Guest post by Annett Bone
“I know you’ve lost weight, but I need you to lose more.”
Took me a minute to process this statement.
Wait a minute, what?
As these words sank in, I thought, “I’ve been working so hard and trying to fit into what you need, and obviously it isn’t good enough.”
I thought, “Okay, time to do more. There’s obviously something wrong with me still.”
I can imagine that moment vividly to this day.
It was 1988-1989, I was between junior and senior years in an all-girls Catholic high school. I was training to dance in a variety show at this resort called Pacific Islands Club, on a tiny little island that most people don’t know, a U.S. Territory called Guam.
Dance opportunities were scarce so I wanted to take advantage of what I could. The choreographer, who I’ll call Lisa, pulled me aside and expressed her concerns about my weight.
As you can see, those words had stuck with me for a long time. Isn’t it incredible the power of a few letters, a few statements?
Dance is interesting in that it gives you this awesome freedom and platform for expression, but dance can trap you into thinking you’re not enough based on other’s standards…if you let it.
That’s where I found myself for many years.
Experiencing this throughout college when I continued studying dance, the words other people said, and more importantly, the words I said to myself, surrounding my physical appearance and food dictating how I would show up.
Today I call it a blessing. I also refer to food as nourishment, sustenance, energy, and healing power. Back then, I labeled food as good, bad, healthy, unhealthy, a temptation, a reward, etc.
My relationship with food was two-fold. Food was my foe, but at the same time, it was also my “faithful” friend. The epitome of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and I couldn’t predict who would rear their head out when food and I were standing face to face.
I had lots of anxiety surrounding food. Food appeared as the enemy waiting to attack me at my weakest moments, which I felt weak most of the time, and I didn’t want to fight so, I succumbed. Because it was easier to give into something that was a temporary comfort than face what was going internally head on.
On the flip side, food was also my friend. Food was there for me when harsh words were spoken over me. Food was my companion when I was lonely. Food was my partner when I needed a mindless tv show watching buddy.
When I quit dance for over 20+ years after getting my dance degree, this was part of it. My tumultuous relationship with food and how I viewed myself as a dancer. I allowed the deeper issues that I had, which I wasn’t aware of at the time, determine my descent from the thing I loved.
As my health and inner resolve declined, I found myself going back and forth, overwhelmed and confused with all that goes on in our culture surrounding food, health, and exercise.
The trends touting certain diets, food, exercise, was all too much and when things didn’t work, I found myself reverting back to the harsh words and moments that I experienced all too often regarding my weight and other aspects of my physical appearance.
The internal turmoil was about to burst. I had enough of allowing other’s opinions affect the way I viewed myself. I hated how I felt physically, and I missed dancing.
So, I returned to dance after a 20+ year hiatus, and started my quest to regain a healthier disposition, mentally and physically.
My first step was to start moving by getting back into class. In the process, I started experimenting with modified versions of different eating styles…low-carb, no-carb, etc.
I knew this would be a process because I had to overcome years of self-sabotage and I am so thankful I allowed myself space, time and compassion to go through this process. Slowly but surely I started seeing results.
Then it struck me, I still had to deal with the internal issues surrounding how food affected my self-image. When I started looking at food as I had mentioned previously, nourishment, sustenance, energy, and healing power, that’s when things started changing dramatically.
I stopped having “cheat” days because I didn’t want to refer to food as cheating.
An apple after dance class was a delightful energy replacement, not a sugar-laden item that was going to make me fatter. I wasn’t a “bad person” because I wanted rice or potatoes because carbs are “bad.”
In retrospect, there were two mindset shifts that I had to reassess in my approach to getting holistically healthy for dance (and everything else):
- The scarcity mindset.
Before, I would eat food in front of me like there was no tomorrow. Like I would never have a chance to have that decadent delight of chocolate goodness.
Little did I realize at the time that I was ignoring my internal hunger for something deeper, which resulted in multiple combo meals at the local taco shop and almost nightly trips to the specialty chocolate store.
- The comparison mindset.
I had to stop comparing my body and my journey to other dancers and start being grateful that I had all faculties and senses to move and experience this wonderful art we call dance.
In summary, I invite you to consider the following to change your words and approaches to health as a dancer. They can be life changing as they were for me.
- Proper mindset. Health as a dancer is more than how many classes you take and if you nail multiple pirouettes.
- Gratitude for what you can do.
- Stopping destructive thoughts and words of what your body cannot do. Just because your arabesque doesn’t look like Sylvie Guillem’s doesn’t make you less of a dancer or more importantly, a human being.
- Being mindful that health is so individual and no one way works the same for everyone.
- Having patience and being adjustable to change as your dance journey continues.
- Be open to cross training in other movement styles and exercises. This was a huge game changer for me as well.
- Remembering that you’re valuable as you are, right at this very moment, regardless of your body type, what food you eat or don’t eat, what dance style you do, or what latest production you’ve been cast for.
Annett Bone is the creator and host of The DancePreneuring Studio podcast where she guides her listeners on a journey of transformation inspired by dance, life, and business. The podcast is a reflection of her personal adventure overcoming her fears and returning to her passion for dance after a 20 year hiatus, the lessons that she has learned along the way, and proving that it’s never too late to be great. You can connect with her at AnnettBone.com and follow her @annettbone on Instagram.