Green Recovery: One Dancer’s Harrowing Story

by Gena on May 3, 2011

image

Hey friends! Thanks for the feedback on my camping adventure. Excited to share another soon!

I’m currently digging into some calculus studies, but I’ve spent the last twenty minutes in such deep appreciation of tonight’s Green Recovery post. This one comes from a reader and friend who spent most of her young life as a professional dancer. I’m sure that I have many dancers in my audience right now, and I’m sure that many of them will relate to the unique challenges that come from having one’s body scrutinized as acutely as dancers do.

As a ballet lover, I experience wonderment and joy at the way dance can showcase and elevate the human body. I realize, though, that the beauty I apprehend as a dance lover often comes at a terrible price for those who are dancing. I hope that you’ll all take the time to read this dancer’s harrowing story of obsession and eventual release. I also hope that you’ll offer her some appreciative and supportive words, if you’re so inclined. Please welcome a brave, longtime CR reader who has asked to remain anonymous: I hope she realizes how much this post means to me, and I hope she’ll read it in a few years from the vantage point of an even fuller and deeper recovery.


image

I was a professional dancer for 5 years, and toured across the globe 4 times. My life was about dance and not much else: it was my sole passion, and I was training vigorously six out of seven days a week. Even on my break day, I’d still fit in a workout. I didn’t have the concept of taking a ‘rest day’ for my body to recover, and furthermore, healthy eating was a mere afterthought; my meals often consisted of not much more than a bowl of meat and white rice. I didn’t think much of it. Things went smoothly for the most part, as my focus and aspirations were clear: my career as a dancer.

Fast forward to my 3rd year: we just got a new dance teacher from Asia, a very strict woman who began training us even harder than we had been before. Amidst learning new things and improving, it was suddenly and quite openly brought to our attention that we should all lose some weight if we wanted to look even better on stage. Despite already being slender, we trusted her and decided that this was a good proposal. We all jumped on board–who didn’t want to look thinner and better on stage? Nobody taught us anything about nutrition, and I’m not quite sure the teacher really knew much about it, either–at least, nothing that I now would deem correct. I had as much knowledge (or lack thereof) about nutrition as your average teenager–I knew fruits and vegetables were ‘good for you,’ but that might have been it. As a disastrous result, it was left up to us to determine exactly how we’d go about losing the weight.

And that was that. We all blindly dove head first into the dark abyss, so very naive of what it would all entail.

We had our first weigh-in after a sweaty rehearsal that evening, and we wrote down our results onto a little chart. The teacher used a mathematical formula for each person’s weight ‘goal,’ which was calculated solely using the person’s height. This formula alerted me that I had 11 pounds to lose before reaching my optimum weight; and though 11 pounds seemed like a lot to me, a warped sense of motivation had me conclude that I just had to reach that goal or I’d die trying.

I soon began a lifestyle that consisted of eating-as-little-as-possible-without-fainting, on top of training-as-much-as-possible…without-fainting. Doing this gave me a terribly false sense of accomplishment. Each morning I’d pack my daily "meals" in a canvas tote bag to bring to the training building, and my weekly grocery trips consisted solely of things labeled low-calorie, low-fat, fat-free, 100-calorie. Beef jerky, low in calories and high in protein, became a staple for many of us–nobody knew about the effects of high sodium content, excess of animal-derived protein, or how meat harmed our bodies in general. But come to think of it, we may not have cared had someone alerted us, because all we cared about was losing weight, and if it did come with hefty, irreversible price tags related to poor health, so be it. My period soon stopped, as did many others’, but many took it as a good sign. Surely we were working in the right direction–it’s what we heard happened with all the really famous female dancers. We were young and active, and most importantly, thin, so none of this mattered…right?

Slowly but surely, we became increasingly obsessive about our weight and numbers, and each time as we stepped on the scale we prayed for the number to be lower than before, even by just .1kg. Towards the beginning of my ‘weight loss journey,’ I had successfully lost a few pounds and was praised by the teacher in front of the class. It sickens me today to think about how proud of myself I was at that moment; prouder than I would’ve been had it been from the result of something actually meaningful and positive. Soon it seemed that nothing mattered more than the blinking number that showed up after the beep on that little plastic black scale. Each of us grew wearier but were still determined…we were losing sight of anything else. Our mentalities were warped. One sunny afternoon while on tour in California, we felt a sense of accomplishment and pride when we decided that as a team, we’d all skip lunch together.

