Forum: Competitions

How do you handle a dancer putting on weight?
By ktmikelle
On Wed Apr 25, 2012 09:46 PM

One of my senior competition dancers has recently put on about 20-25 pounds. This is a girl who was thin at the beginning of the year when we ordered costumes. Now they barely fit and it is VERY noticable. She is struggling to perform skills that used to come easy to her. We just had a competition and the difference in her appearance and skills was very obvious. She knows that she has gained weight because she has made comments in class. However, she doesn't seem to realize that is having a major impact on her dancing. I've tried to talk to the team about healthy eating habits and taking care of their bodies, but it doesn't seem to be sinking in. Anyone have any advice how to handle this sensitive subject?

13 Replies to How do you handle a dancer putting on weight?

re: How do you handle a dancer putting on weight?
By stargaze
On Wed Apr 25, 2012 10:11 PM
Extremely sensitive subject, but from your post, the dancer is aware. You can't ask her to lose weight, but you can educate her privately regarding healthy changes to make. Is it possible to sit down with her (or email her privately expressing concern in a non-invasive way) and discuss what has caused the sudden weight gain. 20-25 pounds in one dance season seems a bit excessive to me...there must be something going on outside of the studio.

Do not talk "to" the team...she may feel centered out. If you can, pull her aside!
re: How do you handle a dancer putting on weight? (karma: 2)
By ChristinePremium member
On Wed Apr 25, 2012 11:05 PM
Edited by Christine (207347) on 2012-04-25 23:11:11
Talk to her mom and see if they are agreeable to paying for a larger costume. Don't suggest she loose weight. She knows what is going on, and I don't think suggesting healthy eating habits will help, and it could hurt. You need to be very careful about ed's with all dancers, and sometimes a sudden weight gain can indicate a serious ed is just around the corner. For now, just focus on helping her improve her dancing and regain some of the skills she's lost.

If the studio is not being used at a time when she could practice, offer it if you can. Some time alone in front of the mirrors trying to find her new center of gravity may help and the extra time spent dancing might help her slim down a bit. It might also make her feel important and loved, and that can't hurt either.

I wouldn't have a private conversation about her weight. You are her dance teacher. It is within your area of expertize to address line and placement, balance and finding her center, strength, endurance, and technique. Unless you are also a qualified mental health professional, it is not appropriate to ask her "why" she is gaining weight.

Keep On Dancing*
re: How do you handle a dancer putting on weight?
By RosePremium member
On Thu Apr 26, 2012 02:37 AM
I'm the opposite, I think a teacher can ask a student if she knows why she gained weight and I think it's even part of our job. Maybe we are the (only) adult in her life she is open to to accept help from.

If a girl doesn't want to tell me why she gained weight, I will respect that, but maybe it is easier for her to talk with me about it, than with her parents. If she doesn't want to tell me, I will say I'm open to help her in any way I can, she just has to ask. After that some general advice about nutricion and what diets and doctors can do for her. But also that some people gain weight because of personal, emotional, psychological issues. Solving these problems is more important than dieting.
I would tell these things because they are often eye openers for young girls.

Do not think she didn't notice the difference in her dancing. Of course she noticed and she is probably very sad about it. Some girls become quiet in this situation, but a lot start to make more noise, and become very 'dominantly present'. They are just very insecure and trying to hide that.
re: How do you handle a dancer putting on weight?
By stargaze
On Thu Apr 26, 2012 07:22 AM
agreed Rose.
re: How do you handle a dancer putting on weight?
By avandy83
On Thu Apr 26, 2012 07:48 AM
Not to hijack, but what bugs me is parents who want their daughters to be a dance star, to be the best in the studio, to win, to get the special parts, etc. And then they feed their kids junk! I mean coming in eating a huge bag of Cheetos and peanut M&Ms? Not only is that harmful to the kid and have them develop bad eating habits, of course if they are thicker they are going to struggle more in dance! Ugh, don't tell me you would do anything for your daughter to be a dance star and then feed them fast food on a daily basis.
re: How do you handle a dancer putting on weight? (karma: 1)
By Gioiamember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member
On Thu Apr 26, 2012 12:31 PM
I know we have had this discussion several times on DDN. I personally do not feel comfortable confronting a student about weight. Reason being, even if you do it in the most caring way possible, if the child is hurt and tells their parents, the parents may very well conjure up a crap storm. Unfortunately I have seen it happen where parents come to the studio all mad because it is none of the teachers business and yadda yadda yadda. Now, with that being said, I think it is appropriate to address the dancing. If the students dancing has been going downhill, it is absolutely within reason to talk about that. The student may even bring up that she thinks it is because of the added weight. At that time you can let her know that you will support her if she wants to try to lose the weight, or give her some other tips that will help her dancing.
re: How do you handle a dancer putting on weight?
By Triskitmember has saluted, click to view salute photos
On Thu Apr 26, 2012 01:42 PM
Perhaps she has started birth control? or has developed a thyroid problem? Right now that's not clear. Have you seen her eating junk food?

