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  • Writer's pictureDavid Thibodeau

Body Image and Sports

Body image is something that many people struggle with. Today’s access to social media and the way that anyone can change anything through photoshop, we face a lot of challenges in trying to accept ourselves when we constantly compare ourselves to others. Perceptions of what the perfect body is is manipulated and shared constantly over social media.

Athletes also face issues with body image, which can often lead to eating disorders. Rosie MacLennan, Canadian Olympian has been vocal of the body image issues that she battled. Athletes often compare themselves to other athletes. Research has shown that female athletes who perceived themselves as slightly overweight and would like to be thinner, and male athletes who perceived themselves to be average weight wanted to be larger. The study also found that many athletes considered were considered to have an eating disorder.

In many sports, coaches get their athletes to weight themselves constantly and get athletes to lose weight rapidly. Sports such as wrestling where you compete in a weight category, athletes try to lose weight, often in a short amount of time. This constant focus on weight can leave young athletes feeling as if they are not good enough, reinforcing body image issues that they may have. Today with social media, the constant reinforcing of images and the picture perfect bodies, also has implications on how young athletes view their bodies.

I think that individuals who feel better about their bodies are more likely to engage in sports. If you are struggling with how your body looks, will you go to the pool and swim with a revealing swimsuit (might be an extreme example, but I think a lot of people are very much focused on how they can look bad in a certain setting). Individuals who are more conscious of what they look like and how they may perform, are more likely to work out alone, or not at all and have lower levels of enjoyment of physical activity.

Sports can increase positive body image by creating a positive environment where everyone of all body types are included. Physical activity is often much more enjoyable in a social setting, with support from others. I think that there is a sport for everyone. If you can find that sport that works for you in a social setting it can help you increase your satisfaction with your body image. Sport and recreation is such a wide field that there are different groups with different levels and intensities, there is space for everyone in sport of all body types.

Participation in sports allows people to engage in healthy activity that helps them produce a positive body image. Engaging in a healthy lifestyle allows people to maintain a body that is healthy and works for them. Being active increases mental health as well as physical health and governments and organisations should keep this in mind when working to create mental health policies.

In sports we need to make sure that we are not focusing on our bodies. Helping athletes feel more comfortable in their skin and bodies is what sport should be about. Ending “weigh-ins” is a first step. We all want to be the best athletes that we can be, but at what cost? Can we not focus on being the best athletes we can be in the weight category that we are in, instead of trying to constantly lose weight?

Sport can also reinforce societal trends, everyone wants to look like the perfectly toned athlete. Sport can have a social impact by working to end the practices that reinforce body image issues in sports. If done right, sports can help boost confidence in people’s body image.


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