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Concerned Mother

CD Knowles 10 months ago

Dear Knowles,

I have a very smart and intelligent daughter who just turned fourteen. She’s slender and unusually pretty, does well in school (straight As) and participates in sports such as gymnastics and rowing. She also has taken ballet since she was seven years old and is very serious about it. Her teacher says she has talent and encourages her to practice rigorously (several hours a day) and to set her sights on auditioning for a major corps de ballet when she’s ready. This teacher, Mme Barinova, who is from Moscow, is extremely possessive of my daughter, particularly in the areas of food, rest, homework (hours of study), and even my daughter’s social life. In the beginning she told us this was part of her role as a teacher, and that since Lydia, our daughter, showed such promise as a dancer, it was crucial that she monitor Lydia’s activities and scheduling. We went along with this, pleased to have found such a good champion for Lydia. Now it seems that Lydia is more bonded to Mme Barinova than she is to me, her own mother. If she wants to choose new clothing or is attracted to a boy, she goes to Mme Barinova for advice. My biggest concern, however, has to do with Lydia’s eating habits — she eats like a bird to keep her weight down for dance, no carbs, no sugars, no junk, which may sound healthy but isn’t when measuring food items that go in her mouth becomes obsessive. I fear that she will become anorexic and don’t know how to deal with this without making matters worse.

Can you help?

Concerned Mother


Dear Concerned,

You are right to worry. This is a delicate problem, particularly with girls your daughter’s age. Excessive working out and obsessive habits around food are often signs of an eating disorder, and eating disorders, in my opinion, require professional help. Since dancers typically need to keep their weight down, ballet is a field where this particular disorder runs rampant. My suggestion is that you seek a therapist specializing in OCD and eating disorders before you even think of addressing your concerns with your daughter or her ballet teacher. Together with the therapist, work out a plan of action. Does your daughter disappear to the bathroom after meals? Many girls with anorexia or bulimia are very secretive about their habits, tending to purge furtively behind closed doors, or to try and act as if they’re normal eaters. This can become a life threatening condition and some girls (and occasionally boys) require rehab in the same way as addicts or alcoholics. Undereating or frequent purging over a longer period of time can seriously affect the heart and other organs, as well as tissues of the mouth and esophagus. There is much information online about obsessive disorders and I suggest you educate yourself as much as possible. I’m glad you contacted me regarding your daughter’s situation.

Good luck and all the best to you and your family,

CD Knowles




Dear Grieving Sister,

I also had a sibling who committed suicide. She had been bullied online and couldn’t take it. My parents didn’t find out what had happened till afterwards. They missed all signs of depression and despair, and in a way, over the years, I’ve blamed them as much as the girls who were so mean to her, telling her she was ugly and no one liked her. I’m convinced her life could have been saved with good counseling. I’m sorry for your loss. People should be more observant when it comes to their kids.

– Myra P., Des Moines, IA


Dear Grieving Sister,

In our community we recently had a sixty-year-old woman who took her life, but this had been planned out carefully for a number of years. She had lost her partner after a long marriage and simply didn’t want to continue. In her mind, one can die in many ways and it was her choice to die as she chose, by her own hand. She was very open about it and discussed her plans with close friends and family. She didn’t tell us how or when, but she was clear that it would happen eventually, and when it did we respected her and were happy she had found freedom. I am sorry for your loss and just wanted to offer another perspective.

– Frank R., Richmond, Va.


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Disclaimer: CD Knowles is not a doctor or psychotherapist. Any opinions expressed on Knowles Knows are just that — opinions.