Performance Enhancing Dieting

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Kazzy

One man. Two boys. Twelve kids.

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  1. Avatar zic
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    This is awesome, Kazzy.

    Playing music, which is also an athletic skill involving timing, muscle memory, breathing, is another conversation to hold. The presumed performance-enhancing behavior that present dangers are typically alcohol and drugs, and come from living in a world where musicians work while others play. I’ve watched a lot of musicians wash down that drainReport

    • Avatar Kazzy in reply to zic
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      Thanks, zic. I wasn’t sure if I formed the cogent argument I was hoping for. Additionally, I feared coming off as making light of eating disorders. Your endorsement is a strong one. Thank you.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to Kazzy
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        As you saw from your ex-girlfriend, dance culture (particularly ballet) has an awful, horrible, no-good, very-bad tendency to reinforce the culture of eating disorders. This is also true of modeling, ice skating, and I’m sure many other fields. I’ve known numbers of women who developed eating disorders; a couple so serious they nearly died. All in a search of some sort of cultural perfection that cripples.

        Yesterday, we went to the Fairbanks Museum in St. Johnsbury, VT. One display held three sets of adult-women’s shoes for women who’s feet had been bound. They were no bigger then baby booties. This is no different then what we culturally expect of dancers.

        There are these horrid social expectations that men will be brawny and strong, women slight and weak, where image of the athlete/performer is more important then the athlete or performer. Sick and twisted.Report

        • Avatar Kazzy in reply to zic
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          says:

          How do we begin to change it? Perhaps not dance culture, not yet at least, but as a teacher of young girls, what steps can I take?

          When I watch the upper school girls (7th, 8th, and 9th graders) raid the salad bar in the lunch room, part of me thinks, “It is good they’re eating healthy. I wouldn’t touch salads at that age.” But another part of me thinks, “Are they only eating salads because they’re concerned about their weight and body image?” So even there, you have a potentially healthy habit arising from an unhealthy place. And I’m just flummoxed by the whole issue.Report

          • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Kazzy
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            says:

            I start by laughing at the concept of a diet.
            You don’t lose weight for swimsuit season, folks.
            You lose weight because it feels better to be fit.
            And you lose weight best when you don’t look at a scale.Report

            • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Kimmi
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              says:

              My wife & I gave up dieting, switched to intuitive eating. It’s harder than it looks, but we’ve both already noticed that we tend to eat less & don’t crave foods as strongly.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist
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                says:

                Can you explain more what intuitive eating is?Report

              • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Kazzy
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                says:

                Here is the site

                In a nutshell, your body knows what it needs & your hunger cues will inform you as to what you should eat to fulfill those needs.

                The trick is learning to tell the difference between what your body says it needs, and what your head says you are craving. You can not trust your head because you’ve spent your life being told what you should & should not eat & how much & basically being fed all sorts of information from parents & teachers & society in general about what is good & bad that almost everyone has some kind of food hang-up that is emotional/psychological.

                In order for it to work, you have to learn what your hang-ups are, and stop listening to them.

                Watching our son eat has been very educational for us. We present him with a balanced variety of foods every day, but we do not insist that he clean his tray or what not. We do insist he try everything, but if he turns his nose up at it (broccoli, green beans), we don’t push it. We let him eat as much of what he has in front of him as he wants, get him more if he asks, and what he doesn’t eat…

                Well, our dog food bill has been going down lately.

                Kid is growing like a weed & in perfect health, so it must be working.Report

              • Avatar zic in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist
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                says:

                I never knew there was a name for this; but it’s essentially how I feed my family, and always have. One thing that matters here is learning how to distinguish cravings. When I’ve been through a bad bout of migraine, for instance, I often crave brussel sprouts; I presume something in them helps me re-establish ‘normal’ after the brain inflammation I suffer during an episode. But it is a very specific craving for a specific vegetable.

                In my extended family, one side is a ‘clean your plate’ group (funnily, the wealthier side), and they have some serious diet-related problems including heart disease and, in one case, kidney problems. The other side (the poorer side) are massive industrial food eaters, and all over weight.

                But my husband, my children, and I? We’ve neither sets of health issues; good heart health, no weight problems, etc. My husband is the only one of his family not on statins, I’m the only one in mine not on a diet. And (as Kim said elsewhere) we’ve never owned a bathroom scale.

