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Food for thought.

There are lots of ways to eat--with our hands, sitting on the floor, making noisy sounds, even politely at a table with candles. But when we think of people's overall well-being there are really only two kinds of eating: healthy and disordered.

Healthy eating is based on the nutritional and caloric (energy) needs of the individual. Some people mistakenly equate healthy eating with dieting, or with eating only low-calorie or low-fat foods. This is off the mark. Healthy eating includes a wide variety of foods and provides adequate nutrition and energy for healthy growth and development.

The energy that every body needs is derived from carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. FOUR FOOD GROUPS PROVIDE THE FIFTY ESSENTIAL NUTRIENTS WE ALL NEED TO BE HEALTHY.

* Dairy products provide protein, fat, vitamins A, B, and D, and calcium. These vitamins help us have healthy hair, skin, and eyes. Calcium gives us healthy, strong bones and teeth.

* Whole-grain breads, cereals, and pasta provide carbohydrates, vitamin B, iron, and fiber. Iron helps to keep oxygen moving through the blood to all our muscles. Fiber ensures that our digestion works properly.

* Meats, fish, and soy products provide protein, fat, vitamin B, and iron. These help us have strong muscles and healthy blood.

* Fruits and vegetables provide carbohydrates, vitamins A, B9 (folic acid), and C, potassium, and fiber. Vitamin A is For healthy eyesight. Vitamin B9 assists the body in forming red blood cells, and vitamin C promotes healthy skin and allows our cuts and scrapes to heal quickly. Potassium is also important for healthy skin and normalizes our heart rhythms. (Check out the American Dietetic Association's Web site, www.eat right.org, or call their Nutrition Information Line at 800.366.1655 for referrals to nutritionists and recorded nutrition information.)

Desserts and snack foods should be included in a well balanced eating routine. But what is that? That's eating based on hunger and fullness. If you want chicken, you should listen to your body, eat chicken, and stop when you're full. If you want cookies, eat cookies, but don't fill up on them. How do you know when you're full? You should feel satisfied, but not ready to burst.

What is disordered eating? That's when you eat for reasons other than hunger (feeling bored, feeling sad, etc.). Disordered eating may begin as a diet, then gets out of control. According to the American Psychiatric Association, the most common eating disorders are anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder. Don't try to diagnose yourself; this is serious stuff. If you're worried about yourself or a friend, tell an adult who can call a doctor or therapist.

We call it anorexia when there is significant weight loss (when a person weighs 16 percent less than the ideal weight for height), an extreme drive for thinness and fear of weight gain, and in women, loss of at least three menstrual cycles.

Bulimia is a term given to any or all of the following symptoms: repeated episodes of binge eating with feelings of loss of control and anxiety about possible weight gain; purging (getting rid of food) through self-induced vomiting, abuse of laxatives or diuretics; or excessive over-exercise. It is vital to realize that purging is very harmful to the body and doesn't get rid of all the calories consumed in a binge.

Binge-eating disorder is identified by eating when you are not physically hungry, or eating rapidly and secretly, and feeling out of control around food. Sometimes periods of binge eating are followed by dieting.

Pressure to be thin can come from yourself, family, friends, dance teachers, or coaches. They can apply direct pressure by suggesting you lose weight, or by teasing or rejecting you based on your body size. They can also use indirect pressure by over-emphasizing the importance of being thin. Your teacher may not tell you to diet, but her emphasis on it may encourage you to try it. When you encounter these social pressures, it's important to remember that people come in all shapes and sizes. That means you may need to find a dance school that accepts all types of bodies.

Many people develop eating disorders because they have low self-esteem. Everyone develops beliefs about who they are. This is called self-concept. How much you like or don't like your self-concept is called self-esteem. People with low self-esteem may focus on appearance, weight, and dieting to try to feel better about themselves, but focusing on these things won't sort out and fix the bad feelings.

IT IS IMPORTANT TO REMEMBER THAT WHO YOU ARE IS NOT DEFINED BY THE SHAPE AND SIZE OF YOUR BODY. It is defined by your feelings and thoughts. The way emotions and thoughts combine cause some girls--and even some boys--to be unable to cope with the stresses they face, and they may turn to dieting as a way of solving their problems. But weight loss provides only a false sense of control.

Ballet schools can be intense sources of pressure to be thin. This may make some students feel bad about their body size, even though they may be very talented dancers. Remember, thinness doesn't equal talent. And maybe the next time a teacher makes a comment about body size, you'll be able to hold on to the thought that you're fine the way you are.

LISA THALER, CSW, IS A PSYCHOTHERAPIST AND CLINICAL SUPERVISOR IN PRIVATE PRACTICE IN NEW YORK CITY. SHE SPECIALIZES IN THE TREATMENT OF EATING DISORDERS.
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Title Annotation:healthy eating guildelines for ballet dancers; symptoms and causes of eating disorders such as bulimia; body talk
Author:Thaler, Lisa
Publication:Dance Magazine
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 1, 2003
Words:911
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