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Training for the perfect body image?

If you are currently changing (or trying to maintain) your eating/exercise habits in a quest to change your body image in order to be a faster, stronger, healthier or more powerful athlete, are you changing habits that will concurrently make a positive impact on your performance as well?

Are you driven by performance gains or by a body image?

What if you reach your ideal body image but performance doesn't improve?
Is it assumed that if you lose weight you will automatically become faster, improve strength and endurance?
What if your new body image (which was once desired) becomes more of a highlight to you than the initial gains in fitness that you were once seeking in your quest to achieve the "perfect" body image to become a better athlete? 
As an athlete/fitness enthusiast who is hungry for a change in body composition (in a body-image obsessed society), how will you be able to keep yourself from crossing the line from being a dedicated, passionate, performance-driven athlete to becoming the athlete who is more obsessed with what the body looks like than what you can do with your body?

What's the point of having a lean body if you can't do anything with it?

  • 41.2 percent of women, 50+ years of age and older, check their body size or shape once or more a day. (source)
  •  Over one-half of teenage girls and nearly one-third of teenage boys use unhealthy weight control behaviors such as skipping meals, fasting, smoking cigarettes, vomiting, and taking laxatives.
  • 69% of girls in 5th-12th grade reported that magazine pictures influenced their idea of a perfect body shape.
  •  20% of people suffering from anorexia will prematurely die from complications related to their eating disorder, including suicide and heart problems.
  •  Female athletes in aesthetic sports (e.g. gymnastics, ballet, figure skating) found to be at the highest risk for eating disorders
  •  Anorexia is the third most common chronic illness among adolescents
  • An estimated 10-15% of people with anorexia or bulimia are male.
  • Almost 50% of people with eating disorders meet the criteria for depression.
  • The mortality rate associated with anorexia nervosa is 12 times higher than the death rate associated with all causes of death for females 15-24 years old
  •  Only 1 in 10 men and women with eating disorders receive treatment. Only 35% of people that receive treatment for eating disorders get treatment at a specialized facility for eating disorders
  • A comparison of the psychological profiles of athletes and those with anorexia found these factors in common: perfectionism, high self-expectations, competitiveness, hyperactivity, repetitive exercise routines, compulsiveness, drive, tendency toward depression, body image distortion, pre-occupation with dieting and weight

As a society, there is a constant desire to be thinner or leaner. A perception that less body weight automatically equates to better health, improved performance, more success, better physical appearance and beauty and more self-confidence. 

We live in a society that idolizes perfection, body image and beauty when it comes to the human body and because of that, you have let something (or someone) have a powerful influence on your sense of self confidence, worth and satisfaction when it comes to your own person body image or appearance.Because of the high levels of body image disturbance that you face on a daily basis, you may find yourself spending decades of your lifetime feeling dissatisfied with the body that you were given. 

When was the last time that you have gone a full day without doing the following:

-Call yourself fat or ugly
-Tell yourself that you should not have eaten something you just ate
-Tell yourself that you hate your body
-Google a diet plan
-Purchase a diet book
-Look at another person's body and feel worse about your own
-Let the number on a scale ruin your day
-Tell yourself you'd be faster or more beautiful if you lost weight
-Tell someone that he/she is lucky because of how they look/eat
-Purge because you ate too much
-Starve yourself because you want to lose weight
-Restrict carbohydrates before/during a workout in an effort to lose weight
-Bonk during a workout because of intentional inadequate fueling
-Touch yourself somewhere and get upset
-Purchase diet pills for a quick fix
-Overexercise to burn calories
-Have a bad workout and blame it on your weight

It's almost impossible to alter your image of your body in one day, let alone a few weeks.
The media and social media has a powerful influence over what you deem as the ideal body image. Whether it's models, athletes or celebrities, it's likely that you have found yourself disturbed by your own body as you compare yourself to someone else. 
Perhaps you have even gone so far to create a realistic and attainable body image for yourself as you compare yourself to others, forgetting the characteristics about your own body that make you unique, special and beautiful. 

When was the last time you thanked your body? 

Self-esteem, self acceptance and love for your body are requirements for you to change.
And if you want to change your body composition, the purpose for change must have a positive outcome.
There are healthy ways to change your body composition as you become a stronger, fitter, faster and more powerful athlete and then there are a lot of unhealthy ways to just lose weight. 
Without having an appreciation for the body that you have, you will constantly find yourself searching for something better, more quickly, rather than making progress which requires patience.
Many times, you are doing exactly what you need to do in making progress with your fitness/body composition or all is going as planned with training and your fueling regime but the moment you compare yourself to someone else or feel frustrated with your body for whatever reason, you extinguish your fire for individual success all at the expense of wanting more than what your body is capable of giving you at this moment in time. 

Imagine a world where you had no one to compare your body to and you created your own standard of beauty. Imagine winning an event with the body you have now and everyone applauding your effort because of what your body allowed you to do. 
Imagine going to bed every night without food-consumption regret and waking up with body satisfaction. 
Imagine a lifestyle where your main priority was to live a quality-filled life, reduce the risk for disease, receive love and kindness from others and to set goals and reach them and to not waste your days on earth, wishing for the lifestyle and body of someone else or thinking that you aren't capable of change.  

Why aren't you living the lifestyle that you want, in the world that you live in? 

Starting right now, I want you to stop bashing your body if you are at a healthy weight yet feel as if your body is not good enough for your standards. 
Stop spending energy on telling yourself what you need to change in your diet or with your body, if you are in a place where you need to improve your health. Don't expect change by doing the same thing over and over.
It's likely that you are vulnerable to your body image when you are working out/training in tight clothing and sweating buckets. But if you want to change your body composition, the goal is to gain strength for your body is an athlete's body.

Your amazing body was not designed to model sedentary clothes, but instead, to perform in athletic wear. 

You and your body run, do zumba, swim, bike, do yoga, take aerobic classes, walk, chase your kids in the park, rock climb, hike, MTB, play tennis or surf, etc.

Whatever you choose to do for a sport, it's because of your body that you are able to move and experience the amazing rush of endorphins as your heart beats and muscles work.
It's because of your amazing body that you are living the life that you want to live.

And it is because of the food that you provide to your body, it is fueled by nutrients to support all metabolic processes to keep you making fitness gains.

An underfueled athlete will underperform. 

It's up to you, right now, to make the decision as to what you feel is beautiful and healthy about your body and to not sabotage your athletic performance because of your aesthetic desire to look differently.

Guess what?
You can have it all. 
You can reach personal bests or successful racing performance with a strong body so long as you fuel your body to perform, eat for health and love the body that allows you to train for start lines and race smart to cross finish lines.

But you can't build a better body image if you aren't setting yourself up for success. 
 Love your body in motion and you will quickly find yourself fueling the body that is training to perform and thanking your body for every great milestone that you reach in your own personal fitness/athletic journey. 

What do you love about your body?