                One interesting thing about eating this way is food choice: I didn’t ‘ban’ foods, we ate at McD’s occasionally, still do now and then; but I didn’t stock junk/industrial foods much, either. We all gravitate toward the healthier foods, now. I’m amazed to see my grown children pretty much opt for labor scratch over the convenience of package. I’ve grown to believe it’s because we have an awareness of how the food we eat makes us feel; and that comes from a lifetime of eating intuitively; learning to trust yourself to know what you need.

                One thing I do is always check with the family members — I’m off to shop, is there anything you want? Often I’ll get requests like ‘apples,’ or ‘peanut butter,’ or ‘pistachios,’ or ‘spinach.’ I always do my best to honor those requests. Even when they’re for something like ‘ice cream bars.’Report

              • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to zic
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                says:

                It seems one of the keys is to stop acting as if you can never have a treat. Used to be, we’d get a cake, or make a pie, & it’d be gone in 48 hours. Now, we actually forget it’s in the fridge, because we’ve stopped telling ourselves that we shouldn’t have it, or that this is all we will have, or such nonsense.

                We’ve also noticed that our eating has gotten much simpler. No more trying to make crazy complicated dishes so the food would be attractive. If we aren’t hungry for salmon, no amount of preparation is going to make it palatable. When we are, some butter, salt & pepper & it’s awesome!

                Quite liberating.

                One caveat – as a weight loss strategy, it is very slow. You do start losing weight, but it takes a while, & comes off slowly, & you may never get to what you think is your target weight (you do have a genetic predisposition to be at a certain weight). Upside is you keep it off, for good, & even if your doctor complains about your weight, the rest of your check-up should be good enough to make them not complain too loudly.Report

              • Avatar zic in reply to zic
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                says:

                My children were born two years apart (had the same due date, so literally). Two pregnancies so close together had me at my heaviest.

                Over four years, the weight came off, and I settled into a ‘new’ normal, a weight/size I’ve maintained without effort since. Intuitive eating and lots of walking bearing weight did the trick. It was a lifestyle, not an effort. For 30 years, I’ve weighed 135 and worn the same size.Report

              • Avatar Kimmi in reply to zic
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                says:

                eh. some people are better at this than others. My husband, for one.

                But dude, go a full two weeks without eating dead animals? Oh, my, the protein cravings! (must… find… beef…)Report

              • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to zic
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                says:

                Yeah, my wife did the vegetarian thing for about 5 years (in opposition to factory farming of animals). First time she smelled fresh Salmon after we moved to Seattle, she broke.

                Now we just make sure we get organic meat (local if we can).

                But it’s the same thing, if you deprive yourself of something like meat, then you’ll crave that 20 oz Porterhouse like crazy. Let yourself enjoy meat, and suddenly a 6 oz sirloin once or twice a week is all you need (if that).Report

  2. Avatar Pierre Corneille
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    says:

    Here are some of my thoughts, and they probably answer your questions only indirectly. (For the records, I am only a very occasional sports watcher, so I don’t have much stake in this issue even as a spectator.)

    PED’s are easier to criminalize than eating disorders are because PED’s are substances that in theory can be controlled while eating disorders are a set of practices (some of which might include substances). I’m not on board with criminalizing PED’s, but banning something that is a problem is at least a rational way to address that something that is a problem. (Banning has many drawbacks, of course, and just because it’s “rational” doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do.)

    I can see an argument in sports where the participants–perhaps through their professional organizations, managers’ associations, and players’ unions–agree among themselves to ban certain PED’s in the hopes of putting a limit on the types of sacrifices athletes must make. The idea isn’t so much that PED’s are evil or unsportsmanlike or that athletes don’t push themselves in other ways, but that athletes are relieved of having to pursue certain means (PED’s) that have unhealthful effects. Bans–even or especially voluntary bans–are hard to enforce, I imagine.

    I’m not sure how to address the problems when it comes to competitive dance. (In fact, I’m more ignorant of dance–by leaps and bounds–than I’m ignorant of sports.) The only thing I can think of might be to liberalize or do away with weight categories in competitions. I don’t know how doable that is in the world of dance (for one thing, I don’t know what function weight categories serve), but maybe doing away with them could blunt at least one incentive for obsession over weight.Report

    • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Pierre Corneille
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      I don’t think ballet has weight categories. But you’re judged based on how light you are (in a number of ways, not the least of which being “can the man pick you up” — think Rahm Emanuel, he did ballet back in the day…)Report

  3. Avatar NewDealer
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    says:

    You can’t make an illness or psychological condition illegal. This is not to say they are good though

