Gary Lester skates for Field Entertainment’s Disney on Ice Dream Big. A nine-year veteran of the show, he performs about 9 months out of the year and constantly trains, rehearses, and performs while traveling.
I had the honor of getting to interview him on how he maintains an athlete’s diet while constantly on the go (we all know how hard it is to eat clean while traveling). Since Gary’s a professional who depends on his body’s performance, he has valuable insights on how we can better travel with our food allergies and health preferences. The interview was so fascinating!
The interview is below – Q&A style. Taking in the laughter from the crowd is Gary’s favorite part of what he does, so I can’t wait to give him a few laughs at Disney on Ice’s opening show Dream Big next Friday!
Hi! First off, I cannot wait to see your performance next Friday. I have heard incredible things. Which character are you in Disney on Ice? Everything! I am on the Acrobat team, and I am more in charge of safety. I offer support in case someone falls. We have people who fly about 20 feet in the air. You know, flying and catching stuff. We do that thing they do in Dirty Dancing when they throw someone up in the air. People are jumping on one side and fly from the other.
Oh my goodness! That sounds like a lot! How many hours a week do you practice or perform?
We work about 9 months out of the year. I work 30-45 hours a week between rehearsals and early morning press releases for the news crew. On top of that, I have time at the gym I need to put in.
Wow, I am sure that can take a toll on your body! Do you have a special diet you follow to fuel your body for such strenuous exercise? I eat a lot of raw spinach. People make fun me actually for it because people call it my “rabbit food” since people see me eat it all the time. It helps me digest after strenuous activity. I eat about 10 egg whites at a time. I like to eat them in an omelet with spinach.
Whoa, so more spinach! When you snack on spinach, is it in a salad or cooked? Normally just right from the bag or container. I eat three of those big packages a week and divide it up in smaller sandwich bags.
What are your favorite snacks? Ants on a log. You know, celery with raisins and peanut butter. My wife is Russian and noticed I was eating these a lot – she had never heard of them! She was asking me, “what are you doing?!”
Anything you don’t eat? I don’t eat many cakes or sweets. I love fruit, and I am from Florida, so I am used to getting them straight from a tree and honestly don’t really like them from the store as much. As far as processed food, I try to stay away from it as much as I can. I go for more vegetables or really anything more naturally based. But sometimes we have to go get a sandwich from somewhere. So basically I have to adapt, but I try to make the better choice. If I have chicken wings or sandwich, I do chicken because I know it’s well, chicken.
Did you always eat like that? More of when I started realizing that what I was eating wasn’t helpful. I was 21 years old when I started making changes to my diet. When I was a kid no one told me this way of eating was unhealthy. You know it’s like people didn’t talk about that then. I could eat anything and not gain or feel different. But when I started to exercise and was trying to gain weight, I began to understand the connection between what I eat and being where I wanted to be. I couldn’t gain weight, so I had to up my protein intake. I then roller bladed 7 miles to work every day on my way to Orlando to work at a theme park. At that time I ate meat and potatoes like all the time and then realized you have to eat a full balanced meal. Eat the colors and drink a lot of water! I drink almost a gallon a day but don’t measure. Just anytime I have time I sip on water. I don’t chug. It’s not the best for you to drink large quantities at once.
I have food allergies and we have a really hard time traveling because you can’t always stay in a hotel with a kitchenette and make your own meal. How do you keep eating healthy while on the road with such little time? I usually have a small travel blender with me. I do different smoothies like kale, bananas, peanut butter, strawberries, sometimes I get almond milk (if I have a refrigerator). If you have no fridge, you can’t-do that. I can keep spinach in the ice bucket with a towel. One time my wife added carrots to the smoothies. We found out that carrots don’t taste good in smoothies! If it’s a meal when I am not at the hotel, I try to find new places. I was in Kansas City a couple weeks back and I went to this place called Protein House and they had an awesome menu with organic food. Sometimes you luck out. If I don’t, I look for what has protein.
What’s your favorite on the go snack? Ants on Log, Spinach, oh I would always eat a mango! I also really like guacamole. I make and eat a lot of that. I do whatever bar is on sale that is peanut butter mixed with nuts. Anything high protein. I’ll try out cranberry. I really like cranberries. I started putting cranberries in my salad.
Do you have a favorite healthy dessert or treat? Fruit. I just really like peanut butter. Recently I had a shake with peanut butter (more protein!) because I am so hungry and felt like relaxing with a shake.
Let’s end with a funny story! Any funny stories about eating you can share with us? One time when I was a kid we went to one of those buffets for Easter. I went and grabbed lime Jello because I really like fruity anything. It was not lime Jello, though. It was mint gelatin for the lamb. I took a whole spoonful and put it all in my mouth. My face said it all. My family got a pretty good laugh out of that.
I am happy to say I’ve begun a relationship with Field Entertainment and while all opinions are 100% my own, they have graciously given us seats at the upcoming show.