Why Sassy Gregson-Williams "didn't want to conform to ballerina perfectionism"

Following a recurring injury, the YouTuber learned to dance in a whole new way

Sassy Gregson-Williams is a hard woman to pin down - not content with being an author, regular YouTuber and fitness instructor, the former pro-ballerina is heading back to school.

"I'm doing a course at the minute and training very hard to further my fitness qualifications," she says. "It's so hard" I'm juggling everything."

'Everything' covers her food blog Naturally Sassy, her fitness-focused YouTube channel of the same name and her future book releases.

In 2015, Sassy published Naturally Sassy - a cookbook which aimed "to get people actively thinking about what they eat and how it makes them feel".

"While I was dancing professionally, I found I didn't have a connection with food," she tells Newstalk.com. "My sister started a health and fitness magazine, and I went on to study nutrition. I found I developed a new passion for it."

Her diet and fitness during her time as a professional dancer is a world way from how she eats now. Sassy stopped dancing professionally off the back of a recurring injury which she had for six years. The dancer went over on her ankle - something she puts down to fatigue because the company "never gave us lunch breaks".

"The stigma surrounding ballet is absolutely true," she says. "There's a huge protein focus for dancers [...] I switched the focus so that my diet consists of way more veggies. 

"I found that it as well as changing my body, it changed the mind and body connection. You're focusing more on how well you're digesting your food."

Clean eating - sort of

Many of the recipes featured on her blog are vegetarian and vegan-friendly. However, Sassy herself is not vegetarian - opting instead to avoid dairy.

"I have a dairy intolerance. When I was younger I had really bad eczema. I went to so many doctors and dermatologists and I just kept coming back with creams and it just wasn't enough.

"Being a ballerina as well, it was really hard, because there's a real focus on aesthetics and I was at such a vulnerable age."

Sassy began cutting out dairy, and hasn't looked back since. 

Unsurprisingly, her death row meal is one of her recipes - brown spaghetti with mushroom mince

Ballet Blast

Sassy admits she doesn't miss the pressure of a professional dance environment, and has found a new way to enjoy her art while also maintaining her fitness - Ballet Blast.

Ballet Blast is "a fast paced workout that fuses high intensity training with classical dance principles". As well as teaching classes at her base in London, she regularly uploads workouts to her YouTube channel.

Right now, she's not working on the follow-up to Naturally Sassy, instead focusing her energy on bringing Ballet Blast to as many people as possible.

"I'm working on developing an online platform where my viewers outside of London can download workout videos," she says. "With YouTube, you're limited in what experience you can bring to people."

In the future, she hopes to franchise Ballet Blast and bring the workouts to more studios internationally.

"Ballet Blast means I can now do ballet in a way that I love."

'Food confusion'

Sassy reckons a lot of us suffer from 'food confusion' - something which she partially blamed on social media.

"It's such a hit and miss platform," she says. "There's so many people on there now trying to be provide so much information. I remember when I was younger, I used to think that more followers gave someone more verification but it absolutely does not equal that."

To find out if you are food confused or not ask yourself these questions:

  • Have you ever followed a certain bloggers/celebrities diet without understanding why it’s good for you, or even considering if it’s good for you personally?
  • Do you relate food to Body Image more than how it makes you feel?
  • Have you ever cut out a food group based on an article you have read?
  • Have you ever been overwhelmed by conflicting information about food/food groups and not known which one to follow?
  • Have you ever felt like you needed to spend a lot of money on specialised ingredients in order to be healthy?

If you tick yes to any one of these five questions, Sassy says you could be food confused.

She advises people to do what's attainable to them - be that exercising for 30 minutes every day, or exercising for 10 minutes three times a day.

"Gain inspiration from others without copying them. We're all so different. There's no one size fits all when it comes to diet and exercise."

Sassy Gregson-Williams will be appearing at this year's WellFest, 'Ireland's only health, fitness and wellness festival', in Herbert Park, Donnybrook, on May 6 and 7. To get tickets, click here.