I started dance at the young age of four, and since then, it has been my truest love. I was never aware of my body until 7th grade when my dance studio had fittings for a quite revealing jazz costume. The girls behind me were giggling at my “back fat”, even taking pictures to make fun of me.
Keep in mind, I wasn’t fat…just had extra growing skin since I was a late bloomer! It was then when I became aware of the skin I was living in- and grew to hate it. I hated that in ballet I looked different to the other girls, and would wear my tights in JUST the right spot to hold in, what I would call, my lower belly chubs.
I had reached a point of no return, and the resentment just continued to grow. As college came around, I started to realize that my “tummy aches” were anxiety, and this anxiety actually made me not hungry- so I wouldn’t eat. I began losing weight, and loving it.
The love affair with my anxiety and weight loss was a dangerous one, but I didn’t care since I was finally starting to look like the dancer I wanted to be – tiny. I have had relapses in my recovery. I had a good three years of moving forward at the college I ended up graduating from, AMDA, and it wasn’t until after I graduated when my disordered eating came back.
I was living the dance college conservatory high, and although I was in front of the mirror all day, I was so focused on choreography and movement that I wasn’t completely aware of how my body was looking. I knew I wasn’t “dancer skinny” and “perfect”, but the obsession with my body hadn’t taken over again.
After graduation, my anxiety led to not eating, and not eating led to getting skinnier. I loved it, however my doctor and family did not. I became afraid of food. Even being underweight, I wasn’t happy with how my body looked.
Instead of seeing food as fuel, I saw it as “fat” and my enemy. After hitting my bottom, I started working at a kickboxing gym and teaching dance at a high school. I wasn’t going to allow myself to be a hypocrite, especially with my students, so healthy eating and SELF LOVE became my priority!! AND HERE I AM!
The mirror- the goddamn mirror!!!!! Ballet in high school became a bra top and booty shorts since our dance costumes were revealing, and I wouldn’t even be able to make corrections with myself since I didn’t even want to look at myself. I hated what I saw. I hid it well…at this time, I was at a point where I still ate, not completely realizing that if I restrained from eating, my body would shrink.
Now, fueling my body and training it properly, I am noticing a HEALTHY change in my body. I am getting stronger. I am back in my healthy weight range. The mirror still distorts what I see, but I try not to think of the mirror as my everything. How I feel, and listening to my body is whats important. Making healthy food choices, trying to get rest when I need it, and balance is more important than my own reflection. My dancing comes from my heart, not the mirrors skewed version of me.
I believe recovery from an eating disorder for dancers is different than “normal” people. As dancers, we spend the majority of our time looking in the mirror. We are faced with what we think we look like more than a normal person.
What the industry wants is also a huge factor for dancers. We have the pressure to maintain this perfect “dancers body”, which a lot of the time isn’t healthy, where as “normal” people find this pressure from other factors.
My biggest struggle with my recovery was the fact that a huge part of me didn’t want to change. I loved the fact that people were calling me “tiny”. I loved how LIGHT I felt dancing, and how I was starting to look like the dancer I dreamed of. I fell in love with something dangerous to my own existence- and I didn’t care. There would always be another pound to lose, or another adjustment. I didn’t want to change until I realized I needed to.
In my recovery from my disordered eating, I’ve been prone to relapses. The recovery is ongoing, it is always changing and I am always trying to better myself. I still have days where I slip and want to starve myself since I was binge eating the day before…but my mind is now re-trained to realize that it does more HARM to my body than good.
I have gained weight, but my weight is muscle. Do I weigh myself often? NO. All that does is mess with my mind even more. I am so proud that I am feeling healthy and better in my own skin. I am finally starting to really love myself, not just physically, but my personality also! I am loving how my dancing is looking- and just booked my third professional show!!!! Something is working, and if its the direction of self love and self care- I am all about it!!
My message to younger dancers…Love yourself. You need to find that voice in your mind thats telling you to do the right thing- and do it. Eat healthy, FUEL yourself, and watch how that makes your dancing grow.
Stop counting calories and limiting yourself to one protein bar a day and drowning yourself with more water than you need, or ballerina tea. In order to grow as a dancer, you need the energy. Try to talk to the little version of yourself, and find ways to make HER proud.
Be your own inspiration, and watch yourself grow in ways you didn’t even realize you were capable of doing.
Christina shares her Eating Disorder Recovery story.