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Eating Disorders in Ballet: A Call To Action

by LadySpark


Eating Disorders in Ballet: A Call to Action” 

Research Paper 



     In ballet, the pressure to be skinny from the outside world is almost as strong as the pressure from the ballet world itself. You want to be the skinniest, the most flexible, the most beautiful. People not only think that eating disorders in ballerinas happen, they think it’s normal. They expect you to have an eating disorder. Experts say that of all the people in the world that have eating disorders, 16% of them are ballerinas [1]. We need to change our attitude towards skinny ballerinas, and work on the pressure we place on the ballet world to produce girls that look like sticks. We have to raise awareness, or ballet is going to become extinct, because we cannot continue to expect so much from our dancers, and expect them to have an eating disorder too. It’s dangerous and it’s harmful, and it’s much too old fashioned for a world where mental health is finally getting the attention it deserves. It’s our time to change how people think about ballerinas. They should be thought about as athletes that accomplish incredible feats while staying healthy and balanced, not as crazy anorexic girls whose bones show through their skin.

    We’ve all heard it before. After someone asks if you can stand on your toes, and if you wear ‘those toe shoes’, they ask ‘do you eat?’. And you have to answer, that yes, yes you do. The attitude towards ballet from the outside world never fails to astound or surprise me. Often, people are so narrow minded that they think that ballet dancers must be that skinny because they never eat, not because they exercise. No other profession in the world is put under so much pressure by the public eye. And that pressure leaks into the ballet world. 

     Since the beginning of true classical ballet, there’s been a body type. Tall, skinny, flexible, even as specific as to being blonde. Everyone wants to be that perfect ballerina in a tutu, and it’s hard to open your eyes and realize there are a lot of dancers now that leave this narrow minded view of dance. Like Sandish Shoker said in her article for BBC News [2], there is an unspoken competitiveness between dancers. In a world where everyone is wearing the same leotard, with their hair pulled back in a bun and the same shoes on their feet, there’s a struggle to become different. And for many, the answer is to become the skinniest. According to the National Library of Medicine’s website [1], of the 12% that have eating disorders, 16% of them are ballet dancers. According to another article published by the National LIbrary of Medicine [3], 83% of dancers showed a history of some kind of eating disorder. Not only does the ballet world and attitude of people from the outside effect the pressure placed on dancers, media does as well. Even media directed at only dancers encourages weight loss and extreme fitness. Magazines like Pointe Magazine, put pressures on dancers by encouraging the ‘typical ballet body’. Despite steps being taken by many important and influential ballet schools to raise awareness, the sad truth is, eating disorders in the studio are skated over. As long as you’re not ‘too’ skinny, it’s often even ignored. Our attitude, inside and outside the ballet world, has to change before dancers become extinct because of their eating habits. An average ballet class burns hundreds of calories, and a professional ballerina takes on average, three to four classes a day, plus rehearsals. Ballet dancers should be eating double the calories, not restricting to the point of starvation. 

     Out of the deaths in the world, 4% are from anorexia, 3.9% are from bulimia, and 5.2% are from eating disorders not specified [4]. The scary reality is that eating disorders harm and kill. If you don’t die from an eating disorder, there are complications that can have an impact on the rest of your life. People who suffer from anorexia or other eating disorders include amenorrhea, tooth decay and stomach and digestive issues, kidney damage (and other organs), high or low blood pressure, and heart problems [5]. Ballet can even speed up the process, considering how much abuse you’re already putting your body through on a daily basis. An eating disorder can weaken the bones, and one false move can result in a career ending injury. There are so many dangers that already come with being a dancer, adding an eating disorder to that is something that can threaten your life very easily. Eating disorders are not only dangerous, but they affect your ability to do your job well. The symptoms include dehydration, dizziness, exhaustion, depression, low blood pressure and irregular heart rhythms. [6] All of these could result in being removed or demoted from your company, lead to a decline in performance quality, and even result in a career ending injury. 

