Weighing In on Eating Disorder Issues:
The Eating Disorder Journal
(December 2019, Vol. 20, No.12)
The Eating Disorder Trap: Dancers and the Illusion of Perfectionism by Dawn Theodore. I grew up in front of a mirror and as a dancer it was my best friend and my worst enemy. When I began comparing myself to others and listening to the drill sergeant in my head that never stopped proclaiming that needed to lose weight, then the mirror became my enemy. When I was 15 and my body started developing, I thought losing a few pounds would help me jump higher and look better in my leotard. Yet the less I ate, the louder my inner drill sergeant barked negative criticism. Soon, the drive to be perfect took over my thoughts. I spent hours planning my caloric intake and eventually developed anorexia nervosa where I did not see myself as thin no matter how much weight I lost. I was chasing the rainbow of perfection, an illusion. I feel very lucky that I recovered from anorexia. It was a long journey with years of therapy and learning to trust myself and my body. An eating disorder is like living in a prison in your mind. While perfectionism is part of the temperament of some people, dance can further promote it. There is a dangerous line where perfectionism becomes problematic, and the dancer begins to lose perspective. The love for dance eventually starts to fade away. Thoughts become very black-and-white: If you aren't perfect, you're a failure. Dancers are always critiquing themselves, but if the majority of your thoughts are persistently negative, you're constantly thinking about how to perfect your body or going to drastic measures to lose weight, you may need help. Consider seeking out professionals, such as a psychotherapist, dietitian and a doctor who specializes in eating disorders. Do not let the allure of being perfect steal your love of dance.
Dawn Smith-Theodore is the author of “TuTu Thin", international speaker, and psychotherapist specializing in the treatment of eating disorders. Dawn is a former dancer who is passionate about her work with dancers and helping to educate the dance world to prevent eating disorders. www.dawntheodore.com.
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