12/4/15

Turn body image dissatisfaction into satisfaction


When was the last time you thanked your body?
When you look in the mirror, how do you talk to/about your body?
When you train and eat, does your body image dictate your choices in a positive or negative way?

An unhealthy body image in athletes can increase the risk for disordered eating habits. 

Avoiding major food groups (carbohydrates), not fueling around/during workouts, skipping meals and snacks and dehydration are some of the examples of unhealthy strategies that athletes often take to gain control over eating in an effort to change body composition/image.

Whether you are an athlete who seeks weight loss/body composition changes to improve overall health, you are an athlete who struggles with body image due to comparison with other athletes, comparison to a past you or overall discomfort with your body image, or you are an athlete who follows a very restrictive diet and extreme exercise routine in an effort to maintain a specific body composition/image which has damaged overall health, irregardless of initial performance gains, it's important to focus on the health of your body...not the image. 

You can't live the rest of your life obsessed with an image.

I'm not saying that you can't change the way you look through diet and exercise but I want you to consider why you want to change AND the methods that will elicit a change in image/body composition. 

It's very common that athletes who are unhappy with their body will seek a diet strategy that involves restriction or food elimination but claim that they are changing the way they eat/fuel in an effort to improve performance.
It's also common that athletes will follow no extreme style of eating or diet but just focus on eating for fuel and for nourishment and achieve their goal body image and performance gains. 

Many athletes are led to believe that food restriction/elimination is the only way to change/improve body composition. 

I am here to tell you that that thinking is not accurate. 

You CAN change your body composition and eat before a workout.
You CAN lose weight by eating carbohydrates. 
You CAN feel comfortable with your body image.

A dissatisfaction for your body composition can lead you to believe that if you lose weight or change your body composition (get a flatter stomach, decrease your thigh size, get a more muscular butt, etc.) you will enhance your appearance, improve performance or improve your health. 

But the problem isn't your body but instead, what you think about your body. 

When an athlete feels as if losing weight/changing body composition is the only, best or necessary way to improve performance, restrictive eating and/or overexercising may result, often causing disordered eating patterns.

A preoccupation with body image may affect training in that every workout could be affected by what you didn't eat (but should have eaten) or is controlled by what you did eat (feeling guilty).

This is not the way that you should be training or thinking.

Learn to love food.  

For sport RD's who work with athletes, we educate on seeing food for fuel and for nourishment. For myself, I educate on learning how to have a better relationship with food and the body in addition to mastering healthy eating and nailing sport nutrition (I specialize in endurance triathlon sport nutrition).

For nutrition professionals, it is important that any athlete who has a body image obsession or concern, that he/she is detoured from any mass-marketed diet that involves food elimination/restriction. 

If you are uncomfortable with your body image, it is important to ask yourself why. 

Why don't you thank your body more often? 
Why do you need to change the way you look? 
Why don't you love yourself?
Why do you take such extreme measures to change the way you look when you should be focusing on food for fuel and for nourishment? 

Don't destroy your health in an effort to get healthier.
Don't restrict energy when your goal is to have more energy to workout longer, harder or faster. 

It's time to think more about yourself. 

Your body is amazing.