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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Can you be too thin (no eatting disorder)


joyellen

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Hello, I'm new to this site and am finding it very helpful. Like many of you, I am always struggling with not becoming the dreaded "ballet mother"--and yet I find myself fascinated by this beautiful artform. (I have no dancing background.) I have a 14 yr old daughter who has studied ballet for 4 1/2 years. Ballet has been wonderful for her self esteem and body image, as she is very thin but has a wonderful ballet body--tall (but not too tall), long legged, small busted, beautiful feet--but she is so thin! It is hereditary (I was very skinnny as a child) and for the past year I have had some success in getting a few extra lbs on her (big breakfasts, packing a good lunch, adding a healthy, high calorie snack before class each day, Boost supplemental drink etc.) but she still looks so skinny in comparison to her classmates. Sometimes her little legs look downright fragile! Now that she is going into auditions for SI, I confess that I worry that they will find her too thin. Should I be so worried, or should I just be grateful for all the wonderful attributes she has?

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Victoria Leigh

Hello Joyellen, welcome to the Moms and Dads forum here on Ballet Alert! Online :o

 

Actually, at 14 I would not worry about it that much. These things seem to have a way of working themselves out when the body changes around 15 or 16. There are a very few who remain with the same body they had when younger, but not very often. Thin is good, as long as it is a natural thing for her, and she is healthy. If she is strong and healthy, nothing to worry about. If not, then there is a problem that must be dealt with by a physician.

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But you can't be too rich. :o

 

"One can never be too rich, or too thin."

Wallis, Duchess of Windsor

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Thanks so much for the reassurance. She is very healthy and just naturally thin. I will just learn to relax and enjoy "the performance."

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Guest fille'smom

I had the same concerns about my daughter when she was 12/13 so I took her to the pediatrician. I was told not to worry...the child just doesn't have much body fat and is naturally thin. (oh to be so lucky!) Now at 14 1/2 indeed her body has changed with maturity - still nice and thin but with a few "curves". If your daughter's doctor is not worried about her being too thin and she eats healthy meals I would not worry.

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But you still can't be too rich; just ask the pediatrician. :thumbsup:

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Whilst I fully agree that there is no reason to worry health wise about a naturally thin dancer, I can say from experience that it is not always a positive thing when auditioning. My daughter, now 17, is and has always been naturally thin and everytime she has started with a new ballet teacher we have been summoned to be cross-questioned about her health and diet. She is now in her final year of training and attending auditions and I know that at least one director asked her teachers whether she was anorexic. However, she knows that when auditioning there are many things directors are looking for and quite a few of them are not within her control so she just accepts how things are - there's not a lot else you can do really!

 

Clare

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In the latest issue of Dance Magazine this issue is mentioned in the ask Dr.Hamilton section. It's not a bad idea to be sure your child gets regular check ups,and isn't pushing the food around on the plate. Dr.Hamilton also mentions bone health problems and menstrual issues to consider.As long as your child is healthy it's ok-that's what you need to be sure of.

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Thanks Clare for your insight. Fortunately, my daughter has studied at the same school since she was 10, so they know her and that her thin build is natural. But, she is often "accused" by peers (mostly at school) of being anorexic, so she is a bit sensitive about it. While she can be a picky eater (again, I was the same), she is definitely eatting, particularly foods she likes. Of course, most weeks she is dancing 7 days a week, several hours a day--so she is burning a lot of calories. And of course, even though I put some weight on her this past year, she has also grown several inches. It sound like things will stabilize in the next year or so, so I am not sure that I can do anything more than just continue making sure she is eatting regularly and healthy foods. Of course, I do always remind her that when she's 40 she will FINALLY appreciate her metabolism! B)

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Joyellen,

 

My daughter has also always had a naturally thin build. When she was a toddler, one pediatrician had concerns about her very low weight and her inability to gain weight at a normal curve. But then he met my husband! B) He's never been able to gain weight, poor baby. B) (So I gain it for him :wink: )

 

Anyhow, daughter trained at the same ballet school her whole life and they, of course, knew that this is simply her body type. But she went through a period of time around the age of 12 or so where occasionally a rumor would start (usually during their summer program which included non-locals) that daughter was anorexic. She was very hurt by it at the time. Girls that age, of course, are famous for starting all kinds of rumors.

