There Is Nothing Glamorous About Diets
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Health and Wellness

There Is Nothing Glamorous About Diets

A response to 'Counting Calories with a Ballerina'.

There Is Nothing Glamorous About Diets

In a video posted on a “Munchies” YouTube channel, the world is offered a view into the life of professional ballerina Theresa Farrell. The video, entitled “Counting Calories with a Ballerina,” has upwards of 600,000 views since it’s posting in September of 2016. In the video we follow two days in the life of Farrell, watching her constantly exercise, stretch, and count.

Farrell presents a lifestyle that focuses on strictly regimented food intake and exercise calculation. “Often times people seem to not like the idea of counting calories but for me, it’s so much easier because otherwise, you’re always wondering. Or thinking I should’ve seen a result by now. But if it’s the math then you just know what’s happening and you don’t have to wonder,” says Farrell while biting down on an energy bar mid-split in a ballet studio.

Farrell portrays her lifestyle as not only prolific but beneficial. “So I think the key is figuring out how to not be hungry. And that’s what the counting helps me do. To think ahead,” she says.

The thing that struck me about this video was not what she was doing, but that it was taken so lightly. Constant exercise, calorie counting, and weight monitoring are not healthy practices no matter your situation. Yes, Farrell is an athlete and puts very intense demands on her body in order to practice her art. That is all fine and well, and it’s good that she’s found a system that works for her. But it’s quite another thing to encourage other impressionable young girls. To show this lifestyle as something easy, something glamorous. There are numerous shots of Los Angeles skylines, big buildings and bright cityscapes that only glamorize this lifestyle further.

As someone who has spent many years of my life counting calories in Los Angeles, I can tell you this is about as far from the truth as possible. There is nothing glamorous about waking up at 4:30 to start your day of nonstop workouts. There is nothing enchanting or inciting about daily food journals. According to Farrell, this aspect of her life is on the back-burner. “So often I’ll talk to a friend who’s on a new diet and it becomes such a big part of your focus whereas this, I feel like it can just run in the background.”

Eating disorders, disordered eating, body dysmorphia, or any type of unhealthy relationship to food does not can not, run in the background. I’ve been in the midst of recovery for years now and I can still say that the calories of the food I eat will never really be in the background. I could still tell you the calories in an almond, an apple, a cup of tea. The difference is that now, instead of focusing on how to burn off those calories, I’m actively focusing on not obsessing over them.

Farrell portrays her lifestyle of constant motion and intake as a healthy way to stay in shape. She is only eating processed foods because the calories are easier to track. She is never seen in the video eating without some other sort of distraction occurring simultaneously, whether it’s stretching, icing her feet, or talking with friends. You never see her devote time to the act of consumption. She has a food scale in her kitchen and weighs out her cereal to the half gram. Farrell portrays this relationship with food as normal, and that’s what scares me the most.

“I get dressing on the side so that I can know how much I’m using. Dressing is very, calorie dense…” Farrell says as she holds up dining spoon in a restaurant with a friend. “So this is a tablespoon. So one of these with olive oil is 120 calories. So if you saw that steak I put on the scale, that was 138 calories for that whole big piece of steak vs. one tablespoon of olive oil. So when you’re thinking about what’s going to keep you full all day… and if you think to lose half a pound a week you only need to cut out 250 calories you basically just have to cut out two spoons of olive oil. Which seems… simple. Trivial.” She doesn’t even mention that the calories one would have to cut out to lose weight are different for everyone. Height, weight, and metabolic rate are all important factors. These numbers are specific to her body type and lifestyle, something she entirely neglects to mention.

Now when she frames it like this, it’s hard not to agree with her. Two tablespoons of olive oil, yeah! I could cut that out no problem! And look how much she’s eating!Dieting should be easy! Fun! Simple! Trivial!

This is not the reality of the situation. The reality is she spends the large majority of her day exercising and consuming food and is still at a BMI that is considered incredibly underweight for her height. Her daily exercise is more than many people living office lifestyles can do in a week. Her career is centered around burning off calories so it’s easy to see how this lifestyle works for her, but the idea that counting calories could be a quick fix for everyone is far from the truth. Simply put, counting calories leads to restrictions, anxieties, and constant fear about what food you’re eating and whether or not you’re eating too much.

Counting calories is not the glamorous lifestyle that she portrays it as. It’s important to note that in the sidebar of this YouTube video recommended links include videos titled Thin Club and Eating Disorder Documentary. If this lifestyle works well for Farrell, more power to her, but it’s vital to recognize that for many this could lead to very dangerous habits. I, for one, started dieting with the simple goal to “lose ten pounds” by the time I turned fifteen. Well, those ten pounds turned into twenty and before I knew it I was passing out in class and couldn’t look at a meal without a calculator ticking off calories in my head. It was something I couldn’t escape even when I fought against it.

Farrell neglects to mention the dangerous practices her lifestyle could potentially create. She neglects to mention the anxiety, depression, fear, and paranoia that so often are associated with disordered eating. She paints the glamorous Los Angeles lifestyle of the pretty, the skinny, and the rich in a way that looks so “simple” and “trivial” it’s hard not to ask yourself why it wouldn’t work for you too. It’s hard not to picture yourself living that same life. But as someone in recovery from that life, I’ll be the first to tell you her picture of health is anything but glamorous. It’s expensive, all-consuming, and life threatening. It’s what put friends of mine into the hospital, what put me in three different high schools, what still keeps me from having a normal relationship with the food I put in my body, and what keeps me fighting against videos like this.

Disordered eating is not a trendy diet. It’s not a fad, not a cure-all, and not a solution. Farrell’s portrayal of dieting is a potential catalyst for so many young people to develop disordered habits themselves. I’m here to remind you that this is not normal. That counting every calorie you put in your body is dangerous, not efficient. That you are beautiful whether or not you ate that extra helping of cereal. That you are worth more than the space your flesh and blood takes up. That your shape should not determine your sanity.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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