Talk Privately About Body Concerns
In our January health column registered dietitian Emily Harrison and Manhattan Youth Ballet head faculty Deborah Wingert offer seven tips for helping students build positive relationships to food. One step you can take is to talk privately with students about any body concerns.
Don’t draw attention to a dancer’s body changes in front of others, even to praise it, says Harrison. If you are concerned about a dancer—if she drops a concerning amount of weight over a few weeks or a couple months, especially if it causes her to lose strength and stamina during class, or if other students have begun talking about it, speak with the dancer privately in a positive way. “Always start with, ‘I care about you and I want you to be healthy,’” Harrison says. Then, “‘I’ve noticed your body has changed over the last few months, and here’s why I am concerned.’”
If you think the student is at the point of being in danger—significant weight loss, skin color has changed, extra body-hair growth—call in the parents, Harrison says. Wingert says they tend to respond in one of two ways: “Either they’ll be in complete denial or they’ll start to sob and say, ‘We don’t know what to do.’” In the cases where a parent doesn’t think there’s a problem, Wingert will ask that the dancer get a doctor’s clearance before continuing classes.
Photo by Erin Baiano, courtesy of Manhattan Youth Ballet
For more on eating disorders, subscribe to Dance Teacher and get the January issue.