Preventing Disordered Eating in Teenage Ballet Students: Evaluation of DancExcellent, a Combined CBT and Nutrition Education Intervention

Med Probl Perform Art. 2023 Jun;38(2):71-79. doi: 10.21091/mppa.2023.2009.


Background: Disordered eating (DE) behaviors are relatively common among high-level dancers, especially in classical ballet. At the same time, interventions aimed at reducing DE behaviors in this population are scarce.

Methods: An 8-week exploratory preventive intervention for DE behaviors was carried out in a high-level ballet school for 40 teenagers aged 12-15 years (77.5% female). Both risk factors (perfectionism) and potentially protective factors (self-esteem, self-compassion) for the development of DE behaviors were considered. The intervention was created specifically for this study and consisted of five cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) workshops and four nutrition workshops. Additional components included newsletters for pupils and educational sessions and social media interactions with staff and parents. The intervention comprised two phases (control and intervention periods), with students acting as their own controls. Standardized questionnaires were completed before and after both phases.

Results: Questionnaire results did not indicate any changes in reported perfectionism, self-esteem, or self-compassion, nor were symptoms of DE affected during either the control or intervention periods.

Conclusions: The intervention did not yield any discernible impact. However, it was affected by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, which limits our ability to draw conclusions about intervention effectiveness. Evaluations with pupils offer several considerations for future improvements.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • COVID-19*
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy*
  • Dancing* / psychology
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders* / prevention & control
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pandemics
  • Students