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The impact of full-time dancing on Bronte’s nutrition

From the age of 5 I was a dancer. I did every style you could think of; tap, jazz, ballet, contemporary, hip-hop, lyrical, and musical theatre. When I turned 17, I moved to Sydney for a Certificate IV in dance at Brent Street, where I danced full-time, Monday to Friday, all day, for a year. I then signed with an agent and auditioned for a few years, before realising it wasn’t for me.

As a child who was growing, plus the addition of many hours of intense dancing a week, my energy and nutritional requirements were huge. I was constantly hungry, was always snacking, and ate what I felt like eating without any consideration on how I could use nutrition to improve my performance. During full-time dancing I had no idea how to fuel my body and was overworked and constantly fatigued. When I stopped dancing for a few years, my diet stayed the same and I gained a bit of weight. This led to many unsuccessful diets, restricting during the day, and overeating at night. I changed the way I thought about nutrition and focused more on fuelling my body for health and used intuitive eating patterns. I now no longer class foods as “bad”, or “off limits” that I think I will overeat on. I believe that all foods are important in a balanced diet, and by allowing myself full permission to eat them, I am able to eat everything in moderation and have no desire to restrict or binge. 

The food dialogue of parents and dance teachers in the dancing world was horrendous. I was lucky enough to have a very supportive dance teacher who never commented on my body or my food intake. However, many of my friends who went to other dance studios would tell me horror stories of the disordered comments they got from parents or teachers. Dancing is a very aesthetic sport which can lead to this type of dialogue commonly exposed to dancers. Many dancers can develop issues with body image, disordered eating patterns, and life-threatening eating disorders, which is not surprising due to the hurtful and impactful things said to them as children/teens. Dancers should be using nutrition to their advantage, to focus on performing to the best of their ability and fuelling their body for health. A change needs to happen in the dancing community regarding the way we talk about food and body image. This led me to become an advocate for creating a healthy relationship with food and body image. I am passionate about taking a questioning and critical approach towards less than ideal statements or thoughts, and integrating strategies that heal this relationship and promote healthy behaviours.

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