Rose made some good points, she is probably very aware of the change in her body and her dancing, but if she feels insecure about these changes and helpless in solving the problem she's not likely to openly admit it.
re: How do you handle a dancer putting on weight?
By vfdtPremium member
On Thu Apr 26, 2012 02:39 PM
I have seen this happen with young teens who have a growth spurt, so their eating junk food causes no weight gain initially. But a year later, it does catch up with them, and now they have a habit of eating poorly, and resent having to watch what they eat. They can rationalize that their dancing will burn calories, but actually it doesn't do as much as you'd think. Sometimes it's genetics, as the parents have a visible weight problem too; it can be sticky bringing up this topic with mom.

What I would do is suggest diet tips, but in a very low-key (non-verbal) way. Post health newsletters, or include their articles in my studio bulletins. Also leave handy a copy of a book called "Eat This, Not That" which gives a simple calorie count comparison, with the healthier alternatives. Teens may not know that bananas aren't the best for losing weight, or that soda (even diet soda) is a major culprit. Even protein bars are riddled with salt and carbs; ditto for "fat free" snacks which are loaded with sugar too.

With Zumba classes being everywhere, and cheap as a result, you might suggest them, as they are more aerobic and non-stop. If done full-out, with passion, they will have you sweating, and there are a variety of bodies in these classes - less self-conscious. She will have to seek out the best Zumba teachers, but if they have a following, she'll get to know others in the class, and the social support will keep her motivated too.
re: How do you handle a dancer putting on weight?
By MonkeyStepsmember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member
On Thu Apr 26, 2012 05:04 PM
Another angle to consider - out of nowhere when I was 15, I put on about that amount of weight. I was dancing more than ever (rehearsing 6+ hours a day for a show, on top of all my usual classes) and eating very well. It was just "hormones" according to my doctor. I was painfully aware of it and trying my best to fight it, though it took another three years before I got it all off.

I could see what it did to my appearance and my dancing and no amount of "helpful" (it actually felt hurtful eventually) advice could make any difference until my body finally gave in again and let me lose the weight.
re: How do you handle a dancer putting on weight?
By Jaenis_Yahad
On Fri Apr 27, 2012 09:13 AM
I agree with the majority. I don't think that it's appropriate to ask about her weight gain directly. I think that if you ask her in general about how things are going, you may be more likely to get an answer about it. Do you notice anything else going on with her? Is she looking tired, not putting in a 100% effort? Then, I would speak to her about these issues, not necessarily weight.

There could be a multitude of reasons for this weight gain, and at times, weight gain or loss can a symptom of a more serious issue, whether it be unhealthy eating habits or a pressing medical issue. And unless you are a medical professional, you cannot diagnose any of these issues, but you can help bring your concerns about the safety of the child to the forefront. Just let them know that you care, and as long as your heart is in the right place, there should be no issue.

I hope everything works out, and I hope that this student is okay.
re: How do you handle a dancer putting on weight?
By DefyingGravityPremium member
On Fri Apr 27, 2012 11:18 AM
AnotherRupert wrote:

Another angle to consider - out of nowhere when I was 15, I put on about that amount of weight. I was dancing more than ever (rehearsing 6+ hours a day for a show, on top of all my usual classes) and eating very well. It was just "hormones" according to my doctor. I was painfully aware of it and trying my best to fight it.
Same thing happened to me - my doctor just blamed it on puberty :] I never lost the weight again. Apparently, I'm one of those women who is built to be a size 4/6 when eating healthy and exercising regularly. I could probably go back to a size 2 if I really worked my butt off and restricted anything with the words "carb" or "sugar" associated to them, but some women just have bodies that won't stay at a 0/2, and they put on the extra weight all at once when they're going through puberty and in their mid-teens.

Your dancer is obviously painfully aware of the fact she has put on weight. Do NOT directly bring it up to her - my teacher did that when I was 14 and I transferred studios immediately. There's a very good chance there is not some deep rooted psychological issue, just a girl coming into her own body. Continue to support her and ensure she knows you're there if she wants to talk, but that's about it. Don't overstep your boundaries as a dance teacher.
re: How do you handle a dancer putting on weight?
By BunlessinSeattle
On Fri Apr 27, 2012 11:43 AM
I would privately talk with the mom or dad.

I would let them know that their daughter has been commenting about her weight gain, and while I, as her teacher, recognize and respect all body types, I am wanting to make sure that the parents are aware of her commenting so that they can be on the look out in case problems arise.

Hopefully, the parents recognize and go further into the conversation with you, which will make for a much easier conversation on not only costuming, but the fact that she will need to be stronger than she was before in order to move as well as she did before.

If the parent isn't drawn into the conversation, well, I would probably quietly and firmly, tell them while looking them in the eye that "I think that Susie needs a larger costume, the one ordered X months ago does not fit anymore. It will take X weeks to get a new one, so we need to make a decision very quickly as to wether you want to get a new one or not."
re: How do you handle a dancer putting on weight?
By AlwaysOnStagePremium member
On Fri Apr 27, 2012 11:57 AM
I think BunlessinSeattle brings the best idea to the table, because it doesn't have a teacher talking to the student about weight, rather the family unit. This way, the family can still have a discussion about weight and body image in private, as they see fit, and is alerted to any admin changes (Ex: needing a bigger costume).

It isn't our job or our place to parent our students, however, we can be a resource of good information for students and parents who are looking for good information.

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