While discussing the issues in ballet training with students, my ear is perked up all the time, when I hear comments, phrases, and brush-offs, concerning eating, body image, and obvious self esteem problems.
Certainly I am not going to address this with someone unless they ask for that. Recently, my radar on this subject really started to beep, due a conversation I had with a non-dancer, but aspiring performer, in another field. This person is talented, pushed forward by all her teachers, and yet cannot accept the “well done's” from teachers or peers, because – she just can't.
The lack of self-esteem in this person stupefies me. A person who won the number one state award for a Shakespeare scene? Give me a break! That's like winning the ballet competition for Blue Bird or Swan Lake pas de deux.
Disorder eating can be most broadly defined as, the behavior that achieves emotional reward by controlling what you eat. This does not necessarily mean anorexia or bulimia, but may refer to a habit of self criticism or self approval in regards to what type of food you eat, how many calories you eat, and this does not only apply to dancers.
It may involve an extreme situation like a teenager who insists on being a vegan, in which I have personally witnessed the result causing stress fractures in this dancer who still thought that she was going to be able to get stronger on pointe and have a professional career in ballet, while she looked at her x-rays.
Recently I took a look at hypoglycemia and its symptoms. Now this is tricky. Symptoms are almost unique to the individual. But the dominating symptoms, according to what I have read, are:
***feelings of absolutely NO SELF-WORTH
***periodic complete failure of energy, dizziness, mental confusion
***thoughts of suicide, though not enough energy to think further than that
Hypoglycemia is...drum roll...too low blood sugar!
It is caused by a nutritional deficiency of protein, or just lack of food.
Hypoglycemia does not mean you are diabetic, or almost diabetic. More concisely called Reactive Hypoglycemia, this is a condition that results from a poor diet, or not eating often enough for whatever reason. Or eating too many carbohydrates with not enough protein.
The most common recommendation for hypoglycemics, is to eat some protein every two hours.
Also, I would like to mention the rule of nutritionists, that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Why? Proteins set your brain chemicals for the day. Skip those, and your brain chemicals will not be properly functioning until the next day IF you happen to eat protein for breakfast.
Dance parents reading this – how many times in a week does your dancing daughter or dancing son run out of the house without breakfast because they slept late?
And what are they going to eat when they get to the food dispensers at their public school? Or hang in until they get to the school cafeteria for lunch? This is a miserable situation for a non-athlete student, not to mention a ballet dancer or any other athlete.
And later when they run off to their ballet academy? Are you one of those ballet parents who have to suffer hearing “I'm not that good”...”I'm not good enough”... and worse? While the ballet teacher is telling you your child should be aiming higher – auditioning for professional summer intensives?
Confused yet? Let me give you a break. Read this thread!
Personally, I believe that hypoglycemia is a result of:
***modern fast-food, frozen food products
***lack of time to prepare fresh food showing your kids what REAL FOOD IS
***sugar addiction (nutritional ignorance)
***ignorance about the lack of need for grains, and the quality of most (GMO) grains
And, sadly much more I cannot cover here. BUT please, if your dancing child or anyone in your family has any energy or depression issues – but not severe enough to consult your physician (who probably will not have any nutritional education) or therapist, please investigate hypoglycemia. It is an insidious condition - but can be reversed with a good diet!
It is not that difficult. I would love to never hear from again, a ballet dancer, or any other kind of performing artist, who feels morose, depressed, sad, or hopeless about their talent or potential, when they have no idea where all this negativity comes from. And they skip meals, eat nutrition-free snacks, and have low blood sugar...
I would love to never hear from again, a sad, depressed ballet parent, whose amazing talented child is failing, sinking, not even treading water, suffering from body image problems, or self esteem problems, and contemplating quitting ballet, or even suicide.
I've seen it. Fellow students and teachers who attempted and achieved suicide. Or were off-loaded from the school because they were a liability. Yet, some recovered and achieved greatness.
I do not believe that nutrition is superior to the human spirit. But I do believe that the aspirations of the human spirit are so much more easily achieved if we know about and support our bodies' needs, every day. This may take a little extra study.
This may take a lot of extra food preparation for ballet parents! If you're still reading this post, I bet you're O.K. with that.