Being aware of eating disorders can make a big difference to you as a dancer, but unfortunately the conversation is hardly ever held in schools or even between teachers and students.
Dancers today are provided with loads of resources about ankle sprains, knee and hip injuries, and prehab workouts to prevent injuries from happening in the first place.
Then why, I really wonder, are we not providing resources on eating concerns?
Eating disorders can be prevented, and that’s a HUGE benefit for dancers because it’ll save your mind, body, money, time, and prolong your dancing career.
So let’s start this much-needed conversation.
What is an Eating Disorder?
An eating disorder is a serious, life-threatening mental illness characterised by disturbed eating habits, distress around food and eating, and significant concerns about body weight/shape. It has the highest mortality rate out of all mental illnesses.
An eating disorders is a bio-psycho-social illness, which means that genetics, psychological state, and social/environmental factors all come into play to cause the illness.
How does it affect dancers?
The fact is, rates of eating disorders are much higher in dancers than non-dancers.
This could be due to a number of reasons, such as:
- Dancers are often taught to “manage your weight” from a young age, and this comes with a (false) image that “managing weight = worthy as a dancer”.
- Dancers are often exposed to unhealthy eating practices due to the above message.
- Dancers can have traits/characteristics that, unfortunately, overlaps with that susceptible to eating disorders. For more detailed information, refer to this post here.
Because eating disorders will disrupt a person’s mental and physical health, the long term impacts can include frequent injuries, slow healing, energy deficiency, menstrual irregularities, fertility issues, depression, cardiovascular (heart-related) complications and sudden death, only to name a few.
No, it’s not nice at all is it?
What can be done to prevent it?
Everyone can play a part in preventing eating disorders – from yourself, friends, siblings, parents, grandparents and teachers.
- Shift away from the too-common thought that “losing weight = success”. Your value comes with your character, dream goals, how you interact with yourself and others, your unique talents… not your weight, shape or size.
- Create diet-talk free zones at home, studio, and schools. Make these ‘safe spaces’ free from judgement and criticism.
- Allow yourself to eat, feed and fuel. You don’t need to “earn” the right to eat. Every single human being deserves to nourish themself. If you’re unsure whether you’re eating nourishingly, this post can help.
- Step up and challenge the diet talks. You’re helping yourself AND your friends/family by addressing problematic fad diets.
- If you have eating and/or body image concerns, address it with a professional.
Dancers are at a higher risk of developing eating disorders.
But we can stop eating disorders before they start.
And we should.