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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Weight talk


Guest fille'smom

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I appreciate the honesty about the weight issues. As parents we need to educate our kids on how to maintain a healthy body through eating and exercise. One of the best ways to do so is through example. Which is sometimes easier said than done.

 

We also need to take an honest look at our kids and evaluate their eating patterns and beliefs. Especially before we send them off to Summer Intensives. If your dancer was left alone for a weekend what would they normally eat or drink? There is still time to change unhealthy eating patterns before the summer!

 

Last year Dd called and told me that a friend at the same SI was going to try a really stupid myth at the SI. I would have bet money that this kid wouldn't have believed anything so stupid- but given the right environment and peer pressure.............. You just never know.

 

Be honest and educate your dancers on common weight loss myths and eating disorders. Discuss the long term problems related to anorexia and bulima (sp) honestly. These side effects aren't pretty. Talk about how they can start innocently and can develop into serious problems. Even if you think your child may never develop an eating disorder you will equip them with the information to share with another dancer if necessary.

 

I also think that our girls need to be educated on the growing and developing female body. When I was going through infertility treatment I remember thinking I wished someone had taught me about hormones when I was a teenager. It really explains a lot! Our girls need to take ownership and pride in their bodies. Let them know that there are times that their bodies are going to look different as they mature and grow.

 

cmtaka-thanks for sharing your story. I am sure that there are many people who will be helped from reading your posts.

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mylildancer

IMHO, if we want to educate our DKs about health, nutrition, and the ideal dance body, then we can all start by throwing out the scales. Our household has never had a scale. The only time DD gets weighed is when she is at the doctor's. You can already see what the body looks like. The next thing is to get our DKs to be in tune with their bodies. how do they feel? Do they have the energy to dance the best that they can day in and day out? Are they getting enough sleep? Are they taking in enough amounts of all the food groups? None of that has to do with how much they actually weigh.

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I think that in the past teachers and directors have made a lot of mistakes and done a lot of damage on weight issues. The pendulum has now swung the other way and we say nothing. I think in most dance programs the best way to discuss nutrition with dancers is to bring a nutritionist in and for the director still to stay away from the subject. Our opinions and comments even given in a supportive way can be twisted and blow up in a young dancers mind.

But to not discuss it is to put our heads in the sand. I appreciate the sensitivity and concern in everyones posts.

I observed a dance festival this weekend. I noticed on the whole that the dancers were more shapely than what I have seen in the past. I also wondered about some truly gifted dancers who do not have what are considered the perfect ballet bodies who the audiences deserve to see in the future as professional dancers in todays companies.

I often wonder if directors get so picky about body type because the field is so competitive it just becomes part of the weeding out process. I really think that times are changing and a healthy, energetic dancer is what we all want to see onstage. Companies where dancers are in amazing condition and all different shapes are out there. Alvin Ailey, and State Street Ballet are two that I have recently enjoyed show a slice of what the the world is really about and how divine the human form can be in its diversity.

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Guest fille'smom

I brought my concerns about dd's weight loss to dd's dance teacher a month ago. Instructor told my daughter that she could not come to class if she didn't gain 4 pounds. She did not mention it again to her. Since that time my daughter has lost 10 pounds. Yesterday DD was rehearsing her solo at the studio when I walked in and saw the end. Afterward I remarked to her instructor that she looked good to me -meaning her dancing. Her reply was "yes she is looking better....she just needs to gain 1 or 2 pounds and she will be just right". What an opportunity to discuss the pressures of a subculture that talks about being healthy and beautiful yet rewards those who are putting their health at risk.

 

DD is now meeting with a nutritionist who specializes in the needs of female athletes. I am going to buy stock in the Ensure company! That stuff is expensive!

 

PS We love this instructor and know that she means no harm. She is caring and good with the students. She is just a part of the subculture.

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My question is why the instructor did not follow up on her original condition: No dancing until you gain four pounds. If the instructor is not following up her words with actions, she is not helping your daughter.

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fille's mom, losing 10 pounds seems dangerous for someone who is already considered too thin - and in your earlier post you mentioned that she's already lost 23 so that is 33lbs! I hope the nutritionist is helpful for your daughter. Meanwhile, Treefrog makes a good point.

 

Be careful. Something is causing your daughter to lose weight.

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I may have sounded snippy in my earlier post, and if I did, I want to apologize. However, I am very concerned for your daughter, fille's mom. I am SO glad that you have taken her to a nutritionist. As we are all well aware, eating disorders are a danger within the dance community, and we all have to respond when we see these red flags. I'm not an expert, but it does sound as though your daughter is at risk for an eating disorder -- if indeed she does not already have one. (I'm not asking you to share this information.) Please take care of her and consult all the appropriate experts -- pediatrician, nutritionist, and someone familiar with the psychological side of eating disorders. :yes:

 

Oh, and take care of yourself! You are a smart mom to notice these weight changes and to take action.

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fille's mom,

 

As a RN, I have concerns for your daughter as well. As a ballet mom, I know that at any given time, any of us could be posting with the same concerns. We all know that some of best attributes of ballet students are the same attributes that place adolescent girls at high risk for eating disorders.

 

Losing weight while at a very low BMI is dangerous and can lead to multiple organ complications. BMI is an estimate of body mass and doesn't distinguish between fat or muscle weight. Just a few pounds can drastically change a BMI percentage and affect health.

 

I recommend that a physician examine your dd as soon as possible. It would be beneficial to see a physician who specializes in adolescent medicine and is familiar with eating disorders. A complete physical exam with diagnostic tests can give a clear picture of how her general health is and identify if there is any health problems from the dramatic weight loss. A red flag is that your dd is feeling cold. This could indicate anemia. Once, a complete physical exam is done, if needed, any other referrals can be done in a timely manner. As with all health issues, early intervention is always best.

 

Another advantage to seeing a physician is that it takes some of the load off you. The physician and the health team can take the lead. This allows you to be in a supportive, encouraging role.

 

I have been a nurse a very long time. One thing that has consistently been true is to trust the mother's instincts. I think you are wise to follow your instincts and seek medical care.

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I would also suggest that you take her to a doctor for a complete medical check-up and blood work. I have no medical training but perhaps her weight loss could be a symptom of some other medical problem.

 

Isn't your daughter the one who is going off to a Residential School next year? This is a great opportunity for you to check everything out before she leaves. Let us know what you find out. Take care.

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Guest fille'smom
I recommend that a physician examine your dd as soon as possible. It would be beneficial to see a physician who specializes in adolescent medicine and is familiar with eating disorders. A complete physical exam with diagnostic tests can give a clear picture of how her general health is and identify if there is any health problems from the dramatic weight loss.

Thank you all for your concern about my daughter. Her primary care physician has already seen her and given us a referral for the sports med doc and nutritionist. Appts. are set for Monday. DD wants to go because she really doesn't want to put her health at risk. Wouldn't want to have to stop dancing because of illness or injury. Meanwhile she has increased her calorie intake by eatting protein bars and Ensure. I am hoping to have testing done to rule out other causes of the weight loss. I am fairly sure that it is her diet though. She didn't realized how low her daily intake was until I made her start journaling her food. (Some days were at less than 1000 calories and she had increased aerobic activity)

 

I feel confident that we are on the right track. I am not going to let this get by me. I have let her know in no uncertain terms that she will not be allowed to attend the residency program if her health is at risk. I want a happy healthy daughter - dancing or not. :wacko:

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Fille's mom, I'm very glad that your DD has seen the primary care physician again. As a pediatrician, I'm very concerned that your daughter's weight loss may be more complicated than just insufficient caloric intake. If your daughter does have an eating disorder, you should know that kids and their families need the support of a psychologist or psychiatrist as well the professionals who are already involved. Definitely ask your primary care physician about this as soon as you can.

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Rappy, thank you very much for posting that (and thanks to several very helpful responses on this thread!) We welcome your counsel and hope we can prevail upon you to weigh in often :wacko:

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You are most welcome, and I'm always glad to share what I can when appropriate. I thought I'd follow up with some additional, very important information.

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I thought I'd follow up with additional information that is very important. (This was supposed to be one post but I must have pushed the wrong button!)

 

First of all, excessive weight loss and eating disorders are two very separate entities, and not every individual who loses a lot of weight has an eating disorder, and not every individual with an eating disorder is thin. Sometimes there is the common ground of poor nutrition, inadequate caloric intake, and excess weight loss (but not always), and primary care physicians and nutritionists can help to care for the medical complications. Ballet teachers can also be very supportive.

 

What needs to be emphasized though, is that anorexia/bulimia is a psychiatric, not a medical diagnosis. This is very important to understand, because it is going to be a psychiatrist/child psychiatrist/psychologist, ideally who specializes in eating disorders, who can get to the issues at hand and really provide help. THEY are the experts, and are central to treatment.

 

For more info, go to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry web site: www.aacap.org and click on "facts for families". Hope this helps.

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Victoria Leigh

Thank you, rappy! No problem about the posts, you probably just hit the Reply button too soon :D

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