The hosting parties of each city would always provide a lot of delicious food for us. This resulted in our being watched like a hawk by our teacher who was trying to ‘help’ us, because some people were starting to ‘succumb’ to foods that were deemed off-limits. One day at breakfast in Hawai’i as I hesitantly reached for a macadamia cookie, I was ‘caught’ and scolded that I should "know better.” I felt terribly guilty and ashamed. That was the same day that I later broke down and cried during the middle of rehearsals due to an overwhelming amount of stress in general. I’d never been so incapable of controlling my emotions and was left feeling even worse, not to mention shocked–at the kind of person I’d become.

Later that year on tour, a large number of us got food poisoning. It was later speculated that it was from some bad soup we’d been served, but whatever the case, the majority of us became very, very ill. People were vomiting, had high fevers, diarrhea, severe headaches; it was one of the roughest times in memory from tour. Imagine having to perform in a 2.5 hour show during which you’re suffering from a terrible stomachache, yet you must dance your heart out and smile as genuinely as possible. We didn’t have a choice, though, the show must go on; we did not have enough backups for the number of people who were ill at the time. Amidst all of this, perhaps the most alarming, dark part of all was the notion that we secretly shared: that this was a "blessing in disguise," since it led to weight loss. It really was during this time that I finally reached my weight goal. However, it seemed that no matter how thin I actually was, I could still pinch bits of fat on my body and thus felt like I just wasn’t thin or good enough–I couldn’t look in the mirror without finding a hundred different things wrong with myself.
It was as if I’d forgotten every last thing that I had ever genuinely cared about before any of this took over. The cheerful, old me; the one who used to be so curious about the world, who cared about so many more important, healthy things; the girl would do anything to make someone smile–where did she go?

That summer after tour ended, I went home for a vacation and was hanging out my best friend, who was vegan. We were perusing the aisles of a downtown bookstore, and walked past the book ‘Skinny Bitch’ on the shelf, to which she casually pointed and said was a really good read about veganism. I wasn’t interested in veganism at the time; I held the uneducated, stubborn attitude that it was simply a cumbersome, restricting lifestyle only suitable for people who were over the top with animal rights and radical things of that nature. But I was sure interested in what the book had to say about weight loss, so I began flipping through the pages and was soon captivated by all of the information that was being shoved in my face. It was like a wake-up call–everything certainly did make a lot of sense, and so I jotted down some key points on an old receipt and tucked it into my pocket. I was left with the striking notion that even if you haven’t formerly cared about the cruelty that goes on in the meat industry, it’s impossible not to realize that those tortured, diseased bodies are what’s being served next to the fries on your dinner plate, and they aren’t doing any good for your body, either.

I began researching more and more, and was fascinated by everything I was learning about plant-based diets. My eyes were opened to this whole new way of eating, and I began by making simple changes. As a result, my mindset as a whole was changed: I gained a strong sense that food should be nourishment, rather than a sort of punishment/source of stress and anguish, and this seemingly simple thought helped me in more ways than I could have imagined.
—-
I stopped dancing last June (for other reasons), and with a dramatic decrease in my level of daily physical activity, weight gain was inevitable. In all honesty, it has been a difficult transition, no matter how far I’ve come with being able to remain positive and steadfast in recovery. But when things are difficult, I remind myself that everything is going to be okay; it really is all okay. The thought provoking, beautifully written posts from blogs like this one have also helped me to realize the truth of this statement: the people in our lives are not going to love us any more or less based on how much we weigh. A simple, profound concept.

Since then, I’ve regained my health as well as peace of mind. This long journey has taught me not just about food and nutrition, but about the need to take care of and love myself, things I’d neglected doing for far too long. Life really is a beautiful thing, and we’ve got to fill it with positivity and compassion not only towards others, but also ourselves. True, it’s easier said than done, but at the end of the day, when you’re able to sit down and realize that today, you laughed and loved and lived, rather than obsessively planned each moment around food and exercise, it’s a giant step in the right direction. There is hope; you have to believe, and strive towards positive goals, and never give up no matter what obstacles may come your way.

