There’s a breathtaking picture. The kind that could be one of those motivational posters on a classroom wall with the caption “Dream Big” or something. In it, a young ballerina executes a perfect grand jeté (ballet-talk for mid-air split). The crashing waves reflect the rising sun. Her feet gracefully spray salt water and her hands delicately trail a translucent scarf in the breeze.
What’s not as transparent, though, is that the dancer, Stephanie Burg, is totally miserable.
You can’t tell she’s suffering from back-to-back injuries and multiple surgeries. Or that she has inexplicable food allergies and skin issues. Or that her dance company is allowed to fire her if she gains more than three pounds. Her twenty-nine-year-old body is giving out on her from years of “no-pain-no-gain” training and severe restrictive eating. Months after this moment, she’ll suffer a traumatic neck injury from a botched partner lift, leading her to quit her dream job as a professional ballerina.
Now a holistic health counselor, Stephanie can’t believe how good she has it. Her private coaching practice and her health are thriving. Her work has been published on MindBodyGreen. She teaches adult ballet at DanceFX and has been asked to dance in this year’s Spoleto Festival. With over two-hundred clients—from the local mother to the Broadway performer—Stephanie’s calling is to change the conversation women have with their bodies.
“Our default as women is to be really mean to ourselves,” Stephanie says. “The old calories-in-calories-out way needs to stop. The work I do is about feeling good, in all areas of our lives, starting with food and self-care.”
By “self-care” Stephanie doesn’t mean green-smoothies-and-massages-all-day-every-day (though, that’s not a bad idea). It’s about women eating and doing what makes them happiest, including how they speak to themselves. As she expands her reach through weekend retreats, online podcasts and more local clients, her mission is to help women see that when they take care of themselves, they can create the lives they want. She knows, because she’s proof.
“I want women to see the power they hold within their communities,” Stephanie says. “I want to show them what they’re capable of when they stop punishing themselves.”
One woman at a time.