the day makes a big difference in how we tackle each day’s unique challenges. Somedays, you might have more time to enjoy three bigger meals. But during those tough rehearsal days and end-to-end auditions, we need to ensure that we have enough fuel to keep us focused and energized, which might mean five to six smaller meals during the day. Yet packing snacks here and there without a plan can lead to lopsided macros that leave you hungry an hour into rehearsal. So, how do we suggest making sure you’re getting what you need? You guessed it: make a plan. 

First things first, take a look at your schedule.

Are you running around town all day, hitting classes, filming auditions, and working your side hustle?

Or are you cleaning the house and working from home?

Next, check in with yourself.

Do you like to eat bigger meals, or do you prefer small meals and snacks?

Maybe a combo of the two?

I tend to prefer three bigger meals and two snacks. This ensures I don’t get too hungry between meals, and I stay fueled for the day ahead. With that in mind, I take a look at my macros, and I divide them up like a budget. I find that it helps to plan out my bigger meals first, making sure I have a good balance of carbs, protein, and fat. These meals usually take up the bulk of my macros. Then, with what’s left, I build in my snacks. The most important thing to remember is – no matter the size of your meal or snack – try to make it as balanced as possible, so your brain and body have all the fuel they need for the tasks ahead!


The best thing about this system is that you don’t have to do the same thing every day. Maybe one day you have a really full schedule, so that day you might focus on having lots of snacks packed for the day and enjoy bigger meals at breakfast and dinner. But let’s say you have the next day off; so, that day, you might have three bigger meals that you can sit and enjoy fully with plenty of time for digestion. The beauty is you get to decide what’s best based on your needs. So, take a look at your schedule and get planning! Once you start making your macros work for you instead of the other way around, you’re not only going to stop worrying about food, but you’ll be hitting those macro goals on a daily! 

What more could a dancer ask for?

xox Am 

PS if you want to work with a pro-dancer/ certified personal trainer who can make tailored training, nutrition, and recovery plans for you, you should check out our 1:1 coaching program, The Embodied Artist Academy

7 Helpful Journal Prompts for Dancers

Ahhh, January. Welcome back old friend.

As the cozy glitter of the holidays fade the reality of audition season, new goals, and deadlines begin to sink in.

You’ve worked hard the past year to get stronger, be more consistent, and maybe you’ve even had an in-person audition again!

But as your list of goals and resolutions add up it can all become a bit overwhelming.

Finding a work life balance can be challenging, especially as the landscapes of our industries continue to change post pandemic. And while this time of year is filled with the hope of new beginnings and inspiration to build better habits, the stress of balancing it all can start to clutter our minds.

That’s why finding a way to declutter and refocus our energy is incredibly important.

Now, if you’re anything like me, the first time you may have journaled was with one of those fuzzy journals from Claire’s with a fluff ball adorned gel pen.

And while writing about my crush on Justin Darlington was a lovely way to pass time, I eventually gave up the hobby.

But, from “The Artist’s Way” to the rise of wellness and gratitude journals, it’s clear that journaling can be an important tool of self care.

In fact, it’s scientifically proven to help people achieve their goals, reduce anxiety and depression, and even boost your immune system by encouraging better sleep!

Trust me, I am guilty of going to my local bookshop and selecting the *perfect* journal, committing to filling it with daily musings and journal entries only to have it sit on my shelves, half full years later.

So, how can we remain inspired to incorporate journaling into our self care routines sustainably? 

First, we have to determine why we are journaling.

Are you hoping to set some goals?

Are you creating a food journal?

Are you starting a gratitude practice?

Maybe you’re trying to process some external stress you’re experiencing in your life.

It’s your journal! You get to decide!

The next question is, how often do you need to write?

The answer to this is simple. It’s up to you.

Studies have shown that you don’t have to journal everyday to experience its positive effects. If writing everyday feels like too big of a commitment, try once a week. If once a week isn’t enough, try twice a week.

