Friday, August 10, 2007

Lose Weight - in Ballet Shoes and Pointe Shoes

Many teenagers have a "weight problem". At the National Ballet School of Canada we were weighed once a week.

Our weight was posted publicly in the lunch room, from week to week.

On Fridays when my class got weighed, we skipped breakfast but drank a lot of coffee - so as to stimulate urination, water loss, and loss of weight.

"What Dancers Really Eat" source.

We went into ballet class at 9:00 with no food. It was humiliating, since we were growing children and constantly gaining weight. Our height and musculoskeletal structure wasn't noticed.

What an intimidation technique!

The funny thing is, I had no weight problem before I went to the school. I was so thin as a child that my mother had all kinds of tricks and punishments to make me eat.

Unfortunately at the time, little was known about metabolism, and good diet. A weight problem wasn't connected to hormone imbalance, or to hormone mimickers in low quality foods.

Nothing wrong was done. Currently ballet schools are extremely concerned with proper diets.

The absolutely most incredibly talented dancer in our school at the time also had a weight problem. She was chosen for a solo by a visiting Russian teacher.

She lost tons of weight and danced brilliantly. People were riveted when she stepped onto the stage in the school show. Time and space stopped when she danced.

But after he left for Russia she gained weight again. Then a few months later she was supposed to go into the National Ballet Company. She didn't. We heard that she ended up in the hospital with a "tropical disease".

Huh? Looking back, I don't believe it. I think she starved herself. Too much.

About a year later I met her on the street. I was going through a "I'll never dance again" period. She was working at a phone company and actually helped me get a job there. (I lasted three months).

After I severed all ties with the ballet school, I mysteriously lost weight. My mother called me "the skull", I was so thin.

A famous ballet story that deals with weight control leading to drug addiction is "Dancing On My Grave" by Gelsey Kirkland.


What does this all mean? Firstly, it means we knew nothing about being thin and being healthy. No one's fault at the time.

But we do now! So how do you fit into that size zero tutu?

We really don't know enough. And everybody is different. Some people don't metabolize fats well, no matter the quality of food.

Some people don't need much sugar and would not eat that whole bowl of blueberries shown above. 

I remember an amazing moment after I'd just finished my Cecchetti teacher's exam. My examiner was Margaret Saul, much feared at the time. (and somewhere in her eighties).

My exam was the last of the day - and after my exam partner and I left the studio, Ms. Saul came out.

She smiled at me and said "You have plump arms - like Karsavina. They make just the right line". (Cecchetti's pupil and partner to Nijinsky).

I was stunned. Karsavina? Tamara?

So, it's just a matter of perspective.

Fats do not make you fat. (If you can metabolize them).

Carbs make you fat. White foods, breads, grains, pastas...potatoes. Unless you're one of the lucky ones.

Proteins, vitamins, and minerals are found in meats, cheeses, dairy products, vegetables, legumes, nuts, salads and fruits. Not enough for you?

Unfortunately our culture is tuned to the diet industry and the processed foods industry. Fake flavors, preservatives, which can mess up your body chemistry.

You have to eat fresh foods.

Here's a post about healthy fats from the updated end of this blog.

Hormonal imbalance and weight gain is another important topic.