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Healthier Steps: Tap dancer Anthony Lo Cascio shares hard-won lessons about food, health, and happiness

Anthony Lo Casio

For the first time in 33 years, former professional dancer Anthony Lo Cascio didn’t head back to studio teaching last September. “I don’t want to pay my bills with tap dancing. I want it to be my joy, not my livelihood,” he says.

Where did he end up instead? Happily in the kitchen.

Anthony, longtime tap educator, lead “Tap Dogs” dancer, and artistic director of the #TapLife Company, is turning his own life experience tackling health issues with healthy eating into a new career.

He and his wife Staci Cousert have shared their findings about anti-inflammatory diets and healthy mindsets through a published book, “Food as a Prescription: A Handbook for Those Currently On or Prescribed a Gluten-Free, Soy-Free, Corn-Free and/or Dairy-Free Diet.” A second book, a cookbook, to be titled “All We Do Is Delicious,” is due in late 2023, and they’re working on a website for LOCA Foods Inc. that will feature food intolerance-based advice, recipes, and to-order foods.

“Real good dance teachers help their students become better versions of themselves,” Anthony says. “When you are a dance teacher and have knowledge, you want to shout it from the rooftops—you want to educate and influence and inspire and help people. When you have knowledge, you want to share it.”

Anthony’s knowledge about anti-inflammatory foods is hard won. He spent two decades as a professional performer with “gut-related issues,” including internal bleeding, that flummoxed doctors and made him miserable. “I looked terrible. I was blown up—not fat but swollen. It was hard to dance and get around the stage, and the weight was making my back issues hard to manage,” he says.

Relief came in the form of a new friend, Staci, who had successfully treated her severe autoimmune disorders with diet. Taking her suggestion to cut gluten and dairy out of his diet for one summer, Anthony “lost 35 pounds, and my skin was better, and my internal bleeding slowed to intermittent,” he says. “We realized we were onto something here: not only does food have an impact, but it could have a bigger impact than I realized.”

Under the guidance of his lifelong friend, Dr. Robert Gucciardo, a chiropractor and nutritionist, Anthony started experimenting with eliminating and adding foods—out went corn and soy, dairy was back in, and supplements were added. Gluten remained verboten. This dietary diligence was the “prescription” that Anthony needed. Not only did his gut-related bleeding cease, but Anthony says his new eating habits led to a stronger heart and more energy.

“The loss of inflammation made some of my injuries less prevalent,” he says. “I wanted to get to the bottom of my issue and change it at a fundamental level. Finding closure on my long-term issue made me the best version of myself and the best version of what I could give to my students.”

Of course, changing your mindset about food is hard. Really hard. “Overwhelming,” Anthony says, but not impossible.

“If you think you can’t, you can’t. But you don’t have to do anything on your own,” he says. “That’s why we created these guides.” He suggests:

Read labels. “If it goes on you, in you, or near you; read it.” In the supermarket, Anthony does most of his shopping on the “outside edges” where the stores place produce, fruits, and meats. Once in the middle aisles, read the ingredients on each can or box: avoid ingredients you can’t pronounce or don’t understand.

Eat out smartly. “I can go to ‘Five Guys’ and have a burger wrapped in lettuce, French fries in peanut oil, and a vanilla shake.” Traveling as they do, Anthony and Staci look for farm-to-table restaurants, rent AirBNBs with a kitchen (to cook their own meals), or refer to the Find Me Gluten Free restaurant app. In the South, barbecue places “know exactly what’s in their food,” he says, while places like Chipotle have an allergy-friendly menu and simple ingredients. After making their food requirements known on a Celebrity Cruise, they were visited every night by the assistant maitre’d to go over the next night’s menu; Staci also carries business cards listing her food intolerances that she can hand to servers.

Find new foods to love. “I didn’t replace the things I loved: I found new things I love.” If he’s in a hurry, fruit is his best friend, or he grabs some biltong (a natural South African jerky) or Solely brand organic fruit jerky. He can even pair a sandwich made from Boar’s Head gluten-free meats, cheeses, and condiments with a bag of chips cooked in avocado oil.

Anthony’s biggest “wow” moment came when he looked around his kitchen one day and realized he had to throw away hundreds of dollars of food that he didn’t want to eat and didn’t feel comfortable giving away to others. “But instead of being painful it was liberating,” he says.

With his book and forthcoming cookbook—from an Italian family where food means love, Anthony is having a ball experimenting with the best and tastiest gluten/corn/soy-free options for Italian meals, bakery items, and more!—the tap teacher is educating people about healthier steps of a different sort.

“My whole career I felt as if tap dance was a gift from the universe. Now other things are calling my soul,” he says. “It’s about helping people with food and diet and answering questions they never thought they’d get answers to.”

Editor’s note: Through their TapLife Company, Anthony and Staci will be teaching pop-up dance classes in tap, musical theater, and acro up and down the East Coast (and also offer online classes) from September to December 2022 and beyond. Visit taplifecompany.com/events for the whole scoop!

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