National Eating Disorders Association

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Not sure if I'm going about recovery the best way for me

Hey, I'm new to this but am feeling very lonely in my recovery, so I thought it might help. I'm a pre-professional ballet dancer, so I've dealt body image issues for a while, but didn't really change my eating until about a year ago. I started restricting a little over a year ago, and then maybe a month in I got injured which made the restricting a lot easier since I couldn't do as much exercise. I had intended just to diet for a month or two, but I was so scared that if I stopped I would gain all of the weight back. I lost weight, hair, and my period, and felt so cold and dizzy all of the time, but liked the results. Then when I started dancing again after my injury, I kept restricting, but started binging. I restricted even more to compensate for the binging, but didn't start physically purging until more recently. I've stopped restricting as best as I can in efforts to stop the binging, but now it has taken on a different purpose. Before, it would happen because my body was just so hungry, but now I do it out of self hatred. I have gained weight from the binging, despite the restricting and now the purging, which has seriously effected my self worth and self esteem. Something small will happen to make me feel awful about myself, which isn't very hard, and I feel so disgusting and feel like "what's the point", so I binge. Over the past three months, I have figured out how to physically purge (which sounds weird/bad saying), and it has started to become very regular. I am getting help, just outpatient with a therapist and nutritionist, but things have been getting even worse since I have been in therapy. I feel like it is an endless cycle of gaining weight from binging and binging because I've gained weight, and seeing myself in a leotard for hours on end everyday is making things so much worse. My therapist said the other day that the severe restriction and mindset of being good after a binge is also a form of purging, which kind of helped me to realize that I am not ok. I kept telling myself that I wasn't sick enough and that I just needed to get control over things, but I think I have actually been struggling for some time now. I don't know what to do, because I am getting help now but things keep escalating, especially with the purging. I don't want things to keep getting more frequent and more extreme, but I'm worried that trying to dance while dealing with this isn't working. I used to love ballet, and I think deep down I still do, but right now it is awful. I'm unsure of whether a break from ballet would be worth falling behind and missing opportunities. Sorry this is so long and jumbled, but it felt good just to get it all out there. I


Hello- I am so sorry you are struggling so much right now. I was a gymnast in my younger days so I know about the pressures to be thin and the unhealthy environment these sports generate. I am recovered from bulimia that lasted from 12 to about 25, and then I restricted until 48, just 5 months ago. Having recovery now, I can tell you that it is very common for symptoms to get worse when treatment starts. The ED voice will be louder and urges stronger as your disorder fights to stay alive. It is so deeply rooted and such a familiar way to feel in control or to avoid feelings we don't want to face, that letting it go seems impossible. I am glad you are in therapy because you will need help to process whatever it is that drives the disorder. It is not happening because you feel "fat", ED stem from underlying emotional issues that must be dealt with in therapy. I am sorry you have to see yourself everyday in the ballet outfit, it seems like a hard thing to have to deal with while you are trying to get beyond the obsession of body image. I can't advise you on whether or not a break from ballet would be smart because I don't know enough about your goals, opportunities or how the sport works. If you can take a break without destroying your chances to move ahead, then take a break and get the help you need to heal. Eating disorders are dangerous with serious side effects, and with the physical strain of ballet, your body is being strained in many ways. I would hate for you to pass out or collapse under the effects of the behaviors you are engaging in. I hope you keep getting the help of a therapist and you can begin to process the underlying issues and recover, it is possible. Don't give up and try to practice self-care even if it means taking a ballet break, because you deserve to live free of this disease. I wish you the best. Take care:)