     One day, I hope to become a dietitian and psychologist that specializes in eating disorders in dancers. I think it’s very important that we start raising awareness about how prevalent eating disorders are inside the dance studio, and how dangerous they truly are. At this time in the world, mental health is becoming a very important issue, and it’s becoming easier for people to admit that it truly is a problem. We have to seize the day and start raising awareness. Until it becomes something that’s not so taboo we can’t talk about it, dancers need to know there are resources and support for eating disorders online and all around you, you just have to look for them. The National Eating Disorder website even has a resource dictionary where you can find a program or doctor that is the best fit for you. [7] 

     In conclusion, while it’s important to raise awareness inside the ballet world, we also have to change the attitude towards ballerinas in the outside world too. People are incredibly misinformed about eating disorders in general, thus we must fight to change the way people think, and teach them things they do not know. The attitude that’s been festering for decades, that ballerinas must be skinny, that it’s okay for the dancer must change. Therefore, we have to raise awareness everywhere. I hope to one day to join the charge against eating disorders. It’s very important to me that these teenagers that are suffering in silence because they think it’s ‘normal’, get the help the need.





-Citations-



[1]Prevalence of eating disorders among dancers: a systematic review and meta-analysis, US National Library of medicine, by several authors- http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24277724 

[2]Ballet and Eating Disorders: “Unspoken competiviness” adds pressure to be thin, BBC News, by Sandish Soker- http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-22985310 

[3]Eating disorder symptomatology among ballet dancers, National Library of Medicine, by several authors- http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16715486

[4]Eating disorder statistics, National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and other Associated Disorders, no author listed- http://www.anad.org/get-information/about-eating-d...

[5] Complications from Eating Disorders, Mayo Clinc, no author listed- http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/eati...

[6]Eating Disorder Symptoms, Mayo Clinic, no author listed- http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/eati...

[7]Resource links, National Eating Disorders, no author listed- http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/resource-li...

Other Resources-

Starving for Perfection, Dance Spirit Magazine by Sarah Badger- http://www.dancespirit.com/2011/09/starving_for_pe... 

Eating Disorders Haunt Ballerinas, New York Times, by Jennifer Dunning- http://www.nytimes.com/1997/07/16/arts/eating-diso... 

I was born to dance again, NEDA, by Mandi Denger- http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24277724 

Characteristics of eating disorders among young ballet dancers, National Library of Medicine, several authors- http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8865353

A/N: All the underlined numbers/words were originally links to each individual source. I don't have time to plug them all back in, so just imagine they're there lol


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Fri Jan 30, 2015 5:49 pm
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selena1227 wrote a review...



Hey there!! Selena1227 here for a review!!

This was very well written! I enjoyed reading it! I love ballet and I've always been an advocate for helping people with eating disorders. I agree with you that there is a lot of pressure in the ballet/dance world to be skinny and pretty. You see all those beautiful, slim ballerinas who look so amazing and while they're beautiful, the pressure comes from girls and guys wanting to be like those professionals. It looks like you did a lot of research for this and that's very good. I knew there some deaths are related to eating disorders, but I never knew just how many, and even though it's a small percentage, it's still scary to think about. Overall, like I said, your research is very good and this whole thing was so great.

~Selena1227~




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Fri Jan 30, 2015 11:42 am
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Snoink wrote a review...



Hi! This is going to be a quick and dirty review...

Paragraph 2 has no citations. It looks like an introductory paragraph (without the thesis statement), to be completely honest. It would be a good introduction because it catches your interest, but it has no place in your essay as a paragraph.

Paragraph 1 repeats itself approximately three billion times. Trim it down. You can probably trim down all that prattling into one sleek sentence (aka, the thesis), which can be introduced by the second paragraph, which can be moved to the first paragraph as your introduction.

Using second person (aka, "you") has no place in scholarly writing. This is especially because sometimes "you" has no experience with what "you" is about. For example, this sentence: "If you don’t die from an eating disorder, there are complications that can have an impact on the rest of your life." I will not die from an eating disorder because I do not have an eating disorder, so will I have those complications? Your sentence seems to imply that I will. To avoid this, your sentence should read: "If those suffering from an eating disorder don’t die from starvation, there are complications that can have an impact on the rest of their lives." In any case, you should remove all second person. You will find that this helps boost your word count, which will make your life happier, especially after slimming down that first paragraph.

