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Seeing is believing

Representation Matters


These are pictures from 2021 Ironman 70.3 Chattanooga.
These pictures were taken on the same day, of the same body. 
I share these pictures side by side as it's a reminder how the media and advertising has brainwashed athletes to believe that there is an ideal body type for sport. And without good self-esteem, body love and confidence, it becomes normal to be ashamed, embarrassed and disgusted by the body on the left. As a result, your body becomes something that you need to "fix" often through overexercising and undereating. 

I came across this IG post from Katie Moon and it got me thinking about representation. 

How many times have you been proud of your athletic performance or workout but ashamed of how your body looked? As a result, you didn't share the picture of yourself performing. Or, perhaps you blamed a poor athletic performance or workout on your body? Or, your awesome athletic performance was dismissed because you felt like you didn't look like an athlete. 

When it comes to sport, having relatable role models is extremely important. Seeing is believing. 

Many athletes struggle with body image issues. In today's society, mainstream media has an unhealthy obsession with the "ideal" body type. Far too many athletes are bombarded with unrealistic images of how an athlete body should look. Thin arms, toned legs, firm butt, defined abs. Constant exposure to an idealized body type can lead to lower self-esteem and eating disorders.

And now it's getting even worse with AI. For example, take Aitana Lopez. She has 302K followers on Instagram, earns over $10,000 a month and she's not real. Yes, you read that correctly. She was created by a computer. She is not a real human. She's completely fake. 

This sad truth only confirms that our society is hyper-focused on appearance. We continue to hear (and see) the same message that smaller is faster, happier, healthier, better, and more successful. Instead of empowering athletes to become the best versions of themselves by showcasing a variety of body types and shapes, athletes are constantly in pursuit of a specific body image due to the bombardment of images showing a unrealistic body standard. Trying to achieve this unrealistic "ideal" image only increases the risk for restrictive eating, dieting, underfueling, disordered eating, overexercising or an eating disorder. 

Representation is very important. Seeing someone who you can relate to is everything.

When we see a variety of athlete body sizes, shapes and colors, this helps to create positive images and messages as to what it means to be an athlete. It's very difficult for a self-conscious athlete who does not have an "ideal" body to believe in her/his/their abilities when there is no one to relate to. The same goes for minority groups.

Athletes and human beings come in all types of sizes and shapes. The wonderful thing about sport and exercise is that there does not have to be specific acceptable body type. Sport provides an opportunity to celebrate individuality. Let's stop the irrational thinking that there has to be a "typical" body type for every sport. 

Because representation matters, here are some ways that you can be part of the change: 
  • Don't edit your pictures. Share the real version of yourself. 
  • Stop the negative body talk.
  • Show that there is more to sport than an image.
  • Refrain from complimenting weight loss (or criticizing weight gain).
  • Celebrate the diverse range of body sizes and shapes.
  • Let go of judging a body type as "fast" or "race ready."
  • Become aware of your own biases around weight, body composition and health.
  • Get rid of size or appearance assumptions.
  • Acknowledge that bodies are allowed to change.
  • Celebrate your strengths and abilities.
  • Thank your body daily. 
    “It’s often been said that “seeing is believing”, but in many cases, the reverse is also true. Believing results in seeing.”
    ― Donald L. Hicks