Part 15: The Evolution of a Dancer’s Body

Of all the things that people know about me, few know that I grew up as a dancer. I’d started dancing when I was about 3 years old and performing by the time I was 4. For many years, dancing was an integral part of my life. I’ve had many opportunities to perform at events of various sizes, and those performances have taken me to places around the city that I wouldn’t have gone to otherwise. Dance taught me a lot of things that aren’t normally learned at an early age, such as leadership, team work, and the politics among people. It also helped me in establishing my own body image which, as you will learn, would pose as a problem later on in my life.

Fundamentals in dance is very important. Most of a dancer’s time is spent on technique rather than on choreography. As with any type of dance, a dancer’s body is very important, both visually and physically. In Chinese dance, ballet technique is most often used to create beautiful lines. During my years as a Chinese dancer, my only form of exercise was the technique done at my weekly dance class. Since I ate very little, as noted in my last post, exercising weekly was enough to keep my body toned through my early teenage years. And with a naturally slender built, I was never concerned about my body size, at least not until I stopped dancing.

The year I left my dance group was also the year I started eating like a normal person. (Refer to Part 14B: Simply Cause & Effect) It was also the year I started to gain weight. That merely meant my flat abs were disappearing and a bit of excess meat was appearing around my waist. I was by no means fat, yet I felt horrible about my body. I remember the first time I discovered I couldn’t fit into a pair of size 24 jeans – how my flab squeezed out from the top and the mental fight I had while trying to do up the button. For someone who has never been that way in her life, it was a devastating reality.

For over 2 years, I struggled with my body image. Even though people thought I was too skinny before, I desperately wanted my old body back because I couldn’t get over the fact that my body had changed. Whenever I mentioned something about my body, people gave me the look of death. They thought it was ridiculous for a size 0 person to complain about now having to wear a size 2. Somehow, our society seems to think body image issues are reserved for bigger people, and although I understand, I do not agree.

Indeed, I probably could have made a better effort in toning my body, but there was so much going on in my mind at the time that all my efforts were put toward finding an escape for myself. (Refer to Part 8: When Ignorance Is Bliss) That meant working as much as I could and eating out with friends whenever I had the time. I couldn’t stop myself from eating; comfort foods were like my best friends. They made me feel better when I felt like crap about everything in my life at the time, but then my weight gain would make me feel even more depressed. In retrospect, I was trying to run away from my problems rather than actually dealing with them. And while I ran from one, I ended up with another problem. It became a vicious cycle.

It wasn’t until the end of 2005, when my body began rejecting food, that I started to lose some of the weight I had gained. (Refer to Part 14A: When the Body Says No) At that time I started to realize the importance of ones health over ones body image, and I began to see how the mind connects with the body and affects it. Coming to terms with reality was not easy. It took a while for me to accept the fact that I was older and that, regardless of my eating habits, my body has changed and it will never be the same again. I also realized that no matter how a person looks on the outside, it doesn’t determine how healthy they are on the inside.

Although I don’t dance very often anymore, only rarely in the privacy of my own room, I do hope that I will find myself dancing regularly again one day. Not because I want to see my old body again, but because dancing is still one of my greatest passions in life.

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