    The big difference between a Performance Enhancing Drug is that it is a physical substance that can easily be traced through blood tests. I suspect you would have a harder time proving someone is suffering from an eating disorder.Report

    • Avatar NewDealer in reply to NewDealer
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      says:

      There is Supreme Court precedence here:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robinson_v._California

      Now maybe you did not mean illegal in terms of placing people with ED’s in jail. But in the US we seem to use bans, criminalization, and illegalization for things we don’t like. These are blunt instruments and do not work very well for things like narcotics and disorders.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to NewDealer
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        says:

        I don’t think we should actually criminalize eating disorders, but I wonder why the topic seems to get so little conversation when my experiences and the data I’ve seen tell me it is both more pervasive and more destructive than PED use.Report

        • Avatar Miss Mary in reply to Kazzy
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          says:

          I understand the similarities, but you can’t ignore the difference between PEDs and psychological disorders. And I would venture a guess at why we talk about PEDs more than eating disorders is because we, the American public, are bad at tackling all mental health based issues in a proactive way. It’s scary, people don’t know what to do. PEDs are easier to “fix” so let’s just focus on that. Of course, there is the prominent line between sports and art. Sports get more attention and so it becomes that athletes are more “valuable” than artists, even if you are an athlete and an artist.Report

          • Avatar Michelle in reply to Miss Mary
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            says:

            Also, male athletes are more valuable than female dancers. Because eating disorders primarily affect women, they get less attention. Sexism at work.Report

            • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Michelle
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              says:

              With very, very real victims.

              Again, Chloe bemoaned the fact she didn’t have more pressure on her to engage in such unhealthy behavior. That is seriously fished up and could potentially stay with her long into adulthood.Report

            • Avatar Just Me in reply to Michelle
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              says:

              At first I thought, yep I agree with this statement. The only male athletes I knew who had eating disorders where wrestlers. Then I thought, what about the linemen who are eating ungodly amounts of calories in order to stay 300+ lbs. Would they be considered to have eating disorders that will cause them harm in the future?Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Just Me
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                It is my understanding that those guys actually need to carefully maintain weight to avoid becoming too big or too slow.

                The WRs, generally the smaller, speedier guys, are the ones who eat tons of calories, because they are basically running sprints all day. Some of them struggle with their weight after retirement because they continue to eat thousands of calories but without all the running around.

                Which isn’t to say there is no potential for eating disorders among professional athletes; it just might not manifest as one would imagine.Report

              • Avatar Just Me in reply to Kazzy
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                says:

                Yeah you’re right.

                I guess I just think that sports overall does harm to the human body. Whether the harm is done through the use of PEDs or exercise or daily wear and tear of joints and muscles being used excessively day in and day out.

                We have accepted as a society that athlete’s bodies are going to be harmed to some extent. We praise those who play through the pain and give 110% in order to achieve their goals. PEDs are something that we feel gives some an unfair advantage, gives them more oomph for their work outs so to say. American’s are all about hard work, grit and determination. PEDs says that an individual doesn’t think they have what it takes to be the best without some chemical to give them the little extra to get there.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Just Me
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                What concerns me is my own little personal theory that we are pushing the bounds of the human body.

                Contact injuries are going to happen, and they’re exacerbated when the folks making contact are bigger and faster and stronger.

                But it also seems to me that we’ve seen a rise in non-contact injuries. Guys blow out major tendons jumping or running. It makes me wonder if they’re simply demanding that their body do something beyond it’s capability. Through a combination of elite genetics, sophisticated training and diet regimens, advanced medical science, and (sometimes) PED usage, we’ve created athletes that are 280 pounds but can run at 25 MPH and jump 4 feet off the ground. So Derrick Rose blows out his knee performing the simple act of jumping because it was just too much for his body to handle.

                That’s my own theory, at least.Report

              • Avatar Just Me in reply to Kazzy
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                says:

                Mine too.Report

              • Avatar KatherineMW in reply to Kazzy
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                says:

                But if people seriously believe that the damage they do to their bodies is worth it – for the fame, for the feeling of accomplishment, for the chance to beat a world record, or simply because pushing yourself beyond your limits feels good to them – can we tell them they can’t do that? A lot of Olympic athletes, as well as athletes in other fields, seem to sincerely feel that way – they value a brief span of greatness over lifelong good health, a la Achilles. Is it our job to tell them they’re absolutely wrong to set their priorities that way?Report

              • Avatar zic in reply to Kazzy
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                says:

                My younger sprout was athletic; though not interested in team sports. He excelled at snowboarding, biking, skate boarding. I’ve watched him ride down the street on around the block on one wheel, and it wasn’t the back wheel. I’ve watched him go off 40-foot jumps and do somersaults in the air. Sometimes, I had to not watch; because my fear for his safety was so great.