Also, count your blessings! I recently bought an apartment that I’ve really enjoyed furnishing and decorating (and using its kitchen!), catching up with old friends with whom I’ve lost touch over the years, picking up my passion of drawing again, and gone on many adventures in my favorite city (NYC!) with people who mean the world to me. None of these things would have been possible to enjoy if life were still revolving around disordered eating habits. 

Something else a friend recently told me that has stuck with me, is the seemingly obvious notion that you don’t have to walk your path alone–those around you are more willing to help than you may think. I’d spent years building up wall after wall and blocking people out at a time when I actually needed them most, despite what I may have thought. Now, I’m picking up where I left off before this mess; I’m taking down those walls and finding myself once again.

So here’s to you, to me, to all of us; we hold the ability to brighten our own futures even if we’ve gone through darkness to get to where we are today.

image

——-
Note:

We stopped the weight loss method of religiously weighing ourselves after two years, and since then I have tried to help many of my fellow dancers with what I’ve learned regarding healthy eating and body image.

Also, my dance teacher was truly trying to do what she thought was best for us. She’s a genuinely good person, despite what these actions regarding the dancers’ weight loss may suggest; please do not pass judgments.

After this was over, things within the dance company changed, and no other teacher has been focused in such a way regarding dancers’ weight loss.


What an incredible story. I wanted to add that this particular tale brought me back to a conversation I recently had with one of my clients, who is a ballet dancer. She confessed to me, “I so want to be happy with myself all the time.” I think she’s getting there, in the best and bravest of ways. But I can relate to her sentiment, which is one I’ve often shared, and it prompted some thought.

I think that some former ED sufferers develop an idealized—possibly unrealistic—idea of what constitutes happiness about one’s body. Anyone with a restrictive history will remember the unbelievable smugness and rush of validation (no matter how warped) that came with the pursuit of thinness, and hope to feel that level of intense pride once again. Perhaps it’s important to remember that, while it’s healthy and good to feel pride about one’s body, it’s also true that many women with healthy body image will confess readily that there are things they’d like to change: my own mother has often told me, “sure, there are things I’m critical of, like every woman, but I’m basically content.” I think of these words often, since few women I know have a more down-to-earth and positive relationship with their bodies than my mom does. She’s never prone to loathing and unnecessary criticism, but neither does she expect to feel 100% thrilled with every part of her figure at every moment. She’s realistic. She’s forgiving. She’s at peace.

Perhaps our need or desire to feel 100% happy with how we look at every single moment is in fact yet another perfectionist’s fallacy—yet another expression of the extremism that so often drives EDs. Perhaps reality is that we’re destined to always have some criticisms, but that a healthy mindset is defined by our ability to not become consumed with them. Perhaps we should spend less time hoping to be satisfied with everything about the way our bodies look, and more time celebrating the things we like most. And focus, too, on the non-physical qualities that make us special.

Some food for thought. I’d love to hear how you guys feel about this, and of course, I’m eager for your reactions to tonight’s story.

xo

Print Friendly
Be Sociable, Share!

{ 43 comments… read them below or add one }

Averie (LoveVeggiesAndYoga) May 3, 2011 at 10:35 pm

I am so happy to read this part of your story
“bought an apartment that I’ve really enjoyed furnishing and decorating (and using its kitchen!), catching up with old friends with whom I’ve lost touch over the years, picking up my passion of drawing again, and gone on many adventures in my favorite city (NYC!) with people who mean the world to me. None of these things would have been possible to enjoy if life were still revolving around disordered eating habits. ”

THANK GOODNESS you have all these great things now in your life and have moved to a place of greater health and wellness and things are falling back into place for you.

Thank you for being brave enough to share your story. As a mother of a 4 yr old little girl who of course wants to do ballet and wear a tutu, this is a reminder to be extremely mindful of what can happen. And it can happen in any sport with coaches and young women, i.e. figure skating, gymnastics, volleyball, etc but I think dance is extra prone.

Reply

Jaime May 3, 2011 at 11:00 pm

While I like the fact that you address various different issues on your blog, I do feel like there has been an overemphasis on eating disorders and related topics lately. I must say that I enjoyed your blog when the focus was more so directed on the celebratory aspects of eating a plant based vegan diet. As important as a topic as eating disorders is, and must be recognized, I feel as though whenever I visit your blog as of late, I find myself faced with yet another depressing post on the topic. This is in no way an attack on you, or the blog, but just an observation that I’ve made. Hope you don’t take it the wrong way, because I’ve been a fan of your blog since the beginning, and hope that you bring back the true essence that I initially fell in love with.

