Tuesday, December 11, 2007

DanceMind:Dear Janie, Weight Issues

In the dance world, especially ballet, the demand for a slender, very thin body is apparent. It can determine roles, job and even ability to attend a school. Interesting even at the cost of health, denial does exist, yet one glance at the physical size of performers can reveal the standards at a school. Studies show that eating disorders are very high in numbers within the system of ballet. Bodies of ill dancers also tell stories of frail health due to low weight and bod fat.

Who sets the parameters? The desire to dance outweighs health?

There is the occasion where guidance is offered to a dancer who is fearfully thin. Sometimes they are sent home for healing. Does that change the system? Many dancers are not 'anorexic' yet they struggle with emotional eating. (of course we live in a culture that eats poorly.)

Here are comments by teachers/instructors that have been tearfully related to me by performers -- "You are too fat for a tutu." "You cannot stand next to her on stage because your thighs are like elephant legs." "I cannot give you parts until you lose 15 lbs." (She weighed 120 lbs.). Some schools schedule weigh ins weekly. One physician told one dancer to simply drink coffee all day to lose weight. She tried it and became every ill. (BTW -- she was 14 years old)

It would be interesting to hear other comments.

Many dancers really do not know how to achieve safe weight loss because there is an overlay of anxiety and fear. When one starves oneself, a binge will naturally follow. This cycle is highly destructive to the body and even makes weight loss more difficult. The body becomes very confused.

Yes, diet moderation can work, yet the more powerful piece is the MIND.

The body responds to what it is fed through food, and the thoughts and emotions.
When there is hatred, anger, disgust, guilt, etc directed toward the body, tension rises and so does the need to 'feed' it with food or even starvation. Not good.

It is a very scary situation, especially for individuals who cannot sustain health when the body fat and weight is so low. What is the answer? Stop dancing? Re-educate the teachers? (they have most likely been through the rigors and are repeating what they believe to be okay. No excuse, though).

One woman who was a ballet dancer in the 60's here in the area where I live told me that they were put on a 500 calorie diet! This was a professional ballet company! My conversation with her was quite interesting because although times have changed, I wonder if they have?

What if you loved your body? What if you could appreciate what it does for you?

Sanna Carapellotti, MS
Performance Specialist

PS -- More later.

No comments: