Everybody has their insecurities, it’s part of being human, but certain careers heavily promote the feeling of never being good enough, ballet is certainly one of them. It doesn’t matter how many articles you read where dancers tell you that the skinny starving ballerina is simply a stereotype, it is, but the stereotype is there for a reason. This of course is not exclusive to the dance world but I think it’s a great demonstration of how extremist professions, and warped society standards can not only effect your mentality but your life long health.
When I look back to why I started Naturally Sassy, I now see clearly that amongst many reasons it was a way for me to try and create a positive outlook on food. I had used food for years to support my emotions not my health, used it to make me look better, thinner, fitter never healthier. There was a time before Naturally Sassy was even a speckle of an idea that I thought about food more than most other things. This was not because I was excited to create an “delicious new recipe”, but because of the sheer amount of pressure I felt to be a better dancer, to look like the fantasy. In a world of mirrors, lycra leotards and thousands competing for the same position it’s made clear to you that there is only so far talent can get you.
My first memory of feeling ‘food confused’ I was on a dancing trip abroad. I went to America on my own for 6 weeks to train at an intensive ballet summer school. It was the first time I’d been so far away from my family and the first time I was truly responsible for myself. I met an older, incredibly talented dancer there, who I began to look up to. I admired her for her popularity, her skill and how incredible her body looked when she moved. She was skeletal, but to everyone that ‘graceful’, ‘delicate’ body was the only view in the room. The closer I got to her the more I was exposed to her restrictive, warped way of viewing food.
My body at this age was that of a ‘strong’ ballerina. I was small and petite but not skinny. I had breasts, strong legs and a full-face, I looked healthy, I looked like an athlete. In the back of my head I always wanted to be the ideal, but until meeting this dancer and hearing how I could so easily make it happen, the reality wasn’t something I ever considered a possibility. So without much thought I copied, striving every day to be that little bit closer to success. My early teens I was severely underweight and depressed which consumed my life and training,
After a ballet tour to Morocco I contracted a serious bout of food poisoning that took me out of the studio and in bed for weeks. This time off was my first moment of clarity, away from studio, and that unhealthy mindset. I saw what I was doing wrong, and slowly started to gain the knowledge and tools to get myself out of a very dark place.
My love of food and cookery transformed my mindset to thinking of food as the most important tool we have. Food shouldn’t be looked at as the root of how we look, but the root of how we actually feel and though it took me an emotional rollercoaster to realize that, It was worth it to create a love and respect for myself and my body that never dwindles.
The effects my food confusion had on me entirely dissolved over the year following, I felt like an entirely other person. I decided to make the dance world love me, instead of trying to conform to a ridiculous standard that I didn’t want to be. In order to do so, I lost opportunities, and was told endless times to lose weight, shamed by friends and company directors.I didn’t listen. My talent hadn’t changed but at a healthy weight my opportunity had. This is because of an industry standard, and a standard for women globally that needs to be changed – that we have to cater for other people, over ourselves.
My mission with naturally sassy is to inspire women to love the skin they’re in, but that doesn’t mean we can’t feel like improving our strength and physique too. As a former ballerina I am more than aware of the pressure men and women and young girls in particular face when it comes to the way they look and the aspirations they have. In honoring this, telling thousands of people they should love their bodies as they are, there comes a movement for criticizing those who talk about toning and transforming their bodies. This is where I want to bridge the gap.
As a personal trainer 100% of my clients want to see a physical change, and are aiming towards their idea of a better, strong, sleeker body. Who is anybody to criticize that? I truly believe that transforming your body can be a transformation to your life – it shows discipline, strength and commitment. For my clients they often experience changes to their everyday function – they feel better, healthier and stronger as a result. I believe that what we should be promoting a positive place to start, with a view to transforming your body for health, strength and performance. Starting from a place of hatred, hating your body and the way it looks is never positive and absolutely not something anybody deserves to feel. Yes, seeing abs like a chocolate bar can make us all insecure, but the real lesson here is to understand that we don’t need to look like that. Does that mean we can’t aspire to look stronger and slimmer? I don’t think it does. I believe it’s all about the mindset we start with and the long term intention.
Sometimes loving your body fully comes from connecting with it through a physical journey, and one that may include or be based in physical change. Being body positive is about wanting to better your body, not ware it down. Be strong, toned, supple, healthy.
My definition of Body Positivity, simply put, is all about accepting and loving the skin you’re in, and knowing you do not need to change yourself for anyone, but you.