Reply

Gena May 3, 2011 at 11:18 pm

Jaime,

Thanks for reading my blog, and for your enthusiasm for it! I’m sorry these posts don’t resonate with you, but the whole reason I’m doing Green Recovery is that the posts feel urgent and important to me. That sense of urgency (and the rewarding conversations that result) matter to me, and I wouldn’t want to push them aside in order to make my content more uniformly sunny.

I also have to disagree that these posts (and stories) are depressing; of course EDs are harrowing and sad to read about, but recovery is something to celebrate, and these posts do always have a celebratory upshot. Many of my readers struggle with these issues, and these stories give them hope.

Of course it’s fun to talk about how health-giving and fun a vegan diet is, and I still do that plenty (in the last week, I’ve written primarily about hemp energy bites, the joys of camping, and a couple of raw recipes — all with enthusiasm). But I can’t do that at the expense of the more serious topics that affect my community of readers. And while I appreciate that there’s a tone that made you originally like CR, it’s not quite fair for you to say what my “true essence” as a writer is. I always wanted to talk about EDs on my blog, but knew that I had to grow into my voice as a writer (and get comfortable sharing my own past) before I could do it. Now that I have, I do. It’s as much my voice as it always was; in fact, it’s a more vocal, more developed, and far more varied voice. The love of raw foods remains, but the range is wider.

G

Reply

Jaime May 3, 2011 at 11:59 pm

Thank you so much for providing me with your perspective as to why you feel the need to address this particular topic with such vehemence. I wholeheartedly understand where you are coming from, and appreciate the fact that you strive to reach out to readers that are going through such struggles, and show them the “light at the end of the tunnel,” if you will. I guess I was just expressing my need to escape from the constant sadness that is all around us in the world.. reading and enjoying food blogs is my way of doing so. Sometimes, I just enjoy wearing my rose colored glasses, you know?

Also, I just wanted to clarify that when I mentioned your “true essence,” I wasn’t directing that towards your writing, per say, but more so the content of your earlier posts. But I better understand where you are coming from now.

Thanks for addressing my comment. Again, I hope it wasn’t taken in the wrong way, because I’ve been a fan of your blog from the beginning, and will remain a loyal reader for as long as the blog is around. :)

Jaime

Reply

Gena May 4, 2011 at 6:58 am

Jaime,

Nope — thank YOU for being a committed enough reader that you’d share your feelings with me! As a blogger, I have to post about the things that feel necessary to me, but I’m also eager to know how my readers feel about content. It’s a balance, you see. I wouldn’t shy away from these posts because they’re upsetting to some of my readers, but your feedback keeps me aware of the demand for variety — which I’m already aware of, but reminders don’t hurt.

G

Reply

Abby May 6, 2011 at 7:36 am

And thanks to both of you for actually having an intellectual, respective and adult conversation regarding the topic/comment instead of the usual back-and-forth and immaturity that can often be displayed in blog banter.

It’s all very refreshing.

Jen May 3, 2011 at 11:50 pm

I truly enjoy reading stories like these. Obviously, I do NOT mean that I relish in reading about the anguish of others…I mean that I enjoy opening both my eyes and mind to the realities of this world we live in. Perfection is so highly regarded, yet it doesn’t exist, not even to the slightest degree. Gena, we should all be more like your mom. I love when people (girls in particular) feel content with their bodies in such a healthy way. It’s not an “i’m so hot” type of content, but rather an “i’m not perfect, nobody is, and I’m okay with that” type of content. Life is too short to be wasted trying to reach goals that we can never reach. It really breaks my heart to read about how much suffering is caused by the hands of anorexia and other eating disorders.

There was a time when I was severely underweight. I call it “unintentionally anorexic” because I had no idea what I was doing to myself. I thought I was making myself healthier by eating such a “clean” diet. Little did I know that I looked gaunt and ghost-like to others, had a snappy temper, and was accomplishing the complete opposite of what I set out to do…which was make my body healthier. It was not my initial intention to lose as much weight as I did, but once it started coming off, it was a rapid downward spiral. I think ignorance leads a lot of girls into this downward motion. Like the writer of this story said, she and the other girls didn’t know the first thing about nutrition. They were ignorant about what they were truly doing their bodies.

