I'm a dance academy grad – they called me 'thunder thighs' & I was scared to eat, it took years to build my self-esteem | The Sun

I'm a dance academy grad – they called me 'thunder thighs' & I was scared to eat, it took years to build my self-esteem | The Sun

March 8, 2023

A WOMAN who spent her formative years on the stage is revealing how her experience in the dance world affected her relationship with her body.

For Megan Williams, who began dancing at seven and forewent high school to attend a performing arts academy, it took years to rebuild her self-esteem and develop a healthy lifestyle.

Although today 25-year-old Williams feels good in her body and often posts TikToks to inspire girls who look like her, things were very different when she was 14 to 18.

Her Utah high school wasn’t what most of us are used to – the only subjects were dance, theatre, and music.

“I was in the dance academy, but you have to take other classes to be a well-rounded performer,” she told The U.S. Sun.

“So, I had ballet first thing in the morning, then I had jazz, hip hop, or tap after. And let me tell you, squeezing into a leotard and tights at seven AM was not fun.”

While Williams enrolled in the school with dreams of becoming a professional dancer, the harsh reality she faced while there made her ditch that goal after four years of practice.

“I didn’t want to be body shamed for the rest of my life,” she said.

In the dance program specifically, women were constantly surveilled regarding what they ate and how they looked.

“The dance academy was basically the eating disorder academy. We were heavily encouraged by our teachers to be skinny.

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“They’d say little things like, 'If I see you eating a donut or drinking a soda, I’m going to smack it out of your hand.'”

Because Williams is taller than average, standing at 5’7”, she weighed around 160 pounds – meaning she was considered “big” when compared to the other girls at school.

“The director of the dance company would call me 'thunder thighs.'

“And I’m like 14, 15 years old and I was very skinny, almost sickly skinny.”

She said she wouldn’t get certain auditions or parts because the “smaller” girls were always favored.

“They were just like, ‘You’re too big to get these roles.’ And they’d say, ‘You’ll never be partnered with anyone because you’re too heavy.’”

Regardless of how good you were at a dance routine, you had to be skinny to succeed.

The director of the dance company would call me 'thunder thighs.'

“It was definitely about how skinny you can be, how petite you could be. The more of the ballet look you could get, the better.”

Being in an environment as rigid as hers, especially during such formative years of your life, can take a major toll on your mental health – and Williams said it certainly did.

“Everyone there, even the boys, were smaller and skinnier than me, so I always thought I was this huge monster.

“I would work out all day, dancing like four or five hours and going to weight class, and I wouldn’t eat anything the entire time.”

She said she survived off a coffee and a protein bar on most days.

“I was scared to eat.”

But because she still wasn’t losing weight or looking like the other dancers, she just believed she was “doomed to be big forever.”

It wasn’t until Williams left the academy that she realized how normal her body was, and accepted that you don’t have to weigh 110 pounds to be beautiful.

“I saw people that were bigger than me and still gorgeous, owning their bodies. Seeing other people own it made me realize that I’m pretty just the way I am.”

Williams also got into weight training and started focusing on being healthy rather than simply aiming for thinness.

She got married young, at 20 years old, and had a baby a few years later – two events that also helped change her mindset around weight.

“When I had my baby, she was super fun. She only let me eat unhealthy foods. And that made me realize like, ‘Oh, I can eat whatever I want and I'm not really exercising, and I still feel cute.’

“I felt confident at my big weight, the thing I was so scared of being.”

At 245 pounds, she was able to find the security to feel beautiful.

“It was my fear, but I faced it and I was fine. I realized I can lose the weight and I’ll look good. I can gain the weight and I’ll look good. It does not matter, I'm beautiful in whatever skin I'm in.”

She hopes to instill these same beliefs in her two-year-old daughter.

“I'm always complimenting her and showering her with body positivity.

“And I also do show her that to love your body, you must move it as well.

"So, we'll do yoga together, we'll do pushups together, and I give her affirmations as she does her workout like, ‘You got it girl. You’re so strong.’”

Since shifting her perspective on body image, Williams began using TikTok (@meganwilliamz) as a way to motivate women who look like her.

Recently, she jumped in on the trend where creators share their height and weight to shock the audience – and she revealed that she’s now at 187 pounds.

“For me, weight was always thrown around in every conversation and I was always ashamed of my weight because it was so much more than even some men I was around.

“And I posted the video because I didn't see a lot of my body represented.

“No one ever believes me when I say my weight. They imagine I would weigh less. But like, people carry it differently.”

She received many comments expressing their gratitude for her openness.

“People wrote to me saying, ‘I'm your same height and weight and it's so great to see it represented. No one ever believes me either and I've always felt shame about my weight, so seeing you embrace it makes me think I could too.’”

Others pointed out that the scale doesn't mean anything, adding how beautiful Williams looks.

“I feel like there's a movement around body positivity, and I love that we are accepting ourselves exactly how we are," she said.

Still, she’s nervous about some things she sees in pop culture.

“I am also noticing, though, that the skinny trend is kind of coming back in, so I am a little worried about that.

"Low-rise jeans are coming back, and the Kardashians are losing their weight, so, I don’t know.”

Williams, who practices mirror affirmations to stay positive, had parting words of wisdom for the public.

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“As long as we just stay strong in loving who we are and progressing ourselves, and not worrying about other people, the body positivity movement will start growing more and more.

“Stay focused on yourself and surround yourself with people that are also accepting their bodies.”

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