                Before we moved here, we’d leave nearly every weekend to go hiking in the White Mountains. Now I wouldn’t consider hiking a dangerous thing; getting out to the woods seems like a healthy activity. But one morning, after I dropped the kids off at their school, I was cornered by a number of other moms who thought I was endangering my children by so often taking the out into the wilderness, miles from a road, let alone a hospital. I told them the most dangerous part of our adventures were the three hours in the car on Rt. 93 there and back home.

                I have friends who rock climb, ski, snowboard, ice climb, and bike long distances . Two help with the Trek Across Maine, an annual fund raiser for the National Lung Association. A fellow rider was hit by a truck and killed a couple days ago, just as the trek was beginning. Every year, it seems there’s a death at the nearby ski area, typically someone skiing into a tree in the glades. When my sweetie worked on Mt. Washington, I constantly lived with the fear that he’d have to put his life in danger going out to rescue someone else fool enough to head up there without warm clothing and water.

                This all to saying that I struggle with the risk of physical challenge vs. the benefit. I do not believe it’s good to remove risk from our lives. I firmly believe in helping people understand how to mitigate risk, starting at a young age. My children, who grew up hiking the back country, would never set out to climb Mt. Washington without the appropriate gear. My son would never go off a jump on his snowboard without being able to see his landing.

                But bad things will happen; and it doesn’t matter if one’s in training to gain physical mastery or simply walking down the street. For dancers, discussing eating disorders should be an ongoing part of dance education, instead, they’re warned when they grow too large and are encouraged to starve themselves of damage their digestive systems on some slim hope that they might shrink themselves enough to keep dancing. I’m sure there are ski coaches out there who egg their athletes on to danger; but it is not a pervasive part of the sport (though PED’s may well be).

                It’s not the risk of injury that matters; injury will happen. It’s the culture that either promotes wise choices and appropriate safety to minimize risk vs. a culture that promotes short-term performance outside of considerations for the remainder of the athletes life; football and concussion being a great example.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Kazzy
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                says:

                KMW,

                I’m sympathetic to that argument. Part of me says we ought to let adults do what they will with their bodies and do our best to help them make informed choices.

                What bristles me is the sanctimonious arguments against PEDs “because of the children!!!” while little to nothing is said about a problem like eating disorders. Go back and watch the Congressional Hearings on PEDs… look at all the CongressCritters wagging their fingers. Nary a peep on eating disorders.

                At this point, EVERYONE knows about PEDs in sports, even though we’re still not entirely sure of their risks and dangers.

                How many people realize the epidemic of eating disorders within competitive dance? Hell, how many people realize the frequency of eating disorders even outside the dance world? And we know full well the dangers that such behaviors pose.Report

              • Avatar KatherineMW in reply to Kazzy
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                says:

                Awesome reply, zic.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Kazzy
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                says:

                Indeed… fantastic comment, Zic.Report

              • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Kazzy
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                says:

                It’s all a testament to “faster higher stronger” — how much can we brutalize the human body and push it to its limits.

                Nobody watches intramural soccer like they used to.Report

              • Avatar Michelle in reply to Kazzy
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                says:

                Makes sense to me, Kazzy.Report

          • Avatar NewDealer in reply to Miss Mary
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            says:

            I concur that the American public is really bad about tackling mental health issues. We might be better if we had universal health care. Though I don’t think it is uniquely American to be bad at mental health.

            Has there ever been any society that found a good way to deal with mental health issues? I’m not talking about serious mental illnesses like paranoid schziophrenia.
            Andrew Sullivan posted two articles about this late during the week.

            One essayist suggested that deinstitutionalization has been great for people with intellectual learning disabilities but not so great for people with paranoia and other delusions. Another person countered that the only thing that institutionalization ever did was put the mentally ill out of sight and therefore out of mind. The counter was probably right. Though this does not make it pleasant to be on public transportation with someone who is mentally ill and on the verge of an episode. Also there some high-profile stories about people being shoved unto subway tracks in NYC late last year. I think in two of the stories, the attacker had a long history of mental illness and a system that could not force people to make medication.Report

            • Avatar Kazzy in reply to NewDealer
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              With regards to bulimia, anorexia, and other eating disorders, it is my understanding (though I may be wrong, so please correct me if so) that these are largely preventable, in part because they are caused by external pressures and factors. Some people might be more prone to them, but I doubt they arise absent these external factors. So to whatever extent we can adjust those, we can possibly prevent them arising in the first place.

              Of course, that is an ideal, likely unachievable. So we’re left with how to respond. In high school, a good friend struggled with eating disorders and broader self-image issues. Some mutual friends who knew her longer than I insisted we not intervene, or even bring up the topic, because it would only drive her underground and make it worse. I couldn’t stand idly by and watch a friend destroy herself but feeling as if I lacked both the skills and broader support network to do anything about it, I simply chose to distance myself from her. I’m not saying this was the right course of action, but I had no idea what to do nor did anyone else.

              She continued to have problems, eventually engaging in self-mutilation, pursuing plastic surgery, and maintaining an unhealthy weight. Judging from Facebook, she seems to at least be in a physically better place, but I’m not sure how she is doing mentally: her Facebook feed is one of those, “Look at me! Heap positive attention on me!” types. Clearly, there is something going on for this woman which no one can see and/or those who can can’t or won’t do anything about.Report

            • Avatar Kimmi in reply to NewDealer
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              About a third of the seriously ill got better after deinstitutionalization. About a third got worse. But, ya know, it’s cheaper?

              Many folks need better “halfsies monitoring” (just enough to make sure they take their meds, at which point they’re functional. problem is, they forget that they’re bad if they go off the meds.)Report

            • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to NewDealer
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              I can’t speak to how it all works out internally, ( for all my talk about Africa the truth is I was never really an insider ) but in the old days the Hausa and Yoruba people integrated the mentally ill into their cultures. For them, mental illness had spiritual overtones.

              These days, what with many decades of Western and Islamic influences, things have gone downhill for the mentally ill in Africa. They’re institutionalised in horrible places, chained to beds, often murdered outright.

              I remember one old guy who was probably schizophrenic. People talked to him, took him seriously. He was a sort of window into dark places, an intermediary to the chaotic world of the spirits and the ancestors. It wasn’t like this channelling bullshit, he didn’t make sense most of the time but every so often he’d get off a doozy and it would go around Dungas. Nobody abused him. He wandered around town, lots of kids played with him, sometimes quite roughly as children will, but his clan took care of him.

              I’m not painting an idyllic, Rousseau-ian picture of African mental health. I despise Rousseau. He knew nothing about the brutal realities of such societies. Currently, the state of affairs in African mental health is horrifying. The mentally ill are now treated as evil: instead of an oddity, it’s now treated as some outworking of fate — someone sinned and this is the consequence. But you did ask if there were societies which found a good way to deal with mental health issues.Report

    • Avatar Cletus in reply to NewDealer
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      says:

      It might not be as simple as a pass/fail result from a drug test but there are tests. Mayo Clinic lists some. It includes blood panel analysis because eating disorders do damage to liver, kidneys, and other organs.Report

  4. Avatar Just Me
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    says:

    If female ballerinas became heavier would the men who lift them have to take PEDs in order to continue to lift them “effortlessly”?

    I have always thought it was more the people within the industry of dance who push the most for the “ethereal” woman to convey THEIR concept of what the dance is about. In my opinion, what we do to athletes is no different than what we have done to dogs and cats and just about every other creature or plant on Earth. We mold and shape each to achieve some concept of “perfection”, damn the consequences of doing so.Report

  5. Avatar Stillwater
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    says:

    So if the recognition that PEDs pose a threat to the users and the potential users … why doesn’t the knowledge that anorexia, bulimia, and other unhealthy relationships with food and body image plague the dance world lead to a similarly impassioned charge to cease them…

    Because the argument against PED use at the professional level isn’t necessarily (or even primarily) about threats to health. It’s about gaining an unfair competitive advantage over individuals who don’t want to use PEDs. That line may not be as clear and bright as the anti-PED crowd thinks it is, of course.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Stillwater
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      To be clear, Still, I was referring to an argument that said even if we accept PEDs in sports, we have to consider their impact on young athletes, and that alone is a reason to ban them.Report

    • Avatar greginak in reply to Stillwater
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      There is a part of the problem with PED’s that is directly about health. EPO, one of the big banned substance in cycling, was implicated in many deaths in the late 80’s. Apparently it sort of turns your blood to goo, so there are stories of guys who were using it having to get up in the middle of the night to exercise to get their heart going.again. There is also the concern that repeated use of PED’s has long term health effects.