The important thing is, like your workouts, you schedule it into your day so it becomes a priority. It doesn’t have to be long either. Dr. Pennebaker, a social psychologist at the University of Texas at Austin, says that spending as little as 15-20 minutes writing can have great benefits.

“But Amber, what do I write about?”

I’m glad you asked.

I have seven prompts that I like to address when journaling. Somedays I pick one and focus on that, other days I write on a few.

There really is no right or wrong way to do this, so pick up your pen and your favorite journal and let’s get started. 


  • What are your three biggest goals and what did you do today to be one step closer to them?

This is one of my favorite prompts when I am really zeroing in on my goals.

Not only does this hold me accountable to daily progress, but it also creates a log of my progress over time that I can look at when I am feeling discouraged. We love a way to encourage ourselves here at DWL and looking back at how far you come is definitely a great way to do that! This also offers you an opportunity to be very specific about your goals. You might find, through journaling your goals, that they change over time. Or, you might find that one goal has led you to another.

Either way, this is the space to be descriptive and specific about what you want and how you plan to achieve it. 

  • What current habits do I have that are good, and what habits do I have that are no longer serving me?

There’s an old saying “Tell me how you spend your time, and I’ll tell you what you value.” This is a tough question to ask yourself, but as you respond to this prompt, take a moment to reflect on your day. What habits are you repeating daily that are moving you closer to your goals? What habits are you repeating that move you farther away?

Remember, goals come in all shapes and sizes; professional goals, relational goals, spiritual goals, physical goals, all of these come together to help you thrive!

  •  Are you living in a way that reflects the person you want to be?

Here’s the thing, as dancers it’s really easy for us to be hyper critical of ourselves. I mean, what other job has you stand in front of a mirror for hours on end? But dancers are also very good at recognizing the excellence in others. So when you ask yourself this question, first, recognize the bits of yourself that you are proud of. Then, take a moment and- just like you are adjusting a passé line or an arabesque- write about the areas you want to adjust or improve upon. And you don’t have to stop there! Feel free to write about how you plan to make those adjustments and if you need help doing so.

  •  In what areas do you need to show yourself more grace?

Here at DWL we talk a lot about goal crushing and planning for success, but we also talk a lot about the importance of being human. The reality is, perfection 100% of the time is not sustainable. But as Amber often says, “Imperfect action beats perfect inaction.” So, for this prompt, reflect on the parts of your day or week where you were frustrated with or hard on yourself and take the time to give yourself some encouragement in that area. Then, map out a way to be more gracious with yourself the next time it happens. 

  • What negative feelings about myself do I need to let go of?

Understanding the negative feelings we have about ourselves is an imperative part of extending grace to ourselves and others. Taking the time to acknowledge our insecurities and where they may come from lessens the power those things have over us. By writing about them we create the space to examine where they stem from, how they are holding us back, and how we might overcome them.

  • What makes you feel whole and peaceful and how can you add more of that to your life?

As athletes we know how important rest and restoration are for seeing physical gains. Well, it should come as no surprise that the same is true for your mind! Take a moment and ask yourself, “When do I feel like the best version of myself?” “When do I feel alive?” “When do I feel whole?” You might be surprised by the answers. When you have those answers, write down some ways you can incorporate those things into your day to day life. Having a moment each day- no matter how big or small- where you feel at peace will only help you in your journey toward reaching your goals. 

  • When do you feel like the best version of you?

This might feel similar to the last question, but it’s a little different. Instead of focusing on things you can add into your day to feel this way, take a moment and think about the times that you already feel like the best version of yourself.

In these moments  we learn what we value most and where and how we’d like to spend our time. Once these things are in focus, it’s much easier to set goals that feel aligned with who you are. 


There you have it, seven prompts to kick start your journal practice.

Choose one and stick with it each time, or, mix and match! Remember, there is no wrong way to do this. The important thing is to just write.

And hey, now that you don’t have to worry about what to write, all you have to do is begin.

Visualization, Manifestation, and Vision Boards. Oh my!

