This post is intended to provide a few reminders when considering our body image. There is no particular order to this list as each point is equally as important as the next. My hope is that students, parents, and teachers will take this post as a reminder that often developing a positive body image is a group effort. It includes not only the student, teacher, and parent – but professionals as well. Taking steps to proactively consider students’ (your child’s) thoughts on body image and speaking to them about it can help to prevent and/or resolve potential problems in this area.
1. DO Avoid Dieting. The term invokes a thought of depriving ourselves of food (aka. nutrition and fuel).
2. DO seek healthy food choices. Remember that food is the fuel that you body needs and uses for every function – from cell and energy production to muscle contraction and breathing. Limiting your fuel intake limits the ability of your body to function.
3. DO Speak to a dietitian. If you feel that you might need to ‘lose weight’ or gain muscle – start with speaking to a dietitian. This will help you to look at where you are at with you food choices today and determine if and what food choices might be effective changes for you.
4. DO Drink Water. We have talked about it before and are saying it again. Water is essential to your health on a cellular level. It is essential for your tissues, blood, muscle, and brain function.
5. DO be wary of extreme weight loss. Teachers – if you notice that a student’s body is changing dramatically – speak to the parent. Bring your concerns to their attention. Whether the weight loss is intentional or not, speak to the parent. Recommend that medical advice be sought. Parents – this can be a difficult subject to approach, but it is crucial that you do so.
6. DO Trust the Science. There is tremendous science behind nutrition for performance athletes (sports and dance). There are a lot of fad diets out there that claim ‘amazing results’. In general, if there is a miraculous or outrageous claim being made then it is highly likely that it does not work. Yes, you might see results in the short term – but in the long term those results will most likely be impossible to maintain. Best advice: Trust the science – speak to professionals who work with athletes and dancers for guidance.
7. DO Accept yourself. Historically the dance world holds the ‘ideal physique’ on a pedestal – many seek to achieve this physique. We (teachers, dancers, parents) need to remind ourselves and our young people that the body you have been given is a gift. Genetics provides a map for our physical development, training can have a direct effect on the lines our bodies can create through dance, accept that there are things we cannot change (genetics) and learn how best to train and fuel your body for optimum performance.
8. DO Investigate/ Research, and seek advice. Your body is your instrument. Research effective ways to improve your health, then speak to a professional before incorporating it into your lifestyle. For nutritional advice – seek out a dietitian, for conditioning advice – seek out a physiotherapist or athletic therapist, for training advice – seek out a trusted dance teacher. A best first step is to speak to your parents and family physician.
9. DO Know that you are not alone. In today’s society young women and men are bombarded with images in the media that have been photo shopped (altered) to fit how marketing executives want the public to view their product so that we will buy that product. Be careful not to fall into the trap of believing that what you see in advertising is the truth.
10. DO What you love. Seeking happiness? Seeking purpose? Follow your heart. Seeking fulfillment in achieving the perfect body (in this authors view) is misdirected (or perhaps misguided) purpose. If you love dance, then dance for the joy of it. Seeking what is perceived as the ‘ideal dancers body’ is setting yourself up for disappointment and can result in extensive damage to your body.
Author: Jacqui Davidson