Low Weight Concern Dancers
Anorexia and bulimia are common eating disorders in high performance orientated dance companies, especially among dancers having a natural higher body weight compared with those who have a natural ectomorph body type (376-379). Practical tips on how to help the athlete with bulimia can be found in Clark (387). Susan Campbell Sandri (375) reviewed the aspects of body composition and related nutritional problems in dancers. She discusses the basic problem of a culture clash between dancers and nutrition authorities because dancers need safe methods of achieving ultra-lean physique while the recommendations of most nutritionists do not fit with dancers' requirements.
She also states that the favoured ultra-lean body type for female dancers has led to a myriad of effects including delayed menarche, disturbed menstruation patterns and nutritional inadequacies that may lead to negative physiological effects. In extreme cases osteoporosis and chronic tendinitis have been reported. Basic suggestions to be given when advising dancers about nutrition (375) are listed in the box below.
- If a possible eating disorder is expected, start by making a thorough assessment of the dancer's behaviour and attitudes towards food, including interviews with persons that are of significant impact on the daily life of the dancer.
- Realize that in daily life most persons can hide some excess weight by the way of dressing but that this is impossible for a dancer. Even a small 'overweight' will be visible in the thin dancing costumes.
- Never try to change the dancer's ideals. If you do, you will not be accepted as helpful.
- Realize that drug prescriptions are often rejected in fear that they will affect body weight and may lead to water retention.
- Many athletes consult nutritionists in order to perform better. This is not necessarily the case with dancers. Often their contacts are because others have signalled that the dancer may have a problem requiring counselling. The difference between self-motivation to be counselled versus being brought to a nutritionist by another person is the basis for understanding the dancer's position.
- Dancers often want to lose weight rapidly before major upcoming performances. It should be recognized that fat loss is a slow process, which requires understanding of both the dancer and her instructors. A combination of cutting fat intake, with inclusion of aerobic work sessions, seems to be in place.
- Dancers seem to be more frightened about overweight than about the health impairing effects that severe eating disorders may cause. It is important to educate both dancers and their 'significant others' about the serious effects that eating disorders may have on both dancing performance and health.
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We have all been there: turning to the refrigerator if feeling lonely or bored or indulging in seconds or thirds if strained. But if you suffer from bulimia, the from time to time urge to overeat is more like an obsession.
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