      The unfair advantage part comes and is important because it changes what you have to do to win, the risks you have to take and the potential pitfalls. Some people can benefit more from certain kinds of PED’s so if PED’s are legal in a sport then the competition is more about comparative blood chemistry and who has the best bio chemist. That isn’t hugely different from who has the best PT’s, coaches, support staffs, but i think there is a qualitative difference. If someone is going to get the most out of their body it should be primarily through effort and skill, not biochem.

      There is a trite answer to concerns about PED’s that note that a lot of sports are dangerous but we let people do them. True, that is fine. But even in dangerous sports we still have rules against certain behaviors that are to dangerous. In football you can’t grab someone by the facemask and drag them down. Why, because you could rip their head life like a barbie doll. Are people out there screaming for the right to grab face-masks or spear someone in the back. It is completely agreed upon that there should be some rules regarding safety.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to greginak
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        says:

        Which brings to mind the major difference between PED and eating disorders: PED gives you an unfair advantage. Eating disorders, inversely, would impair you physical abilities, diminishing your advantages.Report

        • Avatar Kazzy in reply to zic
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          says:

          But is that the case? If developing an eating disorder helps you get under weight and helps you make prima ballerina or whatever it might be, it certainly has afforded you an advantage.

          Or let’s look at gymnasts… I’m not a doctor, but I struggle to think those Olympic girls are living a “healthy” lifestyle. Doesn’t their diet and training schedule delay the onset of puberty and their period? Maybe they won’t die from it, but that doesn’t seem “healthy” to me.

          Suffice it to say, I would be very, very, very hard pressed to accept that sort of lifestyle for my daughter.Report

          • Avatar zic in reply to Kazzy
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            A disorder that leaves you without enough nourishment to pursue the activities you’re doing, that delays normal development, that burns your throat lining and leaves you unable to take nourishment from what little you do eat, does not promote athletic stamina.

            So yes, it is true. I’ve watched dancers come home and faint. And it’s not just nourishment, it’s hydration; diuretics and water retention are a problem.Report

            • Avatar Kazzy in reply to zic
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              says:

              So does that mean that the disorders aren’t as prevalent within the dancing world as I might believe? That the women/girls suffering from them aren’t suffering from extreme forms of them? Or that the women/girls that do suffer from them are not getting the advantage they think they are?Report

              • Avatar zic in reply to Kazzy
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                says:

                No. It does not mean that. More likely, it means that many potential dancers are unable to compete because of health problems related to eating disorders.

                There is nothing that says a dancer must only weigh 100 lbs., other then our own silly notion of what a dancer should look like.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to zic
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                says:

                “There is nothing that says a dancer must only weigh 100 lbs., other then our own silly notion of what a dancer should look like.”

                This.

                Returning to my ex-girlfriend, she used to be angry that Beyonce (2005 Beyonce, FWIW) was considered a good dancer because of “all her cellulite”.

                If we’re going to call Beyonce a bad dancer and/or fat… we’ve got some real problems.Report

              • Avatar zic in reply to Kazzy
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                says:

                Exactly.Report

              • Avatar Fnord in reply to zic
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                says:

                Right, but if the silly notion of what a dancer should look like is held by directors in charge of casting (inter alia) as well as the dancer herself, than “making weight” confers a practical advantage even if the methods to do so weren’t healthy. You get the same Red Queen’s Race effect as you do with PED in sports.Report

      • Avatar KatherineMW in reply to greginak
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        says:

        The unfair advantage part comes and is important because it changes what you have to do to win, the risks you have to take and the potential pitfalls. Some people can benefit more from certain kinds of PED’s so if PED’s are legal in a sport then the competition is more about comparative blood chemistry and who has the best bio chemist. That isn’t hugely different from who has the best PT’s, coaches, support staffs, but i think there is a qualitative difference. If someone is going to get the most out of their body it should be primarily through effort and skill, not biochem.

        If someone spends three years in Nepal or Bolivia between Olympics, training at altitude, to increase his blood’s ability to carry oxygen, is that “effort and skill”, or biochem? I’d say the former, but how distinguishable are the effects, and what do the IOC and other sports federations say? I know some soccer federations have banned games being played at over a certain altitude.Report

  6. Avatar Shazbot5
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    says:

    I think the negative effect of ballet on women’s health is real.

    Perhaps we could license ballet studios and require them to have a few health and nutrition classes and an occasional review by a local psychologist looking for signs of anorexia amongst the students. Maybe a meeting or two with the parents on the abaolute deadly dangers of anorexia.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Shazbot5
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      says:

      I dunno that I’d go to such lengths with adult dancers, but with children/minors, I think something along these lines could be justified.

