Passion and enthusiasm are the two words that come to mind as I read through Tonya Kay's interview responses and email replies. A pro dancer since the age of 15, Tonya believes "We are what we eat and I'd rather be a sexy young coconut than empty, puffy pasta - even if it is whole wheat!"
Growing up in a small farming community and being exposed to the 'slaughterhouse rules' at a young age profoundly affected Tonya and at the age of 8, "vegetarianism became my default lifestyle." Many things have changed since that day but Tonya's conviction in the diet has stayed the same.
A raw vegan.
How long have you been eating like this and what dietary progressions have you made along the way?
I became a vegetarian twenty years ago and a vegan eleven years ago. Just before going raw (two and a half years ago) I would have called myself a "whole food" vegan, eating no refined flours or sugars and nothing with more than three ingredients. I have found the differences between whole food vegan and raw vegan in terms of health utterly profound.
What challenges have you faced living on a vegetarian diet?
There are no challenges in this lifestyle because eating living vegan foods is truly something that gives me joy! I love getting creative with the steakhouse chefs to find out just how amazing a salad they can put together.
I adore searching the farmer's markets for organic produce - local and in season. I look forward to devising ways in the winter to warm my now uber-sensitive body.
It's a matter of choosing a perspective that serves you as you wish to be, I like to call them "opportunities" rather than challenges.
What benefits have you gained? How do these relate to your training?
As I mentioned earlier, I have found the raw vegan lifestyle to be 100% different health-wise than the cooked vegan diet. The benefits I am mentioning are directly related to eating living foods.
In the past I was medicated for manic depression - today I am joyous and medication-free! Also, as a cooked vegan, I had acne that affected my self-esteem, now my 'problem' skin simply glows!
I haven't been sick since going raw, not even a sniffle or soar throat, and as an athlete my body recovers in half the time it used to from strenuous activity or injury.
What is your typical daily meal plan like?
My diet is based around in-season, local, organic and uncooked produce.
Does this change much during your on and off season?
When I am injured or am not dancing under contract, I have the opportunity to become less active. I like to use this time to cleanse, which speeds up the body's recovery rate; they're called "fasts" for a reason.
Can you give me a little more detail as to how you cleanse?
I have run the gamut on cleansing and fasting, all the way from water-fasts to liquids-only cleanses to a month on only greens.
Before Beginning I Take The Following Into Consideration:
- What types of activity I wish to maintain - social, work, play.
- What my cleansing goals are - heal an injury, return to homeostasis, spiritual catharsis, social retreat.
- What my lifestyle has been like in the previous weeks - stressful, gluttonous, stagnant.
What is your favorite veggie indulgence?
In season, local, organic Fuerte Avocados with sea salt! Aaahhhh!
What is your usual training / performance schedule like?
As a professional dancer, it is important to keep the body ready for movements that push your coordination, flexibility and strength in a variety of unpredictable motions. I do a variety of activities each week to assure my body is ever-ready.
Some Of My Favorite Sports Include:
- Dance classes
- Weight lifting
- Bikram yoga
- Going to the dance club - but of course.
Anyway you look at it though, I train an average of three hours a day, five days a week, taking off an entire seven days every sixth week or so.
How do you feel your veggie diet supports this?
As an athlete I notice that my body responds almost immediately to the requests I make of it. Recovery time, strength building, cardio capacity and flexibility are no longer mysteries, but givens. Coordination too, a delight for any dancer, has skyrocketed now that I eat raw.
Who is your favorite veggie role model?
Gorillas - just look how massively strong and childishly playful they are eating raw fruits and greens!
What is the general impression of the veggie diet from people you have encountered?
I consciously create my reality by surrounding myself with the people and situations I wish to see in my world and it works! I find myself immersed in a family of extraordinary people: artists, athletes, travelers, spiritualists… Coincidentally a majority of these people are vegetarian; it's just the way it has worked out.
My impression about vegetarians however, tends to be that there is a direct correlation between living an extraordinary life and being conscious about what you put in your body.
What veggie myths would you like to expel?
I would like to dispel the myth that being vegetarian, especially a live vegan, is difficult. I have been traveling for five years now, without a home and a kitchen.
I have thrived on this diet in every city in the nation and let me tell you, there is nothing easier or more fun! What is more effortless than finding a grocery store and carrying a few macadamia nuts and dates to dance class with you? What is more fulfilling than spending an afternoon with friends at the local farmer's market?
Where do all the fire spinners, visual artists, dj's and gurus hang out? At the co-op, the juice bar, the yoga studio, the beach.
Take one step towards living the life you wish to live and watch the Universe reward you threefold!
Career Highlights To Date
- Destroying broom sticks and trash cans in the name of rhythm as a principal performer in STOMP for 2 years.
- Learning to fly as an aerial stuntwoman in the Off-Broadway production, De La Guarda.
- Rapping and dancing hip-hop behind the gambler himself on Kenny Rogers' Christmas Tour.
- Playing to a stadium of 12,000 screaming Irish children on the Rugrats international tour.
- Flag dancing in the white sands of the notorious Fire Island as a member of NYC's Axis Danz Company (and what we did in the limo on the drive there - certainly a memorable professional achievement).