I think it’s great that you’re shining light on the triumphs of individuals who have dealt with eating disorders. We read a lot about the disorders, but not enough about the people themselves.

To the writer of this story, if you’re reading this comment, I’m so proud of you! I know I don’t know you, or even your name, but you’re a wonderful inspiration for anyone who has yet to find happiness after an eating disorder. Reading about how you’re now enjoying life put a smile on my face tonight. Thank you.

Now, let’s all look in the mirror and SMILE, because no matter what we see staring back at us, it’s BEAUTIFUL. Not perfect, but beautiful…which makes it all the MORE beautiful, if you ask me. This sounds super cheesy (corny for vegans, hehe) but it’s true. We should all appreciate ourselves more.

Reply

Casey May 4, 2011 at 12:53 am

Wow, what a heart-rending article. Thank you for sharing this with us and expressing the pain and recovery I know so many women, certainly dancers, go through with disordered eating. Thank you.

Reply

bitt May 4, 2011 at 1:24 am

What a well written piece. It is a lot easier for me to read a harrowing tale like this when its clear like this. I do wish there was more detail on the recovery aspect though, and how the person eats today and more on how veganism manifest in her life. I felt left hanging a bit. But perhaps there was a reason, maybe it was not reveal too much of her identity.

Reply

Docia May 4, 2011 at 2:12 am

Bitt, I felt that way too a little bit, but the again better to share something than nothing. I still found it a refreshing and uplifting story, as all the Green Recoveries. Congratulations on your recovery, dancer girl!

Reply

Abby May 6, 2011 at 7:41 am

I also felt that way a little bit, as I wondered how the transition went from being completely disordered to seeing food as healing nourishment instead of as the enemy. That’s a huge leap, and the physical and emotional changes and challenges involved are vast and varied.

However, as Docia said, any positive contribution and change is to be applauded and celebrated.

Reply

Laura C May 4, 2011 at 2:08 am

Anon, thanks so much for this post. I’m so sorry your teacher unintentionally misled you in that way. I danced for a long time as a casual hobby, and the pressure just from the climate my peers created was plenty to deal with. It’s amazing how skewed a sense of “healthy” and “average” can get in dance schools. I tend to fall into black and white thinking about my body too- either it’s where I have decided it should be, or it isn’t, and I consequently feel either proud and liberated, or bloated and not acceptable. I’ve been able to revise my thinking about what that line is, and how big a deal it is, but I still often have that OK vs NOT OK kind of mentality. When I can get out of it, it is freeing. It is especially freeing to begin to realize, as you said, that others don’t perceive that same line. They will love me, bigger or smaller. It’s a gnarly, life-sucking mental trap. So glad you’re enjoying living and creating- that’s definitely the way to freedom!

Reply

Emma (Namaste Everyday) May 4, 2011 at 4:27 am

this is such a disturbing tale. It goes to show, in the most drastic way possible, how impressionable young girls are about their bodies. As they become women, they are particularly vulnerable to what they “should” look like, since their bodies are changing and they don’t know yet what is the norm for them. It pained me to read about this happened to not only the author, but the entire dance group. Thank goodness for veganism to help her see what healthy eating really is.

Reply

VeggieGirl May 4, 2011 at 5:04 am

This is really frightening… almost Black Swan level frightening. Thank goodness she got help before it was too late.

Reply

Alex May 4, 2011 at 5:16 am

I wanted to thank you for posting recently about eating disorders. It has encouraged me to push past the reluctance and denial and admit to myself that I REALLY DO have related issues to resolve. So thanks

Reply

Wendy (Healthy Girl's Kitchen) May 4, 2011 at 6:07 am

Amazing story. I think there is rampant body dysmorphia amongst women these days. We fail to appreciate what is beautiful about our bodies and fixate on what we perceive to be imperfections.

I actually just discovered that I am in an opposite state right now, one of Body Euphoria. My husband and I jokingly made it up, but here’s how I define it: It is the state of mind that you are in after treating yourself well for an extended period of time. Conditions include (1) participation in moderate exercise that you truly enjoy, (2) eating nutritious, unprocessed, plant strong food and (3) achieving your happy weight, where even though your body has no resemblance to a model in a magazine and never will, you are thrilled with how you look, and more importantly, how you feel.