      Key for parents, educators, and other adults is knowing the signs. One thing I learned from my then-girlfriend was what to look for. But not by observing her own behavior, but when she suspected that her friend and roommate was bulimic. “Notice how she always uses the bathroom after meals? Always has breath mints or gum?” Now, I’m no expert, but such education would be really, really helpful. As I mention above, I can look at the exact same behavior (girls eating lots of salad) and draw both a rosy conclusion (“They’re making healthy eating choices!”) and a dire one (“They’re starving themselves because they have body image issues!”). If I knew more and better signs to look for, I’d be better positioned to identify girls who might be suffering.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Kazzy
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        says:

        A lot of parents aren’t going to help because they are living vicariously through their daughter dancers and athletic sons and encouraging some really bad decisions as a result. Even if parents aren’t living vicariously through their children, they might egg them on. Parents are only going to be help if they are satisfied enough with their lives that the do not feel a need to push their children.Report

        • Avatar zic in reply to LeeEsq
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          says:

          Gotta put the brakes on here just a little bit; there are many, many skills that you need to master (or at least begin mastering) as a child to have a top-tier career as an adult.

          Most of the great musicians I’ve known learned as children, and had parents who pushed them, and they consistently express gratitude for that. Athletes, too. Parents who go above and beyond, sacrificing their time, often investing financially — instruments, lessons, coaches, gear, travel are all expensive.

          There is a line between healthy promotion and damaging living-vicariously. I’d think parents of a child committed to serious competition or mastery in anything veer over that line occasionally, and it’s obvious that some veer over more then most. It’s good to examine what that line is; to learn to recognize when we may have crossed over it. But blanket condemnation of parents investing in a child’s skill development doesn’t get us there.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Kazzy
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        says:

        One of the true problems with starting to teach girls when they’re 7-9, is that they’re nearly all thin then. Grow up and start getting curves? That’s bad, right??

        Even saying ballet starts at age 14 would do a lot of good.Report

  7. Avatar Shazbot5
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    says:

    Also, not sure if it is relevant, but (IMO) competitive body building is a competition entirely based on seeing whose body dysmorphic disorder is the most severe.

    It is almost as bad as if we had a professional competition to see which anorexic girl is the most thin, except we have a competition to see which obsessive body dysmorphic man (and now women too) has used the most steroids and been the nost obsessive. (Granted streoid use and muscle building is less dangerous than extreme weight loss.)

    Not sure you can aor should ban body-building, but it certainly needs regulations that require the competitors to be more safe, just as boxing does. Mybe. require the professional builders to see doctors and psychologists as part of certifying to compete. That might not be effective, but it might help a litlle.Report

    • Avatar Miss Mary in reply to Shazbot5
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      says:

      I had a friend in high school with an eating disorder. (Senior year she bought a size zero prom dress and had it taken in.) She used to troll websites that were designed for encouraging anorexia and bulimia, in addition to running 10 miles a day.

      There may not be a Ms. Weightless contest every year, but there is some sort of weird underground competition. Although, I’m not sure it was necessarily a competition. Definitely a strange subculture happening there.Report

  8. Avatar LeeEsq
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    says:

    Kazzy, what type of dancing did Chloe did? Was it ballet/modern/theatrical dancing or was it more competitive partner dancing? I’m involved in partner dancing on an amateur level and its culture is a bit different than ballet/modern/theatrical dancing. Partner dancing tends to have fewer of the concerns about weight and body than ballet/modern dance but dancers also have a longer professional life in partner dancing so it might be a side effect of that. Why damage something that you are going to need for the rest of your career?

    Just Me hit the nail on the head. We as a society have beliefs about what the ideal athlete or dancer should look like. People really want to see talented athletes and dancers, they pay good money for it. Dancers are less lionized than athletes but are just as popular in the right social circles. There are people who seem to have a natural tendency to punish their bodies in order to become an athlete or dancer even if most of them are going to fail. There are parents who are going to push their kids in that direction. You can’t really solve these problems without really changing society enough so that there isn’t a demand for people to push their bodies.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy in reply to LeeEsq
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      says:

      I don’t remember the specifics (I never saw her dance) but it was definitely one of the former, not competitive partner dancing.

      “Why damage something that you are going to need for the rest of your career?”

