Young ballet dancers often drop comments in a casual way, referring to their self esteem problems. Whether it is a body image issue, a perfection issue, a weight control problem, or a slightly depressed lack of energy issue, they either don’t come out and say it, or they really cannot articulate what the problem is. Recently when I started reading about hypoglycemia, and blood sugar balance, I began to relate its symptoms to many of the statements I have heard.
I became more interested in hypoglycemia and its sometimes subtle symptoms, due to a conversation I had with a non-dancer, a talented performer, in another field. This person has performed in many countries, is pushed forward by all her teachers, and yet cannot accept the accolades from teachers or peers, or the enthusiasm of fans, because – she just can’t.
The lack of self-esteem in this person confuses me. A person who won the number one state award for acting while still in high school? That’s like winning the ballet competition performing the Blue Bird or Swan Lake pas de deux.
Disorder eating is most broadly defined as, the behavior that results in an emotional outcome by controlling what you eat. This does not necessarily mean anorexia or bulimia, but may refer to a practice of self control or self approval in regards to the food you eat, the caloric content, and this does not only apply to dancers.
It may involve an extreme situation like a teenager who insists on being a vegan, in which I have personally witnessed the result causing stress fractures in this dancer who still thought that she was going to be able to get stronger on pointe and have a professional career in ballet, while she looked at her x-rays.
Recently I took a look at hypoglycemia and its symptoms. Now this is tricky. Symptoms are almost unique to the individual. But the dominating symptoms, according to what I have read, are:
- self criticism
- feelings of absolutely no self worth
- periodic complete failure of energy, dizziness, mental confusion
- thoughts of suicide, though not enough energy to think further than that
Hypoglycemia is…drum roll…too low blood sugar!
It is caused by a nutritional deficiency of protein, or just lack of food.
Hypoglycemia does not mean you are diabetic, or almost diabetic. More concisely called Reactive Hypoglycemia, this is a condition that results from a poor diet, or not eating often enough for whatever reason. Or eating too many carbohydrates with not enough protein.
The most common recommendation for hypoglycemics, is to eat some protein every two hours.
Also, I would like to mention the rule of nutritionists, that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Why? Proteins set your brain chemicals for the day. Skip those, and your brain chemicals will not be properly functioning until the next day IF you happen to eat protein for breakfast.
Dance parents reading this – how often does your dancing daughter or dancing son run out of the house and skip breakfast because they slept late?
And what will they eat when they get to the food dispensers at school? Or will they go hungry until they get to the school cafeteria for lunch? This is a miserable situation for a non-athlete student, not to mention a ballet dancer or any other athlete.
And later when they run off to their ballet academy? Are you one of those ballet parents who have to suffer hearing “I’m not that good”…”I’m not good enough”… and worse? While the ballet teacher is telling you your child should be aiming higher – auditioning for professional summer intensives?
Personally, I believe that hypoglycemia is caused by:
- lack of education about nutrition
- processed, fast-food, frozen food products
- not enough time to serve fresh food indicating what nutritious food is
- addiction to sugar (nutritional ignorance)
- ignorance about grains, GMO grains, glutin and GMO sugars
And, sadly much more I cannot cover here. BUT please, if your dancing child or anyone in your family has any energy or depression issues – but not severe enough to consult your physician (who probably will not have any nutritional education) or therapist, please investigate hypoglycemia. It is an insidious condition – but can be reversed with a good diet!
It is not that difficult. I would love to never hear from again, a ballet dancer, or any other kind of performing artist, who feels morose, depressed, sad, or hopeless about their talent or potential, when they have no idea where all this negativity comes from. And they skip meals, eat nutrition-free snacks, and have low blood sugar…
I would love to never hear from again, a sad, depressed ballet parent, whose amazing talented child is failing, sinking, not even treading water, suffering from body image problems, or self esteem problems, and contemplating quitting ballet, or even suicide. For the want of nutritional balance.
This may take a lot of extra food preparation for ballet parents! If you’re still reading this post, I bet you’re O.K. with that.