I truly hope and pray that with the work that we are all doing here together, we all get to experience Body Euphoria!

Reply

Veganlily May 4, 2011 at 10:26 am

Love this!! It’s a fantastic point of view.

Reply

Karen May 4, 2011 at 6:44 pm

Me too…love this Wendy!

Reply

wendy (healthy girl's ktichen) May 5, 2011 at 8:25 am

Thank you both!!!!

Reply

Kat May 4, 2011 at 10:37 am

“(3) achieving your happy weight, where even though your body has no resemblance to a model in a magazine and never will, you are thrilled with how you look, and more importantly, how you feel.”

Love this! What a thought provoking comment!

Reply

tweal May 4, 2011 at 6:17 am

What a great read, thank you to the anonymous author for sharing.

Reply

Hannah (Balancing on Two Feet) May 4, 2011 at 6:35 am

Wow, thank you so much for sharing this story. I must agree with VeggieGirl about this almost being at a Black Swan level.

While these stories are upsetting, I am enjoying reading this series as it is such a poignant reminder that those of us who struggled/are struggling are not alone. ED’s are so isolating and while each person’s struggle is unique there is a common thread that runs throughout. It is so hard to reach out and tell our stories, but I am a firm believer that doing so is a major step on the path to recovery. Giving the illness a voice has lessened the grip for me and I’ve been able to reclaim my own voice and realize that I am not my eating disorder.

Reply

Jen May 4, 2011 at 6:53 am

To the anonymous commenter: kudos. It takes a lot to put a story like this out into the public eye. I’m also a dancer who has struggled with eating disorders, and within the dance world, it’s a hard thing to admit.

What I mean by that is there is a sort of dancing culture, in which dancers everyday compare their eats, or say I’m wearing my “fat” leotard today, or simply don’t even discuss the matter at all. I’ve had teachers tell me to mind my “healthy habits,” and I’ve had one who told my class that we all needed to start eating dinner off of smaller plates. I remember times where I would sit with my friends in the dressing room, staring at our school calculators simply adding up the number of calories we had eaten that day and guessing the amount we had burned. Nourishment was a mere numbers game, and it completely took over any past love for food.

There is this stereotype out there that all dancers are in some way eating disordered, and I suppose that’s true to an extent because it’s our job to be body conscious. Within the dance community, losing weight is often masked as “doing well,” and the issue often goes unmentioned until either a dancer has gained too much weight (yes, it happens), or has lost too much. But there are plenty of dancers out there, who have fantastic relationships with their bodies and properly nourish themselves, and they’re presence in the dance world is not small.

Of course there are many more details I could share, but I really do not want to bash my beloved art form or take away from the inspiring post above. Ballet is an art where your body is your instrument; it’s physically demanding and yet the dancer must remain soft, regal, aesthetically pleasing. The ballet world is host to scads of disciplined, type A, somewhat compulsive men and women, so it comes as no surprise that there are such stories as the one displayed above. (And thank you, Avery, for pointing out that any athlete or person can have an eating disorder.) But despite others’ stories, and the struggles with my own body, ballet is something I will always cherish. Dancing professionally fuels my life, and fueling the dancer’s body is no easy job.

Reply

Jen May 4, 2011 at 7:12 am

* When I said “anonymous commenter,” I meant “anonymous writer!”

Reply

Jess May 4, 2011 at 7:12 am

Thank you so much for sharing this story. I am getting a lot out of this series and really appreciate the authors’ bravery and ability to articulate the kind of experience that can be so isolating and difficult to put into words.

Reply

Tawney (Eat Hike Sleep Repeat) May 4, 2011 at 7:59 am

My appreciation to the author for sharing this story, and to Gena for hosting this series. It is only recently that I have started searching out to read accounts like this, and they serve as a form of support – one realizes that they are not alone in their struggles. Moving from a weight conscious sport when I was young, to a “normal” life in my 20s, my body changed considerably. I understand Dancer’s comment about a difficult transition. It is a transition that I am still working on nearly 20 years later.

“Life really is a beautiful thing, and we’ve got to fill it with positivity and compassion not only towards others, but also ourselves.” Thank you for the reminder that we owe ourselves compassion as well.