Using first person (aka, "I") has no place in scholarly writing. You say this: "One day, I hope to become a dietitian and psychologist that specializes in eating disorders in dancers. I think it’s very important that we start raising awareness about how prevalent eating disorders are inside the dance studio, and how dangerous they truly are." This is not helpful because you are NOT a dietitian or a psychologist, so you are not presenting any facts. Also, you obviously think that this is very important, otherwise why would you write a paper about this? It is assumed. So you don't have to insert yourself in it.

Paragraph 4 starts off with facts. You should probably start off with a topic sentence instead that ties ballerinas with eating disorders. If this sounds redundant to you, it's because you threw all your topic sentences in your first paragraph and hoped that nobody would notice that they're not where they're supposed to be. Once you trim the first paragraph, it will seem less redundant.

...and. Baby just woke up, so I have to go. If you have any questions, feel free to ask!




LadySpark says...


thanks! I'll definitely change that :)



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Fri Jan 30, 2015 7:17 am
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Monsters wrote a review...



Hello ladySpark!

You want to be the skinniest, the most flexible, the most beautiful.


Why would you be saying that the reader wants to be skinniest, flexible, and beautiful? Be careful of who you are addressing and why. Be concise with your words; the best essays aren't written to flow they are written to perfection. Each word means something. This brings me to point 2; you ramble. It's almost as if you started writing without a plan about where you were going and met somewhere and ran with it. It is unraveled string and that is why the paragraphs are so long. Each sentence says the same thing differently;

In ballet, the pressure to be skinny from the outside world is almost as strong as the pressure from the ballet world itself. You want to be the skinniest, the most flexible, the most beautiful.

People not only think that eating disorders in ballerinas happen, they think it’s normal. They expect you to have an eating disorder. Experts say that of all the people in the world that have eating disorders, 16% of them are ballerinas [1].

We need to change our attitude towards skinny ballerinas, and work on the pressure we place on the ballet world to produce girls that look like sticks. We have to raise awareness, or ballet is going to become extinct, because we cannot continue to expect so much from our dancers, and expect them to have an eating disorder too.


Instead take the main idea shorten and condense; you are belittling and wasting the time of your readers.

We have to raise awareness, or ballet is going to become extinct, because we cannot continue to expect so much from our dancers, and expect them to have an eating disorder too.


What? Again with the conciseness. You have experience with poetry so I do not know why sentences would be so awkwardly written.

It’s dangerous and it’s harmful, and it’s much too old fashioned for a world where mental health is finally getting the attention it deserves.


This doesn't fit; how does mental health get the attention it deserves? And to argue that it goes off topic. This is an essay; we don't give opinions unless they are backed up with facts. It immediately lets us know that you don't much care for them, that your essay was slopped together rather carelessly. Those that disagree just hate the essay now, and it is justified. I mean come on, how does one even prove an absurd statement like that. Of all the countries and all the policies around the world, how can you even know. You need to start thinking more open minded and say the things you want to say.


They should be thought about as athletes that accomplish incredible feats while staying healthy and balanced, not as crazy anorexic girls whose bones show through their skin.


Your thesis or perhaps your whole essay is practically useless. Instead, you talk about how to raise awareness on your other thesis by the conclusion. Which one do you mean? What are you talking about for the whole essay? You are confusing the heck out of me.


Often, people are so narrow minded that they think that ballet dancers must be that skinny because they never eat, not because they exercise.


Perhaps, that is because "Experts say that of all the people in the world that have eating disorders, 16% of them are ballerinas [1]." You really need to work on your critical thinking; it is off. But if you were talking about a self fulfilling prophecy then that should be the topic sentence, not in the jumbled mess of a paragraph.

No other profession in the world is put under so much pressure by the public eye.


again with broad opinions which can never be proved. When opinions differ with your readers which they probably will they will want to throw this away.


Tall, skinny, flexible, even as specific as to being blonde


Not even a sentence.

Our attitude, inside and outside the ballet world, has to change before dancers become extinct because of their eating habits


A little to lenient with the word extinct, and honestly this is a ridicules statement. Everyone in the world is going to say "alright, I had enough because of this reason." Just what. It is not even the least bit practical.

Anyways, there is more but you just need to re-write this anyway. It is so very off.




LadySpark says...


Thanks! Yeah, it's a really personal subject so I def did ramble. I caught myself just talking about how I feel and stuff, which is one of the reasons I posted it. I need help xD
Thanks so much




Life's short; smile while you still have teeth.
— Tuesday