 

I did have some concerns myself, through her teen years, that I might not easily know if daughter became anorexic. I think it's prudent to watch any teenaged female dancer carefully, whether she have a slight build or not. I remember there was one time when daughter was a junior in high school where she came to ME terrified because other dancers told her she looked as though she was losing weight and daughter herself was feeling very tired out and had missed a menstrual cycle. The red flags went off in my mind immediately and she went to the dr. that same day. Turns out she had a strep infection. She'd only lost a pound or two but on that slight frame, it was noticeable.

 

But during the hours where I thought that she might have an eating disorder, I beat myself up about missing the signs. I knew she'd been tired out for weeks and weeks, had complained about mild stomach upsets but I didn't do anything about it. Even though she didn't have an ED, that was a good reminder to me about not being careless about her health.

 

There's nothing you can really do about the comments from other kids other than ignore. As long as your daughter has regular checkups with her dr., and as long as you always keep a watch on her food habits, she'll be just fine.

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Victoria Leigh

It happens to adults too B) I have been accused even as recently as a few years ago, just because I still have a "dancers' body", and don't look like most women of my age. B) I've had this body forever, and it's never changed. Luck, genetics, whatever. I admit it's a bit odd, but, that's the way it is. I'm not arguing with it, and realize that people who say things like that are usually just totally jealous! :wink:

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I, too, was believed by strangers to be anexoric when I was in college. (You'd never believe that to see me now LOL! :wink: ) I ate normally...well, normal for college...but just didn't put on weight like everyone else. To make things worse, I would get terribly sick nearly every month around my period which did nothing to dispel those rumors. Friends knew that's just the way my body worked so I wasn't too bothered by it.

 

I did have some concerns myself, through her teen years, that I might not easily know if daughter became anorexic.

I've worried about this some also, because dd has the same build I had. I think it would be noticeable if she lost weight, but maybe not so obvious if she wasn't gaining as she should. Luckily, the pediatrician keeps track of these things! Turns out this year that while she's slender, she's gaining normally. Son on the other hand has gained less than a pound this year! He's a very picky eater so it's an uphill battle right now.

 

But she went through a period of time around the age of 12 or so where occasionally a rumor would start (usually during their summer program which included non-locals) that daughter was anorexic.

Dd has unfortunately inherited my stomach troubles too. Right now she is being treated for a condition which requires prescription laxatives. Naturally, she doesn't want anyone to know about this. After the dr. told her she will probably be taking this medicine until the summer, she is now thinking of staying home this summer rather than go to a nearby 1-2 week SI or the summer camp she wanted to attend. Possible rumors are just another reason why.

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My dd has to put up with accusations and rumors of being anorexic as well, even bulimic because she does eat several times a day.

 

Dd's problem is probably rare. It's not what she eats, it's more of what she is actually digesting. She has always been painfully small and skinny for her age and constantly monitored for height and weight. She was diagnosed as being allergic to dairy products, which complicated her diet although we did go to a dietician to be trained on how to feed her. Once we moved here to the big city for her training, we were also able to find better medical attention for her. She was rediagnosed as being severely lactose intollerant instead of actually allergic (big difference), but because of the lack of dairy products in her diet, she was also found to be osteopeanic! :D

 

To make a long story short, her diet has been readjusted to include some dairy products that she can tollerate, several healthy snack throughout the day for optimum obsorption of nutrition, probiotics to aid in her digestion, and a higher intake of calcium and supplements for her bones. It's still not fully understood why she does not absorb or digest what she eats as well as she should, (one theory is overuse of antibiotics when she was an infant) but things have improved significantly! She is growing in leaps and bounds (4" and 20 lbs in 18 months).

 

I guess my point in sharing this was the mention of the article in Dance magazine by Linda Hamilton about bone health. It is so important for our children's bone health to be at an optimum especially at this stage, because there isn't much time to build it up for the rest of their adult life. A dexascan is a simple and painless procedure and will tell you so much about their health that you can't see from the outside.

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Important: for kids (teens)- get a DXA scan done at a pediatric center. There are variable norms for kids/teens, and these are NOT the same for the "older women" most DXA centers do routinely.

Re: DXA scans (dual energy x-ray absorptiometry). This uses a very low powered x-ray beam. The entire body, ankle, hip and lumbar spine region are scanned. The results are analyzed in the computer and precise estimates of bone mass (for estimating bone mineral content and bone density), fat mass and muscle mass are obtained. Each scan takes less than 5 minutes.

 

 

Another useful test is the pQCT- (peripheral quantitative computed tomography). This gives more detailed information about bone size. Again- should be done at a pediatric center.

 

More than you might want to know...

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