The Relationship Between Feminine Athletes and Physique Picture Points

Setting out to build a stronger and healthier feminine physique and seeing the results of hard work pay off is empowering. Many female weightlifters not only gain strength but a sense of self-confidence when they lift. Muscle definition increases, clothing fits better, and compliments from others fill the air. However, the transformation journey can place heavy pressure on female lifters and bodybuilders alike leading to unhealthy body image issues; Especially if your goal is to compete onstage.

So why would body image issues arise when fitness goals are being met? “In my experience, many women begin a journey to enhance their physique or build muscle with good intentions. For some, this turns into an unhealthy obsession where no body fat percentage is low enough or no amount of lean muscle mass is great enough,” explains Top Nutrition Coaching’s Janel Reeves, MS, RDN, a former NCAA Division I athlete.

“Social media and TV constantly show “perfect” bodybuilding standards that are hard to achieve or maintain,” Reeves says.  Given this standard that is portrayed as ideal, Reeves stresses that many women can become very aware of their appearance and place an unhealthy focus on areas of their body they view as being imperfect or not meeting that standard.

“Some women put their health and well-being at risk to address these deemed imperfections through restrictive dietary habits or extreme training regimens,” she adds.

Reeves unpacks what body image issues are, why they arise, and what to do if your mirror is playing tricks on you.

What Are Body Image Issues?

How do you feel about your body right now? Even if you’re in the best shape of your life, are you experiencing negative emotions and thoughts when you look in the mirror? “Think of body image as how someone pictures themself and how they may feel about that picture of themself. Someone with poor body image may not see themselves as they really are and may not feel comfortable in their body,” explains Reeves.

“For female athletes who are focusing on muscle building, this could look like being uncomfortable with muscle mass, fat mass, body size, body shape, weight, appearance, or feeling self-conscious about certain “problem” areas.” Unfortunately, over time, Reeves warns this can negatively impact emotional well-being or lead to eating disorders.

The Good News: If you’re experiencing negative thoughts regarding your body, there are simple ways (or habits) you can practice that can help you build a healthier relationship with your body.

Twinsterphoto / Shutterstock

Body Image Issues Can Affect All Female Athletes

Body image issues can affect all female athletes, not just bodybuilders or those looking to pack on lean muscle. “Many female athletes feel pressured to look a certain way to perform at a high level,” says Reeves. This can look different from athlete to athlete, with some worried about being too muscular, while others may worry about not being muscular enough. “There can also be stereotypes from sport to sport about what body type is needed to be successful. If certain professional athletes fit that stereotype, if coaches encourage that stereotype or that stereotype is constantly pictured on social media: It’s easy to believe that a certain body type is needed to succeed.” Unfortunately, Reeves explains this may cause poor body image, decreased self-confidence, increased stress, and lead to female athletes leaning into unhealthy behaviors to change their bodies.

“Attaining a perceived ideal body type can come at the expense of an athlete’s strength, sports performance, physical health, or mental health.”

Young Fit Female Wearing Fitness Gear With a Healthy Body Issues Checking Herself In The Mirror.Andrey_Popov / Shutterstock

Simple Ways to Combat Unhealthy Body Image Issues

The same dedication, work, and consistency it takes to build a stronger body needs to be applied when building a better relationship between your mind and body. Here, Reeves shares helpful advice to get you going in a healthier direction.

First, “Maintain your health and support your goals with nutrition, rest, and fitness habits that leave you feeling good and capable of your best,’ encourages Reeves.

Talk Kindly to Yourself

Secondly, “Match the advice above with an internal dialogue that celebrates and accepts your body for what it’s doing and what it can do. As cliché as it sounds, combatting body image issues starts inside with how you talk to yourself and how you judge your own body.”

  This could look like:

  • Shifting your focus to fitness achievements like the PR you just hit.
  • Acknowledging how good you felt during a workout that wiped you out a month ago.
  • Feeling more confident in your own skin.
  • Feeling proud of the determination that has got you this far on your fitness journey.

“Shifting your focus from being solely aesthetic-driven or comparison-driven doesn’t necessarily mean you will be kissing your muscle-building goals goodbye, it just means you may go about attaining them in a way that feels healthy for you.”

Set Healthy Boundaries

“Don’t be afraid to set boundaries that protect your mental health when conversations that focus on your appearance or that of others seem to constantly pop up.” It’s OK to walk away or simply state that isn’t a topic you want to discuss.

Incorporating and practicing these “tools” every day can help create habits for your mind that will in turn allow for a healthier relationship with how you see yourself in all stages of fitness.

Seek Professional Help

Knowledge is power. If you’re a female athlete who is dealing with body image issues, you’re not alone. Finding a safe person to talk to or even seeking professional help from a counselor or doctor can get the healing process started. Start with Reeves’ tips and if more help is needed, reaching out for support is the best thing you can do.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *