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Body type

Guest jm4364

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12 y/o DD has recently been made aware of different "body types," and has expressed a concern about hers relative to what is deemed desireable for dancers. While this may be a legitimate question, she has demonstrated a concern about her weight. Yikes! definately a legitimate concern of mine! I have suggested she speak with any one of her trusted instructors about this, but wonder if I should talk to them about it also. It's not good timing with Nutcracker rehearsal and all, but I'm wondering if it is unreasonable to see if one would be willing to talk/mentor her about this important issue. Any ideas?

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jm, with this age child I think it best for the teacher and the parent to talk. The child does not yet have control of her own diet, and it will be up to you to get the guidance you need to help her, if indeed she does need any help. I would not put a child that age on a diet without consultation with a registered dietician/nutritionist. Her body will change and she still has a lot of growing to do. You have to be very careful during those years.

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That's the problem; she's not overweight. She is very muscular and her doc says she's of slight build; however, she's not rail thin like several of her dance pals are. At 5'2'' she weighs 95 pounds.

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If she is not overweight, then she needs needs to understand about different body types. I think it would be best for her teacher to talk to you both, and explain to her that she is fine and has nothing to worry about. Perhaps some photos of dancers (other than NYCB types) would be a good idea. There are dancers of all body types, and not all are rail thin. Many are too thin and not feminine. But she should not be spending her time thinking about this now, as it could lead to problems. She needs to focus on the work, not the body, as long as there is nothing wrong with it! :(

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This sounds like the discovery of the endo/meso/ectomorph body profiles. She should have a talk with her teacher about how she's doing technically, and gradually, she'll process the information that classifies body type, and they won't mean much more to her than "ankle", "elbow", "knee". She's dealing with "new" information and trying to internalize it. After awhile, the novelty will wear off, and she'll use the information just like anything else she knows.

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JM, I can't add anything technical, but I can add a parent's perspective. The vast majority of ballet teachers, I would guess, are very sensitive to sending the wrong message to a young girl who is getting more and more serious about dancing. To be frank, like with sex, I think the far greater worry is what the kids hear from other kids. I personally think it is important to address these issues directly and openly with the child and with the help of her teacher. My daughter can laugh about it, but she has seen many a young girl at a summer intensive who will come out of lunch saying how full and bloated she felt having eaten 2 blueberries. No matter how self assured a young girl is, that can start to be a difficult peer pressure to avoid.

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I have this issue, not with my DD, but with my non-dd. Non-dd is, and always has been, very lean and, when much smaller, very small. She has been a highly conditioned athlete for many years, beginning at age 4. (No, she didn't start major conditioning at that age---except to enjoy physical activity) She craves the conditioning. She is, at 14, quite slender, well-shaped, toned, and with beautiful muscle definition. Most girls would "kill" for her physique. She, however, thinks she is "fat", primarily because she is dense due to her amount of muscle, but also because one can actually see her muscles.


She started with this "I am fat" stuff as early as 4th grade. I brought it up at her annual physical with her doctor and he asked her why she thought she was fat. Her response was that particular girls on the playground would tell other girls they were fat --depending on how hard it was for the labellers to push their classmates on the tire swings or whether the labellers were "smaller" than their classmates.


Non-dd's doctor showed her the growth-chart curve and where exactly she placed on it. He showed her where the "normal ranges" were for her age and where she would have to have placed to be considered "fat". He told her that muscle is heavier than fat and that, in his opinion, the labellers should perhaps work on building some muscle to help them push their classmates on the tire swing.


Non-dd periodically still brings this "I'm fat" issue up in comparing herself to her fellow divers. She still can't see that she is the one with the enviable physique: She has it all, long, lean limbs, well-muscled, proportional, the strength plus the flexibility to do all her sport requires, and a fabulous shape that those clingy bias-cut party dresses were designed for. (No, dear, you must wait a few years to wear those!!) Simply because her muscles weigh more, she thinks that means she is fat. It is a subtle, but neverending battle with her. I have shown her the BMI calculations--which put her on the borderline between underweight and normal--but she still focuses on the scale numbers.


I haven't figured out a good answer for her yet. But she's the one that scares me with this focus.

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I think the vast majority of teen dancers are NOT suffering from eating disorders. I also think dancemaven raises a good point - young girls who are not dancers are susceptible to the same ills. That having been said, body shape is an important part of dancing, and unfortunately body shape and fitness is often misinterpreted by young girls, and even by adults. Vigilence is in order, but I personally think it is important to not panic. As my wife always points out, saying you'd like to be 5 pounds lighter, even if you are in good shape is not necessarily a sign of the mental illness that eating disorders are. Again, open communication with a young girl is the crucial factor.

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Mr. Johnson brings up a good point about discovering the different body types. I know it was very helpful for non-ds to learn about different body types, what they generally look like when fit and the activities they do best at. He now knows that while dd and ds weaken easily from too few calories and can do things like dance. His body is more designed to withstand periods of less calories, when necessary, but his body has dense bulk muscles which are good for weight lifting, wrestling, football ect. It helped to give him an example of someone with a similar body type, Arnold Swartzenager. I think this body type discovery has been important for each person in our family so that we each develope a good body image rather than cmpairing or feeling like our bodies should be like another family member's. This was an epiphany for me when I discovered that I am mesomorph with a lot of strength and dispite 25 years of dieting I was never going to be like my ectomorph mother or daughter. Mom now calls on me to do the heavy lifting around her house. The ectomorph seems to be the typical body for ballet. I think if as teens discover they don't have the "ballet body" but that they have a different type body, they can understand it's not a "fat" body. Then they can learn the assets and best uses of that type of body. It pains me to think of girls that are starving, struggling, and emotionally distressed trying to make their body into something it wasn't meant to be.

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This topic is definitely a touchy one. First of all, I think it would be helpful for you to have a discussion with your daughter's primary teacher. It is important to understand how he/she feels about this topic. You daughter sounds like she is a good weight for her height to me, but what does the teacher think? I have known teachers who comment about weight inappropriatelly during class. This has devastating effects! I would make it very clear to the teacher that under no circumstances are they to address this issue with your child directly. The teacher should schedule a meeting with you, if need be. You need to find a way to get the point across without sounding like you mistrust the teacher.


Secondly, at age 12, you might want to begin stressing healthy eating habits. Between the ages of 12 and 14, my daughter started to cut back on sodas, chips and candy. When puberty kicks in the female body wants to add body fat. I think it really helps to have healthy eating routines in place during this time.


My dd who is now an older teen recently put on some extra weight. I asked her teachers if the weight was noticebly too much and the reply was yes. I then addressed this very touchy subject with her. She has lost the weight and is doing a good job of keeping it off without desperate measures.


Good luck and please do keep on the look out!

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My DD (age 11) has recently started with the "I'm fat" as well. She is not fat at all, and I have just been encouraging her that she is beautiful, has a beautiful body, and that she shouldnt compare herself to other girls, because everyone is different. Furthermore, as far as a ballet body - she does not know what type of body she will have once she goes through puberty. She has only recently started a growth sprut. She is finally an inch taller than the smallest girl in her class - they have always been tiny. I do not allow her to diet, but I encourage her to eat healthy. I was never a dancer or particularly athletic, but I can remember the same type of thing going on with me and my friends when I was her age. We all compared ourselves to each other, and started counting calories. None of us ended up with eating disorders.

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