Reply

McKella May 4, 2011 at 9:08 am

Wow, this is incredible. I love reading all of these. I don’t personally know anyone else who’s experienced disordered eating, but feel so at home in the blog world with people who’ve had the same obsessive, warped thoughts as me. I never danced, but all my cousins did/do and they’re all naturally thin and willowy. I never was, but I always wanted to look like my dancer cousins. Now, I think I’d like to try dancing just to enjoy moving and because I’ve always admired it as an art form.
I’m kind of rambling about nothing, but this story really moved me and stirred up a lot of thoughts. Thanks for writing, whoever you are!

Reply

Heather May 4, 2011 at 9:38 am

Thanks so much to the writer and to Gena for publishing these stories. I think it’s important for women to share stories of disordered eating. I think many women, my past self included, believe that it’s normal to eat this way and that we’re actually being healthy. I remember a day when “healthy” to me was, like the writer said “things labeled low-calorie, low-fat, fat-free, 100-calorie.” It took going vegan, and realizing that food wasn’t just about me, that I was able to let go of that fearful eating and allow myself to enjoy food as nourishment, instead of a path to skinniness or not-skinniness.

Reply

Whitney May 4, 2011 at 10:12 am

Beautiful. Simply beautiful. The following two sentences resounded with me to such an extent that I literally lost my breath for a second:

“It was as if I’d forgotten every last thing that I had ever genuinely cared about before any of this took over. The cheerful, old me; the one who used to be so curious about the world, who cared about so many more important, healthy things; the girl would do anything to make someone smile–where did she go?”

I think that’s the most heartbreaking part of having been afflicted with an ED – at least it is for me personally – to have lost that innocence and that essence of your very being, even if just for awhile. A thousand thanks to you for your bravery and for sharing your story with your recovering brethren!! All my best to you!!

Reply

Jen May 4, 2011 at 10:19 am

Gena,

I started reading your blog to help transition to veganism and get some healthy food ideas in the process. I have to echo Jaime’s sentiments above and say that CR seems to have become overrun with ED stories as of late. While it seems to be helping some women, it’s really polarizing to others. I’m going to head elsewhere to fill my veg-love tank. Best of luck.

Reply

Anita May 4, 2011 at 10:24 am

Amazing post. Thank you both for sharing. This sums it all up for me:

“…food should be nourishment, rather than a sort of punishment/source of stress and anguish, and this seemingly simple thought helped me in more ways than I could have imagined”.

I would add that beyond nourishment, it brings joy, pleasure and (in cooking) creative expression.

Reply

Jen @ keepitsimplefoods May 4, 2011 at 10:24 am

Wonderful story, thank you for sharing! I completely understand what it’s like to be part of an activity that focuses on weight. I was a rower in high school and college and remember how difficult it sometimes was for team members to drop weight before races. Sometimes it was done healthy, othertimes it wasn’t. I have always been petit and so I was recruited to row “light weight” in college only to find out, on the first day of practice, that the light weight program had been cut due to misguided coaching that had caused many athletes to develop eating disorders. It was tragic. Such a shame. But it taught me a lot about not forcing the body to be something it’s not and making peace with my body, for all its imperfections.
Thank you again for sharing.

Reply

Ashley May 4, 2011 at 12:05 pm

Incredible. Beautiful. Heroic! Thank you both!

Reply

Candice May 4, 2011 at 1:24 pm

Thanks for this post. I read it aloud to my 12 year old daughter, who’s just been recommended to go en pointe. I don’t expect that every dancer will encounter such problems, but I think it’s important for these stories to be told so young dancers have a better idea of potential dangers.

I’m glad things ended well!

Reply

Kelsey May 4, 2011 at 2:18 pm

thanks for sharing your story. i find it really sad that nutrition/body image issues weren’t taught/discussed during your training as a dancer–as you were a professional athlete! AND that your teacher suggested you lose weight, with little regard to your health. I’m glad you have a healthier relationship with food and your body now, and I hope you’ll be able to help other dancers who are going through what you went through. I’m sure sharing your story here will help many.

Reply

Johanna B May 4, 2011 at 4:52 pm

WOW. There is a tremendous amount of honesty being shown in this story. Wheverever she is I offer her hugs and thanks for sharing this part of her life. I send her healing thoughts and will light a candle in her honor tonight. Thank you Gena for sharing her thoughts.