Hey Dancer and Happy New year!

Real quick… let’s play a game. Put a finger down if you’ve already heard (or said) one of the following…

“New Year, New Me.”

“Good things are on the horizon.”

“Celebrate what you want to see more of.”

“In a year, you’ll be glad you started today.”

These are all listed on Google as some of the ‘top most used slogans for the new year,’ and truly, none of these are bad phrases.

Each one has the right idea.

The only problem is, while these slogans may inspire you to set goals, none of them inspire a way to achieve them. I mean, it makes sense.

Pushing people to set new goals will also push people to invest in those new goals. But what if investing in your goals and resolutions wasn’t completely financial? What if the investment was mostly mental?

Visualization and manifestation are tools we can use to achieve precisely what we want– and don’t worry, if either of those words feel a little out of reach for you we are going to break it down with two of my favorite things, science and practicality. 

Visualization has been used by athletes for decades to achieve performance goals. 

You see, when an athlete is practicing visualization, the brain tells the target muscles involved what they need to do to achieve that.

This communication between your brain and your muscles forms a neural pattern in the brain that is exactly the same as the neural pathway needed to physically do that task.


And this science isn’t new.

Alexander Bain of Great Britain was the first scientist to study how these neural pathways are formed and he lived between 1818-1903!

However, it is true that within the last 80 years, the study of the effects of visualization has expanded outside of athletics and into how we train our brains to do nearly anything.

Surgeons, police officers, and more have used visualization to help them master tasks and habits which, in turn, resulted in  less stress and anxiety when performing those tasks.

I don’t know about you, but I would love to not feel panic when a choreographer says the words, ‘triple pirouette.’ I would also love to not feel stressed about saving money. Yes, this works for that too. 

Now that we have visualization down, let’s talk about manifestation.

A lot of people hear this word and tend to roll their eyes because so many people treat it like magic. “Send it to the universe and it will be!” or “Say it once a day and it will happen!”

Well, while the law of attraction is very, very real. It also requires effort. defines manifestation as: the public display of emotion or feeling, or something theoretical made real.”

l like that.

It helps me understand that manifestation happens when you take action on your visualization because you believe it is true. It’s not magic, but it does work. 

For example, when I was a little girl in my white light-up tutu, I would delicately peer around curtains of the wings while  the “big girls” danced in the annual recital.

They looked so beautiful in their pointe shoes and tutus.

I looked up to them so much that I wanted to be a dancer when I grew up.

Now, that’s a lovely desire from a six-year-old, but simply wishing it everyday wasn’t going to magically turn me into a professional dancer. But as a child, I wholeheartedly believed this was going to be the case for me.

In fact, one time in the fourth grade I felt like people were associating me too much with theatre so I wrote a poem about ballet to prove my love of the artform.

This is obviously a silly example, but I believed that how I spoke about dancing and how I portrayed myself to the world would contribute to my becoming a professional dancer.

And guess what? It did.

Instead of “I want to be a dancer when I grow up” it was “I’m going to be a dancer when I grow up.”

And, because it was a priority to me, it became a priority to my family and loved ones.

When we couldn’t afford classes I spoke with my instructor about a scholarship program. 

When it came time to apply to colleges I prioritized the dance department over everything despite my other interests.

I took consistent action to make my abstract dream become reality. Now, had I just believed that I would be a dancer one day yet chosen to spend my time daily on my other interests, the end result of dancing professionally in NYC might’ve been very different.

Manifesting is more than just believing, it’s choosing to act as if that belief is already true.

I believed I would be a professional dancer, so I made choices that a professional dancer would make. 

So, how do we take these two ideas and put them to use to achieve our goals?


Maybe you heard about vision boarding from Rhonda Byrne’s book, The Secret. Or maybe you follow women’s Gymnastics like our coach Keirstin who learned about vision boarding from Nastia Liukin.

However you may have heard about it, vision-boarding is a fantastic way to remind you daily of your “why”.

