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The Body Struggle is Real: A Dancer’s Story

Body struggle
By Brittany Zimber

I haven’t been able to write lately. You know how many drafts I have saved? Ten. Ten drafts saved. Ugh. I absolutely hate it and never really struggle finishing a blog post. It’s pretty much always just word vomit and comes out so easy for me. But, the last few weeks— NOPE. Stupid Mercury Retrograde, killing my whole vibe.

Something I have been wanting to write about though which is a major struggle for me. Body Dysmorphia.

I spent the better part of my life extremely under weight. It wasn’t an eating disorder. I was a strange child and was not picky with food. I would order salmon at restaurants when I was ten years old. I ate a ton of really terrible fast food. I loved subs. Ramen Noodles were my jam. I think the only thing I didn’t like was mac and cheese and too much sauce on things. Gross. Still won’t eat saucy things. I’ve literally thrown up from too much sauce on my pizza.

I should have been huge honestly. But, being a dancer my metabolism was actually insane. Also, being a dancer I spent my entire life staring at myself in a mirror.

Hours upon hours a day. “Pull up, suck in, belly’s in, straighten your legs, head up, chin up, tail bone under, shoulders back, shoulders down, push up, longer, stronger, lengthen, higher, faster…” Always comparing yourself to the next girl. Always a competition. This is just the reality of it. Dance has been my entire life and I would not change one thing about it. But, the reality is.. my sense of what my body has looked like over the years is incredibly… skewed.

There was a point when I was a teenager that people actually did think I had an eating disorder and had a conversation with my mom about it. She said “I can’t get the girl to stop eating!” Ha. Clearly still my problem. I just could not gain weight for the life of me. I remember specifically one time someone saying, “OMG you FINALLY have a roll when you bend over!!” Not to mention the years of hearing, “you need to eat a burger.”

I was obsessed with hamburgers thank you very much.

Or the, “you are such a twig.” “Put some meat on those bones.” I don’t understand what makes it okay for people to say someone is “too skinny.” It is the same to say someone is “too fat.”

Well, then I started working on ships. I remember for years I was a size zero in jeans. One day, towards the end of my first contract, I just couldn’t fit into the size zero jeans anymore. I was trying everything. Laying down, standing up, sucking in, jumping, I had half of my damn cast trying to pull them up.

It didn’t bother me so much, yet.

I think after I got breast implants is when my weight really hit me. I remember walking up to my boss in rehearsals and apologizing for my weight and I told him I would lose it as soon as possible. He told me not to apologize because I actually looked very healthy. It was probably the first time in my life that I looked like I was actually eating. But this was the first point really where I remember thinking how huge I was.

Yes, Huge is the exact word I would have used on myself.

So until I was about 22 I thought I was too skinny. I hated my body because I looked like a child and not a woman. I got my breasts enhanced and then gained a “shit ton” of weight, or so it felt like. Since that point I have, in my mind, been “huge” and overweight. And once again, have hated my body.

There came a point that the “you are way too skinny”, changed into “you have really big legs”, “you look like you are pregnant”, “you are a fat ass,” “shouldn’t dancers be skinny”, “you should work on your diet”, “you are pretty big to be a dancer.”

It’s crazy to look back at photos during times when I “thought” I was fat in that moment. What I would GIVE to look like that right now. There were times when I was in great shape. The best shape I was ever in was when I was an aerialist on my contracts. But even then, I wasn’t “skinny” enough in my eyes. Man, what I would give to be that “fat” again.

And this is what it’s like.

My thighs are too much thigh. My butt has too much cellulite. My hips are too wide. My belly is too fat. My arms are too long. My hands are too big. My scoliosis makes my left shoulder higher and that’s not pretty. Every single time I see it, it bothers me. My boobs definitely weren’t big enough. My lips are too small, my nose is too stuck up, my eyebrows aren’t perfect.

Of course, I stared in a mirror correcting and criticizing myself almost the entirety of my life. Isn’t it funny though, if I said I liked all these things about me, then everyone would call me, “too cocky. Not humble enough. You love yourself too much. Your ego is too big.” God forbid you allow people to love their bodies the way they are.

I’m not saying other people don’t have these thoughts about what they look like. But for dancers who have to look a certain way.. Well, it is more “normal” for us to have these ideas in our heads about what we “look like”. Sorry, more like what we think we look like. Years of weigh-ins and photos in a bra and underwear will do that to you.

I have always joked that I can’t wait to get pregnant because it will be the first time I can be big and not feel bad about myself. And my God I hope that is true. Because it would be a miracle for me to get pregnant, so I really pray I feel that way. I would be devastated if I went the route I have my whole life and hated my body for what it looked like instead of what it is capable of.

This isn’t a post actually about how to look at the positive of it. Because I still have yet to figure that out.

I can say all day to my friends and family that they are beautiful inside and out and have beautiful bodies. That our bodies are strong and incredible and can do these incredible things. Which is true, they can and they are.

It’s a work in progress I guess. Loving your body the way it is. I think the most important thing is that we are healthy and happy. And I look forward to the day when I can be proud of my body and love my body for what it is, in the present. No looking back at what it once was or hoping for what I want it to be.

Loving what it is in the present. Loving what it is capable of.

Always a work in progress.

Also by Brittany Zimber:

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