I’ve made this thread, which will be more of an “article” that you’ll have access to share your thoughts, experiences and constructive criticisms on which is what these forums are about. My “article” today is motivated by forum threads, social media posts and anecdotal accounts I’ve listened to which all have one thing in common: negative self image.
I’m currently in my third year of undergraduate study, going through the process of conducting my dissertation on sports and fitness behaviours as an influencer of body image satisfaction and eating attitudes. I’ve commented on a few of these threads just a few minutes ago, both males around my age who show crazy delusions of lack of self worth and poor body image satisfaction. I’d like to give you a small amount psychology on the matter on the issue before I give you my own ten penneth worth.
Research like de Bruin (2007) has shown that Body Image Satisfaction and Eating Attitudes can become highly disorded in higher-tier athletes; especially aesthetic based sports e.g. dance or gymnastics (Garner & Garfinkel, 1980). On top of this, Abbot and Barber (2011) found that female adolescent athletes valued aspects of a functional body more than generally active counterparts and were more satisfied with how functional they were than both generally physically active and sedentary counterparts.
A study by Hausenblas and Fallon (2001) found BMI highly predicted low body image satisfaction whereas in males, exercise behaviours was the strongest predictor of low body satisfaction. This gender difference could be explained by Muscle Dysmorphia, or “Bigorexia”. Mosley (2009) states that muscle dysmorphia “entails compulsions to spend hours in the gym, squandering excessive amounts of money on ineffectual sports supplements, abnormal eating patterns or even substance abuse.”
Texeira et al. (2006) programmed overweight-obese women exercise and diet regimes, which significantly effected body image satisfaction and other psychosocial factors. This study aims to expand on these studies, investigating whether sports and fitness behaviours can be efficacious to body image satisfaction and eating attitudes in a sub-clinical population of mentally healthy male and female adults, free from prior diagnosis of underlying health conditions.
Reflect on these studies for a moment, all of which are solid pieces of research with large samples, and all show a massive increase with dissatisfaction with the self in those who’re undertaking fitness behaviours. That’s scary. Body Image Disturbance is a hugely underestimated and misunderstood concept. As society develops these symptoms become more complex and are prevalent in so many people, even in those who have had great success in business, relationships, life, training and sports.
As an athlete, “gym rat” or “cardio bunny”, you should be dedicated part of your life to training and your sport because training and competing boosts your mental wellbeing. Not everyone will be Steven Gerrard, Connor McGregor, Ray Williams, Ronnie Coleman, Brian Shaw or Patrick Kane. These athletes are at the top of their game, top of the genetic lottery and top of working ethic, but none of them have competed without doing their sport. To compare yourself to such people is ridiculous to say the least, as you are not them and are most likely more talented in another part of life than they are, because that is what is to be a human being. Each of us has different mixes of the same traits that make us truly unique.
Train, play, run, fight or compete to improve on yourself spiritually, mentally and physically, not to find issues with yourself which become obsessive and counterproductive. Acknowledge the privilege of being able to have the choice of how you eat, being able to comfortably rest, have access to multimillion dollar industry all based around fitness and sport and enjoy the process of becoming better, not reflecting on what you’re not doing or not what you are now. Not everyone will be at the top, but you can make sure you give yourself the best chance at being the best you.
There’s my “article”, I hope it gets you as readers thinking about what you can do, not what you’re not doing. Let me know what you think.