Why are you waiting tables right now? *glances at vision board* Because you are choosing to train during the day so you can book that ensemble slot in your dream show.

Why don’t you own a house yet? *glances at vision board* Because you are saving your money to invest in a new business.

Why am I killing myself in this workout? *glances at vision board* Because I want to have a full calendar year that is completely injury free.

It’s so easy to get bogged down day to day and forget what we are working toward. 

The key to an effective vision board is board

Start by visualizing exactly what you want.

Maybe it’s your dream job, maybe it’s a financial goal, whatever it is, make it specific. Then flesh that out.

What would your pre-work routine look like?

What would your post work routine be?

What would your route to work be?

Where would you stop for coffee?

Be as specific as you can be.

Don’t just say “I want to perform professionally.” Ask: Where do you want to perform? What show do you want to do? What track do you want to perform?  Don’t forget to feel it all too.

Experiencing the emotions of how this will feel will help this vision board continue to inspire you each time you look at it. So, What will it feel like to step onto that stage for the first time? What will you feel when you call your loved ones to tell them? How might you feel day to day?

Remember, you’re creating neural pathways while you do this, so be as deep and specific as possible. The key to this visualization is being so detailed that it becomes reality as you are working toward it.

(If you have a hard time staying focused on things like this, check out Keirstin’s free Mindset Course here and learn how to get into a good mental space for this type of work.) 

After you have a very specific vision of what you want for this aspect of your life, the fun part begins. Scour the internet!

Find photos of what you want and again, be specific.

Fun Fact: Nastia Liukin made a vision board when she was training as a gymnast.

Her goals were: the Beijing Olympics, going to Paris, and a BMW.

When she created her vision board, she not only used a photo of a gold medal, but she found a photo of what the Beijing medals were going to look like.

Then, everyday, she looked at that medal and believed she won gold at Beijing and worked toward making that abstract belief into a reality.

Spoiler alert- she did win gold and then she went to Paris and then she bought herself that BMW!

Need a ‘real life’ example? Just look at DWL’s Coach Keirstin!

She created a vision board during the pandemic that not only had a photo of the Disney castle stage, but a photo of the exact track she wanted to represent on that stage.

Every time she wanted to give up on her workout she would look at that board and decide to keep moving toward what she wanted.

Now Keirstin performs on that very stage in that very track.

It wasn’t magic.

It was using a vision board as a daily tool to inspire action that progressed her to her desired outcome. But, it never would have worked if she didn’t believe it were true. 

They say if you can dream it you can achieve it.

I’ve always chuckled at that if I’m honest.

My dreams are so big and the cynicism of being a realist tends to only let me dream to a point.

But after learning about Vision Boards through this perspective, I’m feeling newly inspired to let myself dream and, like that little girl watching the dancers in the wings, truly believe that those dreams will come true.

Come dream with us, we can’t wait to see what you manifest.

xox DWL Team 

PS. Do you want to claim everything that’s already yours– fitness, nutrition, and mindset? Connect with our team of experts and join The Embodied Artist Academy, our personalized coaching program for performers. 



A Dancer’s Secrets to Affordable Eating on the Road

Life on the road is a total blast.

You get to see new places, meet new people, and have new experiences. No two days are alike, and it’s the perfect recipe for adventure.

I’m no stranger to living out a suitcase and hitting the road.

In 2019, I performed in a national tour of the production Christmas Wonderland that involved traveling nearly 6,000 miles on a bus starting in Myrtle Beach, all the way up to Warren, Ohio, and ending back down in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.

Then, in 2021, my fiancé and I ditched our apartment and hired a camper van to travel up the coast of Queensland, Australia for two months.

From hitting the stage to hunting waterfalls, there’s one big challenge that’s hard to overcome when living on the road:

Maintaining a balanced diet that won’t blow the budget.

Particularly on tour, getting in the proper fuel to allow peak performance of a 2-hour show following an 8 hour bus ride can be tough, but ensuring said fuel costs less than your per diem is even tougher.

