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From Richmond, California, USA:

We are parents of a 14 year old female, height 5'4", weight, 98 pounds, serious ballet dancer, diagnosed with Type 1 five years ago, and has recently admitted to bulimia. This is something we have suspected for over 8 months, and now believe it started over a year ago. She weighed in at 90 pounds 5 months ago, and has been seeing a therapist and nutritionist who is also a Certified Diabetes Educator for 4 months. She is also telling us that she wants to "be in control of her diabetes" and the numbers are proving very unsatisfactory: her 30 day average is 256. Very little maintenance is done during the day, therefore her blood sugars at night are sky high. Today's visit to the endocrinologist revealed an A1c of 9.4. The endocrinologist is now aware of the bulimia, something she suspected, and now wants to see our daughter every month. Our daughter has also expressed the wish to visit our endocrinologist alone, without our help. Dance + diabetes + teenager = eating disorders, control issues and lots of anguish on everyone's part.

We're trying everything we can: weigh-ins with her pediatrician, weekly therapy appointments, bimonthly visits to the nutritionist (She loves these, by the way), and frequent visits to the endocrinologist. My husband and I go through various stages of depression, anxiety, etc. We feel like we're doing everything we can, but it's not enough. Her one request is for us to not take dance away from her. It's central to her self, and I don't want to do this. Any suggestions? We have been to family camp 3 times, and our daughter went to kids camp when she was 11. She hated it.


It sounds like you are doing everything humanly possible to assist your teenage daughter. Many dancers (particularly in ballet) struggle with eating disorders. I am reminded of a book that I read about this: "Dancing On My Grave" by prima ballerina Gelsey Kirkland. You and your husband may wish to check this source first and then decide whether it would help your child see the danger she faces from another dancer's viewpoint.

I think that if your daughter has a good relationship with her endocrinologist, it would be acceptable to let her see the doctor alone. Fourteen, as I have stated in this forum many times, is the worst age for almost any child with diabetes. It is a time of 2 competing needs: the need to break away from parents, and the need for control. In your daughter's case, she has everyone "on the same page" now, knowing she has an eating disorder. That will allow concerted efforts among the clinicians trying to help her.

Mary Tyler Moore, a famous personality with diabetes, is also a trained dancer. She found a way to incorporate her love of dance (ballet) with her diabetes, using the barre exercises to maximize control. She did not to my knowledge have an eating disorder-yet kept lithe and graceful to this day.

I realize that this is a long reply, but my heart does go out to you. It is so difficult to know when to hold on and when to let go. My feeling is that if dance is the most central part of your daughter's soul, it would be an error to take it away from her. Yet the eating disorder must be corrected for safety as well as to prevent public embarrassment: she could pass out in the middle of a pas de deux!

I am sure your therapist may have other thoughts on this matter. Stay actively in the loop with the professionals on your daughter's treatment team.


Original posting 15 Jul 1998
Posted to Meal Planning, Food and Diet and Puberty


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Last Updated: Tuesday April 06, 2010 15:08:58
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