This week is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week. I’ve talked a bit about body image on this blog before (The Mirror Lies), but I guess now is as good a time as any to get a bit more personal.
In 2002, when I was a sophomore in high school, I went to an audition for Boston Ballet’s summer program. They handed me a card and I was instructed to fill out the front and leave the back blank. The front was all about your dance experience and training. The back was for the panel to take notes-including a section for them to mark down how proportionate the dancer was, with headings like “legs,” “arms,” “torso,” etc. After barre, we stood in lines in 1st position while the panelists walked by and took notes. If the floor could’ve opened me up and swallowed me whole, I would’ve been so relieved.
I wasn’t accepted into that program, and after that, I stressed out a lot more about what I ate. I packed my own lunch, and I’d deliberately pack just a yogurt so that I couldn’t eat more than that. Then I’d be starving when I got home, and I’d eat a bowl of honey-nut cheerios and chocolate chips and hide the bowls under my bed so I could sneak them into the dishwasher later when no one was around (I know you’re reading this, mom-sorry!)
I am thankful that all the dance teachers and professors I’ve had were all shapes and sizes, and never cared or made mention of how proportionate we were. And over time, I’ve developed a healthier body image and relationship with food. But it’s a struggle that’s stayed with me-even throughout my pregnancy I hated seeing pictures of myself. Which logically is ridiculous, because I was growing a human (who is the world’s cutest baby if I say so myself <3), but logic doesn’t come into play much in these situations.
So, what would I say to my teenage self, standing there in first position? I’d say that it’s not important what your body looks like, it’s what your body can DO. I’d say that food serves many purposes-to help us fuel our bodies, sharpen our minds. It connects us with family around the dinner table. It helps us learn about our history and culture. It doesn’t matter one bit what your proportions are. Everyone’s body is different and you can do amazing things with it. Granted, my teenage self would’ve rolled my eyes and said “yeah, I know, sheesh,” but that doesn’t make it less true.
So, if you’re reading this and have had similar struggles, I hope you know you are perfect and you’re not alone. *Insert eye roll here*