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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Need to Vent a Little...


Balletmom

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Last night my daughter told me the grandmother of a younger dancer started asking her pointed questions about her eating habits, telling her she looks like she's lost weight (she hasn't!) and must not be eating anything. My daughter told her that, yes, she does eat, but the woman--known as a bit of a busybody, anyway--wouldn't listen. :shrug: My daughter has always been naturally thin, even going back to when she was a baby and a toddler and her weight never made it above the 2nd or 3rd percentile on the charts at the doctor's office. I was very thin as a child and teenager myself, and endured the normal teasing and taunts, but nowadays with a child who dances everyone assumes thinness equates with having an eating disorder. We've encountered this problem before with more well-meaning people at the studio, going back several years. Usually we ignore the rumors, which is what I intend to do this time. If someone asks me point blank about it, I usually try to let them know that my daughter does indeed eat, and eats well. She has an appreciation for good food, and just because she's thin and doesn't eat french fries for example, does not mean she has an eating disorder! (I rarely eat fries or chips myself.) So, please think before assuming every thin dancer has an eating disorder, and if you are seriously concerned about a dancer's weight, talk to the parent or a teacher privately, not sitting in a studio hallway with other dancers and parents around.

 

Thanks, fellow Ballet-talkers for letting me get this off my chest. B) I realize this will probably apply to very few--if any-- of you, but from reading those other (unmoderated) boards, it's not an uncommon viewpoint.

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I just want to add that I realize that eating disorders are a very real, very serious problem. I only want people to think about what they say to others first, and if you suspect the problem is there, handle it as you would any other serious concern about another person.

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This is a topic that drives me crazy, simply because of this: IT'S NONE OF THEIR DARN BUSINESS!!!!

 

If there are concerns about weight it should be handled in a confidential and discreet way. It should not be a topic for discussion in the studio hallways, and it especially should not be the topic of discussion among the studios parents. The only people who need to be involved are the student, the parent, the student's doctor and the teacher. Everyone else should be told to keep their very unprofessional and unhelpful opinions to themselves.

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My daughter had this problem too. Really, she eats but eats naturally healthy. She is also very pale and is constantly asked if she is feeling well. I can't believe I spawned a child who doesn't eat cheese or potatoes. B) Dealing with eating disorders is a very delicate business and comments like these are uncalled for and very hurtful.

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Kait once took a ballet class with a friend who attended a different studio. During the next class, the teacher announced to everyone that Kait was anorexic. Of course, Kait heard about it from her friend. I found it appalling that a teacher would actually announce that opinion, publicly, in front of her students. It was also distressing because although Kait attended an out of town studio, this studio was in our hometown, so many of the other dancers knew her from school. Her friend, who frequently ate lunch with Kait, just laughed and told the teacher that she was way off base. Pretty amazing.

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Last year in high school my daughter had an aerobics teacher that constantly insinuated that dancers and eating disorders go hand in hand. My daughter has more of an athletic body type than a "ballet" body type and has always had to watch her diet carefully. She enrolled in the aerobics class to build her strength, endurance and to help her burn calories. That class last year was a great help even though the teacher was not supportive of her aspirations to dance professionally and constantly commented to both my daughter and myself that she was "concerned" that an eating disorder was inevitable. It is very irritating to have people that really know nothing about your child impose their opinion. Like LMC said IT IS NONE OF THEIR BUSINESS. If you as a parent are comfortable with your dancers eating habits tell the busybodies to get lost!!! B)

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Thanks, Balletmom, for posting. As mom to a kid who never, in her childhood, hit the charts of what's considered a normal growth pattern, I've heard it all about my child too. Long before daughter even entered a ballet studio for the first time, people made comments to me about her size despite her dad being a string bean himself. Her pediatrician way back when she was a tot was great about it. When I let him know I was worried about her not growing "normally" at age 5 months or so, he'd ask, "Can she read? Does she know the books say she's supposed to gain a pound a month?" His point was that she followed her own curve beautifully and was thriving.

 

Daughter endured all the raised eyebrows, comments, finger-pointing in the dance and school hallways during her early to mid-adolescent years. Lucky for her, the ballet teachers in the school had all known her since she was 4 years old so whenever someone-adult or child- commented about her size, the teachers would say things like, "If you call this thin, you should've seen her when she was 4 years old!"

 

After about 14, most of the girls were able to recognize that she was just naturally that way and the comments died. Every once in awhile, though, someone like the grandmother you describe would start up with a comment. There have been times where I've seethed inside at the rudeness but I've learned to use the "Ya shoulda seen her when..." line. B)

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I think that one of the things many of these parents and non-dancer adults don't realize is that there is a very different look to someone who is just naturally very thin and someone who has an eating disorder. Those of us who have seen it will usually recognize the difference. It has to do with head size, bone structure, and general proportion, plus sometimes coloring and a look in the eyes. Natural thinness, like vagansmom's daughter, whom I happen to know and work with, look healthy and "right" on a particular person. The head size, and the overall structure fit with this thinness, and she is obviously strong and healthy, with good coloring. I would not have considered her for a problem at all, and there isn't one. However, I can see where people who don't really know the signs and differences might think so. However, it is still none of their business, and certainly not something that should ever be used as fodder for gossip.

 

Perhaps the ballet schools need to have some PTA meetings to educated the parents, grandparents, guardians, whoever, about a lot of things, this being one of them.

 

That said, I must also relate that I have experienced parents who are unwilling to recognize that their child does indeed have a problem. Many of them are so good at hiding it that their parents really do not know. So, parents, if someone (not another parent or grandparent, but a teacher who knows the child) comes to you with some thoughts that there might be a problem, please don't be too quick to totally negate it. It's possible that it could be there and you don't know it, as hard as that might seem to believe. I have experienced this with parents and students, and it does exist. It's not unlike maybe not knowing that a child is doing some form of drugs....they are VERY clever at hiding and disguising things. Read some of the books that have been written by young women who have been through this. Their parents were the LAST to know.

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This "ugly beast" topic also has another "evil" side.....My DD has had parents of students she danced with comment within hearing range how " XXX has totally lost it" and is sooo overweight, she no longer posses a threat! Teaching staff have been no better! How nice it would have been to have staff who exhibited a real concern for her total wellbeing, to the point of offering constructive help! This would have made a difficult time much more managable and help towards healing! Whatever happened to calling parents?....from either end of the spectrume! For those who encourage the gossip.....there but for the grace of God goes yours!!!

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Gossip is truly an ugly beast. I agree that the "so and so has certainly put on weight" remarks bring just as much cruelty. Sadly, gossip seems only to feed upon itself in order to grow ever more insatiable.

 

As we all know, the putting down of others is done in order to make oneself, or one's child, feel better and immune to such downfalls. Oh where, oh where is The Golden Rule? B)

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I think that one of the things many of these parents and non-dancer adults don't realize is that there is a very different look to someone who is just naturally very thin and someone who has an eating disorder. Those of us who have seen it will usually recognize the difference. It has to do with head size, bone structure, and general proportion, plus sometimes coloring and a look in the eyes.  Natural thinness, like vagansmom's daughter, whom I happen to know and work with, look healthy and "right" on a particular person. The head size, and the overall structure fit with this thinness, and she is obviously strong and healthy, with good coloring.  I would not have considered her for a problem at all, and there isn't one. However, I can see where people who don't really know the signs and differences might think so. However, it is still none of their business, and certainly not something that should ever be used as fodder for gossip.

Once upon a time, I was one of those whom everyone but my closest friends thought had an eating disorder. I was very thin-looking, even though according to today's BMI charts I was actually within the normal range. With constant nasal allergies I always had dark circles under the eyes, and a vaguely unhealthy look. And problems with undiagnosed lactose-intolerance often had me running for the bathroom after meals, which certainly did nothing to dispell those rumors. I didn't let it bother me, but I could never figure out why everyone pegged me for eating disorders because of my size when there were others much thinner than me who never seemed to get the same scrutiny. Then a friend told me, "It's because XXX looks healthy at that weight, but you don't."

 

In any case, gossip about someone's weight is not appropriate and does nothing to help the situation, even if there is a problem.

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My daughter is one of those on the other end of the spectrum. She just turned 13 and looks to be about 15 or older. She grew early and matured faster than some of the other girls at her old studio. I can't tell you how many times we heard comments about how "big" she was. She is thin (a size 0 or 1) and is 5'5" which is not that tall but for some of the other girls in her class, she was a head taller and much more mature looking. She started worrying about her height and size for a while but realized when we changed studios that she was not that far off. She is tall for her age but not abnormally so.

I do worry about how teachers look at her at auditions for SI's because she is taller than most of the other girls in her age group. She grew maybe an inch over the past year and the doctor says she may squeak another inch out if she is lucky. She looks taller than she is because she has long legs. Many people do not realize that her history is an early growth that has almost stopped. I wonder if teachers think she is still growing and hasn't reached puberty yet. They must think she is going to be 7'!!! :):blink:

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Eskimopieo and Vagansmom, I can really relate to both your situations. Gossip of this subject has been very hurtful to my dd. She was always very tiny. Even now she is 15 but can easily pass for 12 or 13. Most recently I have been dealing with an ironic situation where I participated in some posts about some extremely thin girls at her last SI. On another board, where posts are a little more "free", it seems that they may have been including my dd. :)

 

My dd has had to put up with a lot of accusations of anorexia. She has always been small and I have always tried to find out why. It took moving to a larger city with medical specialists to find out that dd has a slight malabsorption problem due to over prescribed antibiotics when she was an infant. The many antibiotics that she had to take had done slight damage to her digestive system. She does not have the normal amount of silia (hair like structures lining the digestive walls that absorb nutrients) in her system as other people do. Whenever she explains to people about this, their reaction is that she "is so lucky!" No she is not. She has to take probiotics (digestive enzymes) for the rest of her life and she doesn't just not absorb all the calories, she doesn't absorb all the NUTRIENTS. She has to take supplements everyday and spread out her meals throughout the day or snack a lot to absorb maximum nutrition. She is also severly lactose intollerant because of this condition. Since her unique condition has come to light and together with her physicians steps have been taken to help cope with the situation she has gone from 4'11" and 72 lbs to 5'4" and 98 lbs. in two years. If that didn't do strange things to her technique!

 

So yes, I can imagine that there are many reasons some kids are extremely tiny and thin. There are also other signs that an ED is present that Ms. Leigh did not mention and that is the emotion symptoms of an ED. They are usually obsessive, highly emotional on either end of the spectrum and sometimes both ends, secretive, and they can become excellent liars which is why the parents are a lot of times the last to know.

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I only want people to think about what they say to others first

 

And that!, my dear friend, would make this world a much better place to live!

 

Vj

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