While there are decent macro-friendly options to be found at fast food spots, those options tend to be more expensive.

Plus, I can’t say the McDonald’s grilled chicken sandwich tantalizes my taste buds or makes me feel ready to jazz hand and bevel.

Once you arrive to your hotel, cheap nutrition is even harder.

Eating out and ordering in will probably set you back at least $15 a meal, and before you know it, your salary can’t even get cozy in your bank account before being transferred right to your credit card bill.

Don’t stress!!!

Over my  time on the road, I’ve picked up  a few tips and tricks on how to eat well without blowing your nutrition goals or your budget.

Before diving into the dancer’s guide to affordable eating on the road, let’s kick things off with your startup costs.

Start Up Costs

These items cost more upfront, but they facilitate smart food choices and will save you money in the long run:

  • High quality, stackable Tupperware that won’t leak all over your bag.
  • If you’re a coffee addict, I’d recommend an aeropress. It’s easier to clean than a French press and makes better coffee. Plus, it’ll save you from spending $4 on Starbucks every day or, even worse, drinking hotel coffee. HERE is a demo of how to use an aeropress (
  • A fellow cast mate had a blender, which I thought was genius. If my future holds another tour, I will certainly get one.
  • In the camper van, we bought a cheap sandwich press that made boring sandwiches much tastier. Funny how much better cheese is when it’s melted…
  • A blanket, pillow, and noise cancelling headphones/ear plugs. Never underestimate the value of sleep for your total health and wellbeing!

Now that you have the basics, let’s dive in!

1. Become a hotel room chef

Firstly, just because you are living in hotel rooms doesn’t mean you should approach each meal like you’re on vacation. Going grocery shopping and becoming a hotel room chef is essential for facilitating frugal and smart choices.

Here are some of my go-tos:

  • A bag of spinach and a bag of frozen veg
  • Hummus or some other type of dip/dressing
  • Microwaveable rice pouches
  • Rotisserie chicken (TIP: take all the meat off when it’s warm!)
  • Oats: Make ‘em hot or throw together “overnight oats” to eat later on the bus. I personally love proats with banana and honey as pre-show fuel
  • Cans of soup, Greek yogurt, frozen dinners, and instant noodles are solid frugal options as well.
  • Sriracha… because it makes everything taste better 🙂

However, if a simple protein, rice, and veg has you yawning, get creative! Microwaves are surprisingly versatile cooking appliances.  You can make omelets in a mug, quesadillas, loaded potatoes, single serve lasagna, and various egg casseroles.

I’m no Rachel Ray,  but I love trying slightly outrageous things in the kitchen. I read online that a hotel room iron could be transformed into  a cooking appliance.


I whipped up a grilled cheese and some S’mores . Let’s just say success is the eye of the eater….

Be sure to put that Tupperware to work and meal prep for tomorrow’s bus ride lunch!

Bonus Tip!!! Pick up a bottle of wine, 6 pack of beer, or spirits of choice.

Let’s face it, you’ll want a post-show drink. Having something on hand will save you from paying $$$ at the hotel bar.

2. Stock Up a Small Pantry

Having a “pantry” (aka a food bag) that you can take from hotel to hotel is a life saver. Sometimes the bus will pull into a service plaza that only has one food option. Or you might not get to your hotel until 9pm after the grocery stores are closed. Or maybe your hunger is on it’s own timeline.

Having quick, easy food on hand means you don’t have to spend money at Burger King if you don’t want to and that you have the ability to eat on your own time. Plus, a peanut butter sandwich and protein shake are 1/3rd the price of a grilled chicken sandwich.

 My staples:
  • Protein powder
  • Protein bar
  • Peanut butter plus some sort of item you can put it on (bread, wraps, rice cakes, etc.)
  • Fruit and crunchy veg  
  • A can of  baked beans (I opt for the low added sugar variety): I didn’t jump on the baked bean bandwagon until living in a camper van, and now I’m obsessed! It’s a cheap, filling source of protein and carbs. Plus, if you have Tupperware full of steamed veg you made in the hotel the night before, the sauce is a great dressing.
  • Tuna: DO NOT I repeat DO NOT open a tin of  tuna on a bus. Your cast will not appreciate the lingering aroma, guaranteed.  However, it’s a great source of protein when on the go.

Bonus Tip!!!:  Have a treat on hand!

It can be hard to resist splurging on food when everyone around you is dipping waffle fries into thick chocolate milkshakes. Afterall, food envy can demolish your budget and upend your health goals if you aren’t careful.

As a Dancer Who Lifts, you know you can 100% enjoy a Chick-fil-A milkshake or an order of fries. You also know that neither will set you up for feeling and performing your best. Having a treat on hand is a weapon against the splurge.

I LOVE chocolate. Having a couple squares usually puts my food envy at bay while saving major $$$ in the long run.

3. Take advantage of the breakfast buffet

Nothing is more frugal than free!

Free hotel buffets can fuel you up all day with a little strategy and Tupperware action.  Fill up in the morning on the hotline eggs, sausage, bacon, oatmeal and whatever else that is best served warm. Snag a couple yogurts and mix them with protein powder for lunch or a snack.

Whip up a PB&J sandwich for your Tupperware to have on hand.

Furthermore, don’t forget about the bananas, apples, and cereal boxes!  Fruits and dry cereal are easy snacks that are perfect for long stints on the highway. 

Bonus Tip!!!  I love having breakfast salads. On tour, I would often steam up  some broccoli in the microwave, throw in a handful of spinach,  then take it to the breakfast buffet to add hardboiled eggs, salsa, and  perhaps some sausage if I was feeling frisky.

4. Pick and Choose When You Eat Out

Going out to eat is  fun, and it’s something you should enjoy!  Budgeting your macros is a great strategy for enjoying that Chick-Fil-A chocolate shake. Budgeting your dollars is  great way to afford a dinner out.

Moreover, opting for Tupperware meals over fast food on the road allows the financial freedom to check out a cool local dining spot. You’ll remember that epic burger you got at a trendy craft brewery.

Whereas you won’t remember that Panera panini.

Pro Tip: A money and macro saving strategy that works me on the road and in life is choosing between getting a drink out or getting a meal out.

Splurging for a margarita and tacos is a recipe for a $50 tab (you’ll want the guac… let’s be honest.)

Having a plan on choosing one or the other cuts that bill in half. Another strategy is to share an entrée or appetizer and to pregame dinner with a snack 🙂 

5. Have an online coach!

Finally, making smart, frugal food choices is important for ensuring  peak performance, but so is sticking to a gym routine. Unfortunately, being on the road means you probably won’t have access to a normal gym.

Having an online coach makes it possible to keep up with your fitness goals.

Obviously, I’m biased towards Dancer’s Who Lift  🙂 On tour, not only were my workouts designed to help me get through the demanding show injury free, but I could just snap a photo of the (usually crappy) hotel gym and my DWL coach would help me adjust the workouts accordingly.

Is having a personal trainer frugal?

Well, would you pay, let’s say $200, to reduce your risk of spraining an ankle or tearing your ACL? Unquestionably, I know my answer!

Life on the road is fun and exciting, and you can 100% maintain a balanced diet with adequate nutrition without breaking the bank. These 5 tips will set you up for success !

Hungry  for more Frugal Tips? Check out Katie’s previous guest post with DWL HER

8 Reasons You’re A Bottomless Pit at Night

Imagine this, you’re focused on your goals, determined to make it happen. You’re so good all day long but then, as soon as the full moon rises, the beast within you is unleashed… 
You woof down treats.
Double portions.
And snack until your jaw gets tired… only then, as you lick the Cheeto dust off your fingers with melted chocolate outlining your mouth, do you realize the monster that you’ve become… Here is 8 reason why that’s happening (and 8 solutions!)