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Weight talk


Guest fille'smom

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Guest fille'smom

I have recently noticed on the discussion boards alot of weight related talk/questions. I want to send out a WARNING about this. It doesn't take much for some dancing children to latch onto advice or ideas that shouldn't apply to them at all. A comment made innocently by a parent or teacher can be taken to heart. An example.....my dd was told by her instructor that she could loose 10-12 pounds. (keep in mind that dd was within the normal range for her height and age) Her BMI was 20%. Another instructor made a comment that dd audition photos "probably make her look bigger than she really is". DD got the Diet and Nutrition book for Dancers and set out to loose a few pounds. Well, here we are 2 1/2 months later.....her BMI is 16%. She has lost 23 pounds. She looks very thin. DD looks like she will cry when I try to coax her into eatting something the slightest bit "fun" to eat. Upon a visit to the doctor for something unrelated we were referred to a nutritionist. Told to make sure we got there within 2 weeks. At 16% she risks stress fractures and is ALWAYS cold. I have told her that she will not go to class if she looses 1 more pound and will not be giong to her si if she doesn't show me that she can be responsible for getting some food in her body. She has increased her intake with these threats. She doesn't want to starve herself any more than I want her to starve but let me say that she wants to dance. When she read that the average professional dancer has a BMI of 16%, by gosh, she was going to be 16%! I might also add that she is dancing better now than she ever has. I can see that she feels confident because she feels that she looks good. Now this child is a perfectionist. I'm quite sure that not all dancers that dream of becoming a professional are as driven. All this is to say that parents and instructors MUST BE AWARE OF THE IMPACT OF THEIR COMMENTS wether they be verbal or nonverbal. Trust me....there may be no warning. This can happen very quickly. If you are at all concerned about your dancers eatting habits, see your doctor or nutritionist asap. I would like to see more intructors educated and educating their pupils about this subject.

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Victoria Leigh

Fille'smom, I think more and more educators are more and more aware of these things, and they are very conscientiously trying to avoid the problems. Most of us will not even think of mentioning weight problems to teenagers. However, the reason for all of the questions and posts about this lately is that we now have a forum, a place for these things, moderated by a professional nurse. She is also a Ballet Mom, and there is a Nutritionist in her family too. These questions are going to exist, and we have denied them here for a long time. So, they go on the unmoderated boards and ask the questions and get answers from kids who have no idea what they are talking about. It's better to have it here, moderated and safe. They ARE going to talk about it, and they ARE going to ask questions about it, so the best thing is to have someone available to give them the correct information.

 

Obviously both the parents and the students really want to talk about this. So, now they have a place to talk about it where they will get straight answers from someone qualified to answer. There are limits, and lines we won't cross in this forum, and that has all been explained on the forum.

 

I'm sorry to hear that your daughter has had a problem, and it is a serious matter. That is why it has not been allowed here before. But, as you see, it exists, and not talking about it is not helping either.

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Guest fille'smom

Ms. Leigh,

I in no way meant to imply that the issue should not be discussed intellegently! In fact I meant quite the opposite. I feel that we should all be aware of the potential for eatting problems among our beloved dancers. I would like to point out to you that the comment about my daughter's audition photo was in fact made by you! ( had emailed the photo to you and Major Mel) Can you now see my point about being VERY careful about comments?

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Victoria Leigh

I'm sorry, but I have no recollection of this. To whom did I make this comment? I would assume it would have been to you, if you sent the photo? And, I agree about being very careful, which is what we have always done, and will continue to do! :wink:

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mylildancer

Hurtful comments can come from anywhere! My DD was referred to a Pediatric Gastroenterologist (sp?) Specialist by her Ortho dr. Boy, did he have his opinion about dancers and dancing in general. He wanted me to remove my dd from ballet ASAP because it was not healthy! Even the posters on the walls were giving her "dangerous subliminal messages" about healthy body weight. He criticized me as mother. I left the office in tears and dd was very upset! He had nothing to base his comments on but his biased opinion of the world of professional dance. I dropped him like a hot potato! I don't allow anyone to talk to me in such a manner let alone someone I have to pay!! Got another referral. Turns out that he was totally wrong. All dd needed were probiotics (digestive enzymes) for better digestion and absorption of nutrients.

 

Fille's mom, tell your dd this. Photos usually add at least 10 pounds to a person (that's why models have a plethora of problems). Also, dense, healthy bone and good solid muscle will always weigh more than bird bones and weak muscle. Who cares what the scale says! Does dancing make you happy? :yes:

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I'm a little nervous posting this but here goes...I've suffered from eating disorders most of my life and try when I see young girls heading down that road I try to let them know its not worth it, at all. It’s mostly under control but flares up when I'm under stress. There is nothing pretty about a 46 year old woman standing in the closet crying because she's too fat to go to work.

 

One conversation that I had recently with a young lady who has a great career ahead of her and has just been accepted into a company is love your body it is a big part of what got you here. The strength in your legs, the power in your torso all of it contributed to you being where you are today. While most dancers are very slim if you look closely there is a variety of body shapes some of which actually help do certain things just from the physics of movement. She is struggling because someone told her the shape of her thighs are too round and is thinking she needs to lose 10 pounds which would put her quite a bit under a 100 pounds.

 

Another thing that has been discussed a lot on this board is the 2% factor. Is it worth setting up any child for a life time of problems both mental and physical for something that may never happen? I think enough has been said about the impact of eating disorders that I don't need to repeat them. I think what we really need to emphasize to our children is that even dancers come in all shapes and sizes but what really makes them beautiful is their passion and artistry not the circumference of their thighs. Creating a strong healthy body that can generate beauty in motion with enough glucose left over to remember the steps and keep a smile on your face should be enough.

 

I'm not saying that if like one of the examples 5'1" and 150 but a normal slim dancer. I know that kids don't think that you know anything and the pressure is more internal perfection driven but I think trying to keep this in perspective for them and encourage them to recognize that their bodies are beautiful and functional.

 

This was a big control freak game to me at 12 when I started. I took perverse pride in the fact that I could keep myself from eating for days at a time looked at other people who could control their eating as weak. I'm much healthier now but it still hard and its not so funny now. I would do anything to never have to feel this way again.

 

I'm actually sweating writing this so I hope you understand that I'm sharing this to encourage people to take the warning signs in their children seriously and react to them or never let them occur in the first place by encouraging a healthy body image.

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I just this morning heard from a friend about a well-known teacher at her dd's very well-known studio in our area (not my dd's, as it happens) who has gone around her classroom making dirisive comments to small girls (8-10 age group) about who has a "jelly" bottom and who doesn't.

 

The more I think about it, the more it saddens me, as these comments are bound to implant a terribly self-critical tendency in very young imaginations, especially tyrranical when at this age, a child certainly has not yet made a decision about whether they even wish to be professional dancers...

 

So far, I have never heard of the teachers in our school saying anything like this to our kids (to the contrary, health and strength seem to be appreciated), but my question is, can/should anything be done by my friend about this? Who would be in the best position to say something to this teacher, or to the head of the school? How pervasive IS this sort of thing? :yes:

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Thank you for your heart-felt post, cmtaka! :yes:

 

I can only add that this issue is of course not specific to dance, or even to sport. Just the other night I was talking with my neighbours and their lovely "13 almost 14" daughter. The girl is preparing for her school graduation, and we were talking about the requisite celebrations and dress. To my amazement one of the parents (in the health care profession to boot), said that daughter had been told that if she didn't fit into the dress by the graduation date she wouldn't be going to the ceremony. Parent went on to comment that daughter was starting to fill out (which would be expected given her age; this is a LOVELY young woman, slim but developing curves) and that the kiddo's face was getting "fat." Most of this was said in front of the daughter. :sweating:

 

My chin was somewhere near the driveway at this point, and thankfully another neighbour came along to chat and the topic was changed. Let's just hope the girl in question continues to eat a healthy diet, and feel good about her lovely young self!

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Yes, thank you cmtaka. Your post was very moving and I appreciate your waving a huge red flag to those who might be reading this thread so that they'll take heed if there's an issue that they might be avoiding.

 

mom2, that neighbor story is enough to turn my stomach. It shows how pervasive this skewed sense of "what is important" is when it's even hitting the "professionals" in the medical field. :wacko::sweating:

 

And mcrm55, your friend ought to look into this further. Often comments like this that are made even with the "best of intentions" and in what the speaker might think is a teasing manner can, unfortunately, take their toll.

 

And, finally, fille's mom - thank you for bringing up the topic because it will help everyone to be more aware of the subtlties of this subject. Sadly, I have seen parents who actually sew the seeds in their young dancers and do only too good a job of watering them. I do think, however, that by starting this new forum with its proper moderation that there will be an opportunity to educate the readers. Babsaroo has taken up the gauntlet in a gallant way - her posts with hyperlinks to solid information are indeed extremely helpful. :yes:

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mylildancer

There have been a lot of changes for the better over the years on the subject of eating disorders. There's been a lot more knowledge gained by the medical profession and the public in general.

 

When I was a competition gymnast (over 20 years ago), we used to have to weigh in. If our weight went over 100 lbs. we could possibly be kicked off the team. It was easier for me because I was one of the small ones. It was harder for others who were not. Dd noticed that on the video "Children of Theatre Street", the dance students were also weighed in. Weigh ins don't happen anymore to my knowledge. I don't think there is a dance school out there anymore that would have a scale in their studio, is there?