      This is where I think the coaches, or whatever they’re called in dance, come in. The dancers are expendable: milk this one for all she’s worth and when she breaks down, find someone younger willing to step in. You see the same thing in sports when it comes to teams and coaches pushing players through injuries. Only the player/dancer has their long-term interests at heart, despite what others might say.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Kazzy
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        says:

        The problem is that a lot of dancers do have a limited shelf life, especially if they are women. They are best from their twenties to mid-thirities and than the body begins to take its toll. Men have a slightly longer career life. Partner dancers can last longer to since the stress on the body is a bit less, so its more forgiving. Athletes also have a short shelf life. The incentives are for using this short professional life as best as possible for everybody even if its at the cost of the body.Report

  9. Avatar Peter
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    says:

    She told tales of intense skin infections cause by shaving her armpits raw to attain that flawless, hairless look

    Yet you never hear women complain about … oh, never mind.Report

  10. Avatar Wyrmnax
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    says:

    Because football and baseball involve mostly men, and dance involves mostly woman. And we all know woman aren’t worth noticing.

    That was sarcasm, in case you missed it. It does however have a ounce of truth to it.

    Not only woman issues are ‘less important’, appearance is a very particular problem. There is much more wiggle room for a man to be ugly, fat or otherwise not have a perfect appearance than for woman. Just take a look on how much time your wife spends every day just to put ‘everyday makeup’, and take care of her hair and nails.

    This kind of thinking – that woman must always be pretty well groomed, but whatever is fine for man – is so ingrained onto us that we barely even notice it.

    Back to the subject, i will also point out that both baseball and football are much more popular than dance, and so their issues have much more visibility. And, most important, since they have more visibility it will give politicians more votes to argue about them than about dancing.Report

  11. Avatar Miss Mary
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    says:

    I recognize your struggle with seeing young women choose the salad bar for lunch. It’s so much more than that though. I chose the salad bar for lunch every day in high school, but I was/am a vegetarian and I like fruits and vegetables. My anorexic friend would be right there in line with me every day. I think the average person could tell the difference though; my plates were more full, she weighed 30 or 40 pounds less than I did, and she ran to and from school every day instead of waiting for the bus just to get her 10 miles a day in. She belonged to the cross country running club and I did tennis and theater. Yes, as a teacher you might see her and think that it was great a young woman cared about her health, but she was clearly more extreme than those of us who just simply cared about our health. I don’t recall exactly, but I would find it hard to believe that the teachers didn’t know Katie was unhealthy. I doubt they did anything about it. Her mom worked in the front office at the school and probably had the same health issues as her daughter.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Miss Mary
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      says:

      This is why I wish there was more training on identifying the signs. New York State requires training classes on preventing school violence and identifying child abuse. I’m sure we could all find a pet cause that we’d mandate training for, quickly overwhelming both teachers and the systems. But somewhere along the line, especially in schools that provide food for students (like my own), there should be someone trained in helping students make healthy eating choices and the like, with an understanding that thin and thinner do not equate to healthy.

      Like I said, I know a few of the signs to look for, but they’re the type that arise from regular contact with the students, which I don’t have at present time with our Upper Schoolers.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Kazzy
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        says:

        I think the best question to ask someone is “what do you want to do”.
        Me? I want to hike, I want to see mountain vistas, and wade through rushing streams…
        I want to be able to run up the stairs, and catch the bus if I’m running a little late.Report

  12. Avatar KatherineMW
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    says:

    The question is, how could you feasibly reduce anorexia and bulumia among dancers by ‘banning’ them? If you said that a person can get kicked out of a competition for them, it seems like the most likely effect would be girls going to greater lengths to hide them and being even less willing to get help.

    Entirely changing the weight expectations in dance would be more likely to have a positive effect, but that’s a cultural change much larger and much more difficult to effect than even the NFL’s new concern about head injuries.Report

  13. Avatar Cletus
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    says:

    One of my best friends is currently a dancer studying on aerial silks. She is probably the hottest woman I have ever met. If you asked me to describe her I would say she is without an ounce of unnecessary fat anywhere on her body. She is 4’10 and around 85 lbs.

    She’s also currently dieting because her agent told her she needs to be at 10% body fat or below and look like one of those olympic athletes in order to get into any of the dance companies. It is completely messed up. Every time I hear her complain about her weight or talk about how eating something she would love to eat would make her “fat” I want to grab her, give her a 5 minute hug, and tell her she is perfect as-is and not to let anyone else say otherwise, ever.

    Freedom of speech can go to hell. The dance industry is a diseased place where more regulation and serious changes need to happen.Report

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