Friday, March 2, 2012

Eating Disorder Awareness Week & the Power of Dance to Transform

(This week is National Eating Disorder Awareness week, and part of their goal is to destigmatize eating disorders and body image issues, so I am writing in support of their programming.)

I have been every size (U.S.) from zero to 14 over the course of these 43 years, and no, I did not feel anything close to love for this body at size zero. Actually, I felt a bit more loving of myself at around size 12.

Marcy would giggle and (very, very lovingly, knowing my full history) call me her "fat and happy animal."

Because, yes, at that larger size I was at least content. I was not thinking about every single bite of food that went into my mouth.

From the time I was quite young, there was a running commentary in my mind about the food I ate, what it would do to me, how gross I was, why couldn't I control myself, no one was ever going to love me, what would become of me, and on and on.

From the time I was quite young, I...
  • did not know when I had to pee; I was so disconnected from my basic bodily functions;
  • had no idea when I was truly hungry or truly full;
  • could not imagine being seen naked or even just in my underclothes by other girls after gym class;
  • hated shorts because they revealed my "grossest" part -- my thighs;
  • would not run for the joy of it because things might have jiggled;
  • hated having my picture taken;
  • loved the water but dreaded standing up off of the blanket to walk to the water in my bathing suit;
  • was constantly on a diet;
  • wore clothes as loosely as possible to hide my (oh...really...non-freaking-existent) stomach;
  • would stand in front of mirrors only to criticize myself, poke my parts, slap my skin out of self-hatred.
You get the idea.  Especially if you are a woman reading this.  You most likely recognize that list and could add more and more to it.

Here is the miraculous part of all of this, even though I was put on my first diet as a toddler, even though I suffered from severe disordered eating and exercise bulimia into college (and beyond...), even though I am lucky right now to be so healthy...

There was a time, from early on, when I did not notice what was bad or wrong about this body but simply noticed the beauty of being in a body that could move, and that was, of course, when I was dancing.

The form fitting leotards did not bother me.  The sweating in public.  The exertion, the effort, the blatant display of trying that I avoided in all other areas of my life...none of this was on my radar as long as I was dancing.

And so it makes this perfect circle of magical logic that I am currently healthier, stronger, fitter, happier than I have ever been and it is all for the love of dance.

For the love of dance, I...
  • gladly eat and eat a lot and eat well to nourish this body;
  • pay attention to all of my body's needs;
  • go for massages and reflexology -- allowing other people to touch this body!;
  • wear things that allow my students to SEE what this body is doing...allowing them to see even, gasp!, my imperfections!
The love of dance has taught me the difference between the body doing and the body being, and it has made all the difference in the world.

And now I get to help other beautiful, powerful, amazing women guide their inner lost girls home through exploratory dance; I get to witness them shining in the light of their own love.

I witness them struggling with these same issues, and I am in the privileged position now of guiding them, giving them tools, and simply saying, "Yes, I understand...I have been there..."