If there is anything I’ve learnt through my years working as a professional dancer it’s that everybody has their own belief of what it means to be fit and in good health, both mentally and physically. I come from a past where pushing your body to extreme limits on a daily basis is the norm. Being a professional dancer meant I maintained a strong and fit physique. I didn't need to worry about gaining weight or hitting the gym as I was always in peak physical shape.
Through my professional years as a dancer, I began to reflect on what it means to be fit and healthy. I came to experience that my environment was dictating how I related to health and body image. The majority of the people I worked with valued looking good over giving their body what it needed. This caused a number of the dancers I worked with to not eat and over-exercise. The unfortunate truth of being in the dancing industry is that there is an immense amount of physical and mental pressure to look ‘perfect’. Despite knowing better, I was swept up in this world and came to believe this myself. It seemed for many of us that we forgot what it meant to truly nurture our bodies and mind. After a couple years of feeling inadequate and trying to keep up the ideal ‘stick thin’ image, I decided I wanted to change and get control of my life again.
It's hard to talk about, but I think so much of our youth is consumed by image these days. Unfortunately, our consumption of social media and technology shows us a distorted perception of reality and body image. If only people knew the stress it placed on the mind and body to look that way, then I believe more people would understand why so many dancers struggle. Personally, I've always believed it's important to feel good in your skin. I think the dancing industry distorted my perception of reality and I slowly realised I needed to change. I started to work on my confidence, be more compassionate towards myself, and realised that by doing this I could live a more sustainable and self-loving life. I started to see how the environment I was in, was impacting my thoughts and lifestyle. I've found that when you surround yourself with positive people and things it has an immediate effect on the chemical make- up in your body.
I must admit, it was nice knowing that my job kept my body strong and physically fit, but there was a whole other aspect to fitness that played a larger role in achieving my physical goals. I realised that it was only when I began to self- reflect that I learnt to grow emotionally and spiritually. This helped me improve my perspective on what the ideal mind and body really meant to me. At the time, I was exercising too much and not eating enough because of the pressure to look a certain way and ensure I had regular work. This made me feel sad and emotionally unstable. It didn’t matter that I had so many people praise me for my great talent, I could literally feel my body breaking apart, yearning for rest and self- love. After I finished my final dance contract it took me nearly three months to get back to a normal weight and get the sleep and recovery that I needed. I also had to rely on my parents to nurse me back to proper health.
I believe the media distorts the perception that glamour and fame bring us happiness. Dancing in front of thousands of people does bring you a rush and I can understand why people get fixed on that experience and want more of it. However, as an athlete, I was pushed to ‘be the best’ at whatever cost, so I had to make a choice to determine whether I would continue to suffer or make a personal sacrifice and give up dancing all together. I decided to put my health as a priority. I have come to realise that listening to your body, resting when it needs to, eating enough of the right food, acknowledging your true brilliance and letting go of negative emotions is what being healthy and fit is all about. The information that I have shared with Voice of Health is an ongoing personal project of self-awareness and learning to heal myself and others. Health to me, means being aware of your body and its needs. Give your body adequate exercise and adequate time to heal. Health is a wholesome experience you choose to take on, so treat yourself with the respect you deserve and give yourself the opportunity to create balance in your mind, body and spirit.