By Natalie Wight
Photo Via Flickr
I’m a dancer. I’ve danced ballet, jazz, hip hop, and contemporary for most of my life, and loved doing so. And while dance has kept me healthy, many dance studios actively encourage weight loss and diets to keep dancers from gaining weight.
For some, this leads to feelings that their bodies are inadequate, which can in turn lead to eating disorders.
While I haven’t suffered from an eating disorder, I have dealt with body image issues, and I have had friends who have suffered from bulimia, anorexia, and binge eating.
My dance instructor once told me that his dance teacher at another studio would take measurements for costumes, and then, if he thought a dancer needed to lose weight, would mark down the costume a size smaller. Once the costumes were delivered, the dancers would try them on and know if their costume was too small, they needed to lose weight to stay in a performance.
Such behavior reinforces what we are bombarded with on streets and in stores everyday. Ads showing what both women and men “should aspire” to look like in order to be accepted and loved by others. These images of tall, thin, tan, women and chiseled men are photoshopped to false perfection and then shown to potential consumers who pay companies billions to try and look like what they see.
This unhealthy exposure is undoubtedly a major factor in swaying people, especially young impressionable people, to view their bodies as inadequate, and that in turn can lead to eating disorders.
According to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), a whopping 90 percent of young women aged 15-17 in the United States want to change at least one thing about their bodies, and 20 million women and 10 million men in America suffer from various eating disorders.
Eating disorders are complex and a result of many factors including cultural, environmental, psychological, and genetic. People of all sizes, ethnicities, and classes develop eating disorders. The majority of men and women who have eating disorders start developing them in adolescence.
Here in Merced, there are few resources for helping people who suffer from an eating disorder. What options do exist are limited and usually too expensive for many communities here. Our city leaders need to do more to inform communities about the signs and risks of eating disorders, and make affordable resources available to those who are afflicted.
Natalie Wight is a 17 year old student at Golden Valley High School and Youth Reporter with We’Ced Youth Media. Ardent about Veganism and Feminism, she hopes to positively impact people’s’ lives through her passions. In the fall, she will be transferring to San Francisco State University where she will major in Women’s Studies.