Program Rationale

A Rationale for the Development of Intuitive Eating Education for Young Dancers

Disordered eating, while prevalent all across the United States, is most common in spaces where body expectations are set, such as in the arts and in aesthetic sports. Dancers specifically are at highest risk as 12.0% suffer from eating disorders, 2.0% suffering from anorexia, 4.4% suffering from bulimia, and 9.5% suffering from unspecified disordered eating patterns making dancers three times more likely to succumb to the issue (Arcelus et al., 2014). In 2014 a study was conducted on 244 female dancers to gain perspective as to why eating disorders were so prevalent. Research found that perfectionism and self-criticism levels were high in this population leading to further problems around eating, weight, and body-image (Goodwin et al., 2014). Another study from 2012 focused on adolescent young dancers and gymnasts, ages 13-17, to gain more context on where the disordered eating stemmed from. It was found that outside influences along with self-perception played a role as coaches/instructors, peers, parents, and outside environmental factors all influenced disordered eating habits (Francisco et al., 2012). If disordered eating does occur, there are higher risks of recurring issues with emotional and mental health and a more subsequent decline in bone mass over time (Robinson et al., 2016). These statistics make it very clear that focus on the issue of disordered eating among adolescent dancers is important to address. Not only do we need to help foster young dancers who are at risk, but we must also provide the tools to overcome outside factors and barriers while also educating individuals on the sidelines that may be playing a role.

Due to this being a common issue in adolescent young girls age 13-17, I feel that incorporating education about intuitive eating and gentle nutrition will decrease the likelihood of developing disordered eating in the youth population (Anderson et al., 2016). The issue at hand here is that young adolescent girls who participate in the arts and in sports at a young age are put at higher risk of developing eating disorders, causing decreased health for the future. By teaching this target population about both intuitive eating and gentle nutrition, they can begin to create a healthier relationship with food, body image, and learn self-body appreciation (Augustus-Horvath & Tylka, 2011). This will help to decrease costs and long-term health conditions and problems linked to disordered eating and promote the importance of health at the individual and community level to help areas all over the United States. Because the concept of intuitive eating has been gaining positive attention (Warren et al., 2017), I find it important to expand this knowledge to all communities. With this being said, I propose my nutrition education program “Your Body Knows Best: Intuitive Eating and Gentle Nutrition for Dancers” be supported to provide education to girls and young women to help combat disordered eating in the field of dance.

The concept of the program would be to create a healthy environment surrounding food through education and practice around intuitive eating for young dancers. It would focus on understanding the importance of listening to one’s body, understanding the principals of intuitive eating, and learning how “all food fit” and “health at every size” play a role in their health journey. Intuitive eating is a healthier way of living for most of the general population (Denny et al., 2013) as many of us have been steered away from tuning into our bodies’ cues due to the influx of information online, diet culture, and cultural body expectations. By delivering this information to the youth we can begin to see healthier communities by providing the tools and practice to understand the concept so that adolescent dancers have the ability to guide themselves through proper health, as this was seen as successful in previous studies (Burnette & Mazzeo, 2020). This program will be most successful to the target population as it will introduce them to new concepts and ideas that will favor their overall physical, mental, and emotional health and put into practice simple principals to live a healthy long-term life free of disorder thoughts about food and body image.




Anderson, L., Reilly, E., Schaumberg, K., Dmochowski, S., & Anderson, D. (2016). Contributions of mindful eating, intuitive eating, and restraint to BMI, disordered eating, and meal consumption in college students. Eating and Weight Disorders21(1), 83–90.

Arcelus, J., Witcomb, G., & Mitchell, A. (2014). Prevalence of Eating Disorders amongst Dancers: A Systemic Review and Meta‐Analysis. European Eating Disorders Review22(2), 92–101.

Augustus-Horvath, C., & Tylka, T. (2011). The Acceptance Model of Intuitive Eating: A Comparison of Women in Emerging Adulthood, Early Adulthood, and Middle Adulthood. Journal of Counseling Psychology58(1), 110–125.

Burnette, C., & Mazzeo, S. (2020). An uncontrolled pilot feasibility trial of an intuitive eating intervention for college women with disordered eating delivered through group and guided self‐help modalities. The International Journal of Eating Disorders53(9), 1405–1417.

Denny, K., Loth, K., Eisenberg, M., & Neumark-Sztainer, D. (2013). Intuitive eating in young adults. Who is doing it, and how is it related to disordered eating behaviors? Appetite60(1), 13–19.

Francisco, R., Alarcão, M., & Narciso, I. (2012). Aesthetic Sports as High-Risk Contexts for Eating Disorders — Young Elite Dancers and Gymnasts Perspectives. The Spanish Journal of Psychology15(1), 265–274.

Goodwin, H., Arcelus, J., Geach, N., & Meyer, C. (2014). Perfectionism and Eating Psychopathology Among Dancers: The Role of High Standards and Self‐criticism. European Eating Disorders Review22(5), 346–351.

Robinson, L., Aldridge, V., Clark, E., Misra, M., & Micali, N. (2016). A systematic review and meta-analysis of the association between eating disorders and bone density. Osteoporosis International27(6), 1953–1966.

Warren, J., Smith, N., & Ashwell, M. (2017). A structured literature review on the role of mindfulness, mindful eating and intuitive eating in changing eating behaviours: effectiveness and associated potential mechanisms. Nutrition Research Reviews30(2), 272–283.