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Home > Diet and Nutrition

Dancers and Eating Disorders

Dancers feel immense pressure to be thin. They are expected to be thin. One of the biggest fears of a dancer is gaining weight and having to face themselves in the mirror donning only their leotards and tights. This fear rings through the dance world and every dancer knows the feeling.

It seems that the desirable look in dance, ballet in particular, is a pencil thin dancer void of any curves. Some dancers naturally have those genes and can be healthy in that state, while others are in a constant struggle to hide and get rid of their natural curves.

    woman scale

Naturally thin dancers always seem to have an unfair advantage over those with hips, and breasts. This is a sad but true prejudice that still lives in the dance world and continues to plague dancers! It plagues them to the point of unhealthy measures leading to obsessions and unreal expectations of their bodies.

This obsession can get out of control for many dancers and can lead to serious problems. One of the biggest problems in the dance world is eating disorders, namely Bulimia and Anorexia. These are silent diseases that a dancer lives with when they are obsessed with their body.

We hear all the time about dancer’s who were turned away because of their weight, or dancers who were already thin and were still asked to “trim down” by their dance company. This type of expectation poses a real threat on impressionable dancers! Especially young ones just starting out.

    anorexic dancer

Many dancers come to develop an eating disorder and continue to be praised when in actually, they are starving themselves to look that way! Anorexia and bulimia are not something to play with – they can and will lead to loss of strength – which will ruin a dancing career – and death.

It is sad to see that such a classy and passionate art can be overshadowed by an obsession with food, it is ugly and unhealthy. No body wants to see bones, we want to see a beautiful healthy dancer with muscle tone and strength. Not a withdrawn, pasty, frail girl who looks like she aches when she moves.

As in the Boston Ballet's late Heidi Guenther: In 1997, 22-year-old ballerina Heidi Guenther collapsed and died from complications arising from her eating disorder. Heidi was a well-known dancer with the Boston Ballet. At 5'3" tall, Heidi weighed less than 93 lbs at the time of her death. This story should remind us all that we can choose life, health and happiness, or we can choose death.

    poor body image

Any dancer who feels caught in the eating disorder trap needs to tell someone – tell your parents, a friend, reach out! Fight through it and regain your sensibility through the love you have for life. If you need to talk to someone privately, contact the ASAD (Anorexia Nervosa and Related Disorders) for help!

If you need help, please call the ANAD hotline, 847-831-3438 (Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm, Central Time) or email

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