 

There was a thread about eating disorders and new medical information that was on this board about a year ago. I remember the article had something to do with eating disorders and the genetic tendency for it. Maybe the Information Wizard (BW) can find it.

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vrsfanatic

Actually, Vaganova Academy in St. Petersburg, Russia does have a scale in the facility, but they also have a full-time doctor, nurse, nutrionist, masseuse (actually more than one) and physical therapists on staff.

 

In the US, residency programs also have scales for the students to use, but weigh ins are not part of the picture anymore.

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Cmtaka, thank you very much for courageously putting your experience into words for us. I have two friends who are in their 40's and 50's and have gone through life fighting their problems with anorexia and bulimia. They have always made similar statements to yours.

 

More recently, a former student of mine, now a 12 year old non-dancing boy has been hospitalized much of the last few months for severe anemia. It was hard for his parents to find a hospital with a dept. that has a program for anorexia in boys. This boy has suffered from obsessive compulsive disorder his entire life and eating issues became another area where this cropped up. It's all so complicated.

 

I think that adults always have to be very careful with adolescents never to even joke about a child's weight. We never know how a child is interpreting our joke even when the child may be smiling and joking about it herself.

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in response to mcrm55,

 

last year, in the middle of a performance, my director and one of the dancers got into it over a comment the director made about the dancer's "gut". People have approached this director one on one about the body comments that she's made in the past and the director has just gone on the defensive, in a MAJOR way. I don't dance there anymore, but I think had everyone approached her as a group, it may have made the point sink in a little more. When just one person approached her about it, I got the impression she just thought we were taking it too sensitively

 

There were several of us in the company at that point with problems and we seemed to be the one's who bore the brunt of it. I did gain weight when I got into the company, but I was also sick and my doctor was getting on me. Maybe she has issues of her own, I don't know.

 

I guess what I'm saying is that maybe if a group of you approached the teacher or the teacher's boss, it might be more affective than if only one person said something. I mean, don't come at her like the mob or anything, be civil.

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A fact of life: the ideal ballet body for the past several years and maybe for several years more is a slim, non-curvy body.

Another fact: many professional dancers maintain this body (at a weight below normal) and do so in a healthy and intelligent manner.

 

I do not mean to make light of the issue but I do believe that everyone is so afraid to discuss weight now that we are in many cases making the situation worse. For example, my dd is 5”7. The only dancing weights she has seen in print were in a book published several years ago that list the weights of such dancers as Kirkland and Makarova – weights somewhere around 94 – 104. These dancers were not more than 5’3 or 5’4. I am pretty sure that many of today’s taller dancers such as Kowroski and Bussell are closer to 110 or 115 (???) I don’t know for sure because the weight issue has become so hush-hush!

 

If we are going to support our daughters who are serious about a career in ballet by giving them the best technique classes, driving to studios and auditions, paying for summer intensives, why would we set them up for failure by pretending that they do not have to look a certain way. How many dancers have amazing technique and are turned down because of body type? These dancers then resort to drastic measures to lose weight. Why not teach our dd’s how to eat intelligently and in a healthy manner to maintain a realistic dancing weight.

 

Let me be clear that I do not advocate some of the methods used by teachers that were related in some of the above messages. However, it is just a dangerous to ignore the issue too.

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If we are going to support our daughters who are serious about a career in ballet by giving them the best technique classes, driving to studios and auditions, paying for summer intensives, why would we set them up for failure by pretending that they do not have to look a certain way. How many dancers have amazing technique and are turned down because of body type? These dancers then resort to drastic measures to lose weight. Why not teach our dd’s how to eat intelligently and in a healthy manner to maintain a realistic dancing weight.

 

ondine88, I don't think anyone here wants to delude themselves or their offspring by pretending they do not need to have a certain ballet look. And we both certainly know that the teachers at top notch schools won't be fooling them, either. There have been many discussions about being "realistic" and it's imperative that parents, teachers and students face the proverbial "music" when it comes to the students' chances at a truly professional career. However, this particular thread was really started by fille's mom as a reminder to us all that the way discussions are handled about weight are very tricky indeed.

 

Meanwhile, one of the main reasons Ballet Talk for Dancers has started this Nutrition forum is exactly to answer your question above:

Why not teach our dd’s how to eat intelligently and in a healthy manner to maintain a realistic dancing weight?
When it comes down to it, this is an issue that is a family issue, if there is a family, and ultimately one for the individual. Whether someone is an aspiring dancer, a swimmer, a teacher, a brain surgeon, a writer...or even, yes even, an aspiring tax collector it's awfully important to stay healthy. :D
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