Athletes Healthy Body Image

February 20, 2014

What does it mean to have a healthy body image? Is it:
A) Liking what you see in the mirror
B) Other people liking what they see when they look at you
C) Looking good in very little, tight fitting spandex
D) Something much more important than all of the above

I hope you all picked D!

But wait, let’s start over…
Let me first start by saying that I think the phrase “body image” is misleading and suggests that how we feel about our bodies should be directly related to what our bodies look like.

What a trap that is! Our ideal look changes with time, experience, the mood we’re in, the impression we’d like to get across at the time, etc.

Our ideal look changes with…the impression we’d like to make at the time.

So that last one gets me back on topic… “the impression we’d like to get across at the time.” This article talks about the pressures athletes, professional or recreational, feel about getting the impression across that they are in fact an athlete. And the expectation many spectators have about what their favourite athletes should look like in their cute little spandex outfits. Outfits that are designed, I might add, to be functional and supportive to the sport they’re participating in… much like any impression we have of ourselves as athletes ought to be supportive of the sport we’re participating in.

What do you think of the image of 2012 London Olympics heptathlon competitors, Brianne Theisen-Eaton and Jessica Zelinka, below? Do you think one or the other athlete will perform better than the other? Is this based on your idea of what fitness looks like, or based on your knowledge of the athletes themselves and their history of training and competition?

So, what does it mean to have a healthy body image? I believe it’s less in how we see ourselves as in the impression we have of ourselves. And we get to decide that. If you’re an athlete, you’ll improve your body image by dedicating time to training and setting achievable goals for yourself.

If this topic interests you, Marni Sumbal MS, RD, LD/N, CISSN shares her thoughts on athletes body image.

Any feedback? Any personal experience and stories to share? I’d love to hear from you!