Eating Disorders Information: Eating Disorders in Dance – Why They Exist and How You Can Spot Them

The body of a dancer is often something of magnificence. Perfect lines, size, shape, they are truly a subject for art work. This of course is not something easily achieved. Perfecting this move, improving that technique, taking into account the appearance of every body part during ever movement and working to perfect it. A dancer needs to be long, lean, and tone. It is no wonder than that so many dancers experience major body image issues often leading to full blow eating disorders. The body required by dance is not easy to achieve and can cause many to fall back on extreme dieting practices in order meet the demands.

The world of dancer is filled with concerns about body image. In many cases, like ballet, hours are spent in front of mirrors scrutinizing every move. While young girls and boys, as eating disorders are gender blind, perfect their plies, and improve their relieves they are constantly focused on their body. As a dancer, it’s important to be long, lean, and graceful. Hours of practice in front of the mirror helps students monitor their progress. The can assess their bodies during each movement. Are my legs extended correctly? Is my posture okay? This constructive self criticism can become to much for some and lead to an unhealthy obsession with their weight and body image.

Why Are Dancers at Risk

Because dancing puts an already at risk age demographic even more at risk for eating disorders, it’s important to monitor your son, daughter, or students to make sure they are living healthy lives and their concern with body image does not hurtle them into to the clutches of anorexia or bulimia. One way to put a stop to this health issue before it becomes a life threatening problem is to be able to recognize the signs and symptoms. The following list is composed of various signs that the individual may in fact be suffering from a eating disorder.

Extreme Weight Loss: One of the most obvious signs of an eating disorder is a dramatic loss of weight over a short amount of time. Unfortunately, many dancers are already very thin in stature and this may not be as obvious as it would be in a child who is of average weight or more.

Obsessing Over Weight: While it’s typical for some adolescents or teens to be concerned with their weight or appearance, constant concern or obsessiveness over their weight is a sign that there may be a deep rooted issue.

Obsessive Dieting: Individuals who are obsessed with their weight will often take the very same stance on the food that enters their body. An overwhelming amount of attention may be paid to the calorie or fat content or portion sizes. If the individual in question refuses to splurge one in awhile on their favorite food, or is seldom seen eating this is definitely a situation you should monitor.

Low Self Esteem: Since body image is a driving force behind eating disorders, these problems are often paired with extremely low self esteem, self worth, and self hatred. They will constantly put themselves down and be ashamed in front of family, friends, and acquaintances.

Physical Illness: Whether bulimia or anorexia is the issue, there is a general decrease in the health of an individual suffering from these illnesses. Frequent headaches, soar throats, low blood pressure, loss of a menstrual cycle, bloodshot eyes or eyes that appearance bruised, and bleeding, scraped up, or callused knuckles can all point to eating disorders.

Frequent Visits To the Lavatory: Individuals who turn to bulimia as a means of body control are frequently seen heading towards the bathroom, particularly during or right after meals. During this time they will purge their meals. Another fairly indicative sign is the water running for long periods of time. This helps cover any telltale signs that you may otherwise hear.

Strange Eating Patterns or Rituals: Those who suffer from bulimia or anorexia often have peculiar eating practices or rituals. They may hide food in various places, tactfully play with food to make it appear they have ate more; or spitting chewed food out and discarding it in napkins to be thrown away.

Eating disorders are serious mental and physical diseases that can create short and long term health issues or in severe cases even death. If you suspect your son, daughter, fellow dancer, or dance student is at risk it’s important to take action. This is a prevalent problem in the youth population and there are a variety of doctors, clinics, and psychologist who are well trained and willing to help lead them back onto the path of wellness.

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Eating Disorders Information – Eating disorders are serious, but treatable, illnesses with medical and psychiatric aspects. The Counseling, Testing and Mental Health Center at TCU has developed a series of videos that can help students to recognize symptoms of those dealing with distress and resources that can help.


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