Anorexic Student

Midnight48

New member
Hello everyone, I know there was a similar topic a long time ago, but my situation is a bit different. One of my students confided with me that she's anorexic, and that belly dancing is like therapy for her. I'm happy to make her happy, but I'm a bit concerned. She's obviously underweight, has thinning hair, etc. She said she's been anorexic since she was 12 years old, and she's 20 now. I'd hate to keep her out of classes, but I'm afraid of liability. I just don't want to crush her happiness, she seems very happy here. What would you do in this situation?
 

Farasha Hanem

New member
I wish I had an answer for you. You definitely need to handle the situation very carefully---I'm assuming you're not a doctor or professional nuritionist. On the other hand, I'm sure you don't want to see her destroy herself. Your concern shows that you are a caring person. I hope my teacher friends here on the forum have better advice. Welcome to the forum, btw. :)
 

walladah

New member
Just discuss with her whether she has been diagnosed as anorexic

and whether her doctor knows about her taking dance lessons. In many cases, a certificate of the doctor or a letter addressed to you that she is able to attend is enough to avoid liability for something that you cannot handle anyway.

In many cases many people are self-diagnosed with anorexia, and actually, this does not count, in the sense, that if she is able to follow the tough training of bellydance, she is not in bad condition, even if she is thin.

However, i would not understand why bellydance would harm her. Probably, she will see that a bit of eating better will make better muscles and better movement, without making her fat...
 

Roshanna

New member
and whether her doctor knows about her taking dance lessons. In many cases, a certificate of the doctor or a letter addressed to you that she is able to attend is enough to avoid liability for something that you cannot handle anyway.
Agreed, asking her to check with her doctor that it's OK for her to be dancing is probably a good idea to be on the safe side. She may be at more risk of injury, etc.

I'd hope that bellydance might be helpful for her, as long as she's physically strong enough to cope with the activity. As a community, we generally have a more healthy attitude about people's bodies than the world at large, which is probably a good thing to be exposed to, too :)
 

SidraK

New member
First, as an instructor, you should have all of your students sign a liability waiver that includes any existing medical conditions as well as any injury incurred in a class setting.

Second, it's hard, as a dance instructor to determine what physical or psychological effects will come out of her participation. If she says it's doing her good, then that's probably a good thing. But since it sounds like she's actively anorexic (based on your physical description) we can only hope that she is under some kind of medical care and getting therapy. If you suggest she speaks with her doctor and she balks at the idea, that would be a pretty big red flag.

However, i would not understand why bellydance would harm her. Probably, she will see that a bit of eating better will make better muscles and better movement, without making her fat...
I agree with the first statement, but the second really doesn't recognize that this woman is suffering from an actual mental illness. She doesn't live in a headspace that allows her to see her own body in the context of fitness or health. The chances that she will start making healthier choices about her diet through peer exposure are slim to none. She really does need professional help if she's not already getting it.
 
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Midnight48

New member
Hello everyone, thank you for the help. I do have them sign a waiver, yet it doesn't exactly specify eating disorders. She said she is actively recovering, and doing pretty well, but she does skip meals every now and then. She mentioned speaking to a counselor, and an incident where she was monitored by a doctor a couple of years ago, but I don't know in detail her medical history. I'm not sure if I should even ask, I feel like that was a "one time" conversation and that it's not going to come up again. I do think belly dance is helping her mentally, as one would expect. And she seems physically capable enough to dance, often when we have 6 hour-long workshops she's one of the few still bouncing afterwards. But then again, she's young.. I'm thinking I'm just going to have to keep a close eye on her to make sure she's ok. And offer emotional support if needed, we're like a family :)
 

Shanazel

Super Moderator
If someone confided in you that s/he binged or was an alcoholic or diabetic or (fill in the blank) would you have the same concerns about liability? A waiver is a waiver. If we had to list individual conditions thousands of trees would die each year just to supply the paperwork.

She's lived with this for eight years; she is an expert in her own disorder and aware of the consequences. It is one thing to be sympathetic and another to allow yourself or your class to be dragged into her personal health drama. Treat her like any other student; if she comes to class looking too ill to participate, pull rank and send her home for the day. Otherwise, it's her problem and not yours.

This from Shanazel who once upon a time also became an expert in a related disorder. ;)
 

AspiringDancer

New member
From personal experience, when I started dancing i was < 100 pounds at 5'5. I wouldn't consider myself anorexic but I definitely had somewhat of a body dysmorphic thing going on.

I had always been in the gym environment so my first impressions of a BD studio was wow, they're really not like a gym, what with eating and all...lol.

Anyway, as I fell in love with the dance I stopped striving to be so thin. I had to eat to fuel practice or else I knew I would burn out. I was tired of my teachers trying to figure out ways to soften the look of my long, bony and pointy arms and when I put on some weight shimmies came easier and looked better.

3 years later I'm in the neighbourhood of 110-115 and I look and feel better. I remember once my teacher told me that dancing would "fill me out" and she was right!

One thing that helped me was that my teachers complimented me when i deserved it and corrected (and something scolded) mistakes. It made me feel like they took me seriously and thought I was good enough to be worth their time and energy. It probably wasn't a big deal for them but it gave me a sense of belonging and confidence.
 

BehindTheSun

New member
I defiantly would not leave her out of classes. I always had self-image problems and when I began taking belly dance they slowly but surely began to fade away. Belly dance teaches you to love your body regardless of size especially because it connects you in a way that you can't experience through anything else. I think that belly dance may be one of the best therapeutic activities for a recovering anorexic to participate in. However, anything can be self-destructive when taken to the extreme.
 

Greek Bonfire

Well-known member
Since bellydancing makes her feel good about herself and her self image, it may be in fact "what the doctor ordered" as part of therapy since anorexics have horrible body images. She may even start feeling better about eating knowing that bellydancing is actually good for her in more ways than one. But she is also an adult and she made an informed decision.
 
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