ED Referral Book Review:
TuTu Thin: A Guide to Dancing without an Eating Disorder
By Dawn Smith-Theodore, MA, MFT, CEDS.
When we watch a graceful ballet with its willowy dancers, we don't usually think about the fierce effort needed to achieve such beauty. Dawn Smith-Theodore gives us a rare look behind the scenes at the complex relationship between dancers and eating disorders and explains how eating disorders can too easily develop in this talented and driven, yet vulnerable population. The author, a dancer from the age of three, describes how she "grew up in front of a mirror," and given her perfectionistic, goal oriented personality, she developed anorexia nervosa. She describes how eating disorders and dancers can have much in common: tormenting self criticism plus the corrosive belief, "You are never good enough. Your dancing can always be better. Your body can always be thinner."
Ms. Theodore - now a therapist specializing in eating disorders - advises, "A dancer must learn how to step out of their comfort zone of technique to achieve humanness." She recommends that the key to preventing eating disorders is cultivating balance and perspective: fun and enjoyment in activities other than dance, supportive nutrition, friendships with non-dancers, and the ability to identify and communicate one's needs. A chapter to parents recommends they be on the lookout for warning signs in their child of excessive rules, restrictions, rigidity, and rituals which may indicate the beginning of an eating disorder. The author advises parents how to guide children about their food, auditions, and handling competition. Ms. Theodore offers a comprehensive description of treatment options; this information is key since one in five ballet dancers develop an eating disorder.
BOOK REVIEWED BY MARY ANNE COHEN, LCSW, BCD
DIRECTOR, THE NEW YORK CENTER FOR EATING DISORDERS