Reply

Stephanie May 4, 2011 at 7:15 pm

Thank you both for this post. As a former ballet dancer, this post resonated with me deeply. I understand how hard dancing can be on your body image, and also how difficult it is to quit dancing so much, and I have a lot of empathy for you. I just LOVE the positive ending of your story. In particular, thanks for your acknowledgment that many of the positive things in your life now would be impossible if every day was consumed with disordered eating habits and disordered thinking. You’re truly an inspiration!

Reply

Elisabeth May 4, 2011 at 8:18 pm

Thank you for another wonderful Green Recovery edition. ED’s are a form of worship and ritual, and I find it so inspiring and incredible that the writer managed to find NEW inspiration with her new apartment, etc. It is incredibly healing to find a new healthy outlet for creativity and thoughts.

And frankly, it’s Gena’s blog. If people don’t like to read about EDs, then don’t read the post. There are things I haven’t liked on other blogs and I’ve moved on without comment- it’s up to the blog author to remain authentic to what he or she wants to post. Everyone has a choice to read or not read a blog.

Reply

Anonymous May 5, 2011 at 8:51 am

I love that you are including stories like this. Its really interesting how a lot of people with former food issues are drawn to things like whole foods and raw foods and veganism. I think it just shows how most people WANT to do what is right for their bodies… most people want to eat properly when faced with a world that is full of non-food edible options. I think some people just get lost… very lost… and that is a HUGE testament to just how warped food and nutrition has become.

Reply

Meghan @ StruggleMuffins May 5, 2011 at 12:47 pm

What a poignant story, and how brave the writer was to submit it! I once was a ballet dancer as well, and can relate to many of the sentiments she expressed in this post. Since my dancing days, I’ve taken an interest in nutrition and moreover, veganism – the meaning behind food and why we eat it – but when I was entrenched in the dance world I was solely focused on low calorie foods. Very moving post, I loved it!

Reply

megan @ the oatmeal diaries May 7, 2011 at 5:07 pm

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I love this green recovery series. Every single post really speaks to me. Thank you to the author (who is a beautiful writer) and to Gena!

Reply

Stephanie May 7, 2011 at 8:15 pm

Ah yes dance. It can be such a blessing to be trained to do things that most bodies never get to experience. Flying through the air, turning, layouts. I danced professionally for over 20 years. I started out training as a ballet dancer. I was thin, leggy and had a ton of flexibility. However, as I grew and puberty hit it became a reality that ballet was not going to happen. I tried to fight the almost 6 foot tall frame I grew into and many times I got to a “good” place in the eyes of the dance world but at a terrible cost to my body. I remember the days at Penn Ballet when all the tall girls would eat toothpaste for lunch so they would have clean breath from their empty stomachs. Wow! If I only knew what I know now! I’m 40 and in the best shape of my life. I say this even after a car accident two years ago ended my dance career. As far as my internal organs, skin and injuries I have to say that if I didn’t eat the way I do now. All raw vegan I would be a mess. I changed my diet to assist my body in the healing process and it really has. The benefits of eating a clean, healthy diet not only bring down the inflammation in my neck and arms from the injuries but they made me my true size. So many years of fighting to be thin only to find out that when you eat the right foods your body goes to it’s true weight. I’m a small 4 now when I would have died to be that years ago. I eat like a horse and such a variety. I don’t even think about weight anymore because I don’t have to. My body is getting what it needs and truly wants and in return I’m a proper size. It’s funny how when you stop the focus on the eating disorders and focus on true health your body does the rest.. Hope all young dancers can find this lifestyle of food and fast. It will extend their careers and lives.

Reply

Lola Yang May 3, 2012 at 6:12 pm

It’s crazy how similar of a journey I just traveled. I am 17 and really cannot express my passion for dance. The love for the art form drove me to crave extreme perfectionism. I began cutting foods I loved out of my life and the weight dropped off. I went from a healthy 120 lbs to a terrifying 95 lbs. My entire world began to fall apart. My family had no idea what to do, my friends were so very afraid for me, and I began to lose sight of the beauty of life. Luckily, I turned it around after a few months. I have gained the weight back and you have no idea how blissful I am! I’ve become mostly vegan and raw; I have never had so much clean energy. The concept of nourishment has become a mantra throughout my life. Keeping the body as well as the mind peaceful and content is essential to existence. I just felt like sharing a bit of my mind, much love.

Reply

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: