During my almost ten years with a terrible eating disorder, two main goals drove my everyday existence:
- To make myself as good of a dancer as I could be
- To make myself as thin and small as possible
I don’t think I went a day between the ages of 15 and 25 without obsessively wanting both of those things.
A recent article in the New York Times published on February 13th, 2018 details the horrific eating habits behind Olympian male figure skaters who have been told to slim-down to appease the judges. Adam Rippon on Quiet Starvation in Men’s Figure Skating.
The notion of incredibly rigorous athleticism paired with a slender weight ideal is something shared by the dance world, gymnastics, cheer leading, and figure skating. I can’t think of other sports where this is the case but I could be wrong.
Funny how the sports or arts that come with demands of thinness all seem to be done to music. I wonder if we put snowboarding competitions to Chopin if suddenly we’d all care about the sportsman’s’ BMI. Just a thought.
The contrast between diminishing the body and pushing the capabilities of the body is what really struck a chord with me while reading this article. This is what former medalist, Brian Boitano, says about his mindset:
“Boitano thought his ability to ignore his body’s demands for fuel elevated him above his opponents who surrendered to their appetites. “When I was hungry,” he said, “it made me feel strong.”
Isn’t that a complete contradiction? Kind of sounds like the opposition between my own former goals of achieving great dance skills with my body while wanting to completely shrink my body. Something isn’t lining up.
Guess which goal I achieved?
Neither of them.
Here is what I think is the best way to set yourself up for success:
Goals cannot be oppositional. They must align with a common theme and all decisions must work to support that theme. If not, you won’t get one or the other. You’ll get neither.
The problem is when the personal goal of becoming strong or talented enough to do amazing feats in dance or skating is countered by the industry standard of what kind of shape a person must be to make those feats pleasing to the eye. What has culturally been heralded as ‘the picture of perfection’ probably doesn’t move as well.
It is one of my goals to change these expectations of dancers on themselves and in what is considered beautiful to the audience. Creating an artistic impact should not be determined by an exterior shape and the desire to achieve should not be countered by the pressure to shrink.
Forget your thinspiration. Let’s think bigger than that.