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Body Image of Female Volleyball Players

“I just want to open a dialogue…where we can define our own beauty and approve of ourselves. We have to approve of ourselves before anyone else will.” –Iman

Teaching positive lifestyle changes in players’ lives is one of the rewarding aspects of coaching.  It is a daily process of continual reminders that hopefully sinks in over time.  Proper nutrition and exercise are at the forefront of a healthy lifestyle for athletes, which is an extremely challenging proposition in the complex social climate of today’s female athletes.

A player came to me the other day worried that her weight keeps going up.  She is in incredible physical shape, but she is not used to seeing ‘that’ number on the scale.  Through the rigors of strength training and conditioning, I repeatedly remind players that weight is just a number.  Unfortunately, she does not see the beauty of her body and only sees a number.

I feel fortunate to have trusting relationships with my players that they can approach me about delicate female issues, and I felt it my duty to provide them the best support.   Sometimes coaches are like parents, in that we can continually repeat ourselves to players with little success.  The players hear us, but don’t always listen.  So I had to approach this topic from another angle to provide substantial credibility from other sources.

I read a couple fascinating studies which provided me genuine insight into the female world: Body Image Concerns in Female Exercisers and Athletes and Body Image and Behavior in D-III Female Athletes.  The studies explore the relationship of body image, nutrition, and exercise in female athletes and how the athletes’ ideal body is too often defined by a social context.  The results found an emergence of two distinct body images for females: an athletic female body image and a cultural female body image.  Living in a world of contradictory body images only confuses and frustrates female athletes on a daily basis.  The decision that needs to be made is an understanding and acceptance of who you are, an incredible and beautiful female athlete, of which you are in better physical shape and fitness than 99% of all females on earth (including the photoshopped models and celebrities exploited by the media).

The most difficult issue female athletes have to overcome is comparing their amazing athletic body with the unrealistic cultural body.  Ironically, the cultural body is a series of contradictions: “firm, but shapely; fit but sexy; strong but thin.”  STOP COMPARING and start living.  You will feel a sense of peace and freedom when you remove yourself from societal pressures to look an unhealthy way.  Confidence will surround you and the media will not distract you.

Here are steps that will help you be a better you:

1. Acceptance

You are a female athlete.  Strong and beautiful.  These two words CAN be used in the same sentence and deserve to be.  You deserve to be strong and beautiful.  Be proud.

2. Don’t Trust the Scale!

MUSCLE WEIGHS MORE THAN FAT.  I’ve repeated this a number of times.    Even though the number on the scale is higher than what you are accustom, it’s because you are IN BETTER SHAPE!  Congratulations, applause, clap clap clap 😉  Now go back and read step 1.

Realize, from now until March, the number on the scale is going to increase, but you will be in incredible shape.  Your body will be able to take the abuse and pounding of the season.  You will lean out through the season.

Listen to what Darin Steen’s (America’s Top Fat loss, Healthy Lifestyle Coach) initially says in his video:  “DON’T TRUST THE SCALE!”

3. Consistency

Your body will not physically change on a daily or weekly basis.  Nutrition and exercise should be viewed as many short-term inconveniences for a long-term goal.  It is the consistency and conviction in a daily lifestyle of positive nutrition and exercise that will charge your confidence and define your presence.

4. Balance

Women constantly balance physical activity and eating; if they exercise, they give themselves permission to eat and if they eat too much, they punish themselves with exercise.  Remove old convictions such as: “If I eat poorly, I must exercise; If I exercise, I can eat.”  This is a negative symbiotic relationship between nutrition and exercise.  Instead, positively engage in: “Eat for me, exercise for we; Fuel to go, exercise for show”.  The best part is, it’s OK to occasionally cheat without any remorse!

5. Pride

Successful female athletes express pride and satisfaction through their bodies.  Independent of their height and weight, the recognition provided through their success trumps societal pressures to fit an athletic round peg into a societal square hole.

6. Support

Teams need to create their own positive body image environment.  The team goal is the ultimate concern and individual must choose to unselfishly do “whatever it takes” to achieve the goal.  The unselfish includes creating this environment and supporting one another’s exercise and nutritional lifestyle on a daily basis.

Beyond team, there are many other sources of support that promote positive female health:

  • The Women’s Sport’s Foundation

“Body image is the term used for a woman’s feelings of her shape and size. Unfortunately, sometimes girls feel that they are actually bigger than they are, especially if they are muscular, which will cause them to weigh more. Other athletes and girls feel pressured to have the “perfect body.” (newsflash: there is no perfect body!!!)” http://www.womenssportsfoundation.org/Content/Articles/Issues/Body-and-Mind/O/Optimizing-Health-in-Young-Women-Athletes.aspx

  • Nancy Clark, MS, RD, CSSD – Sports Nutritionist

“As a sports dietitian, I spend too many hours helping my clients find peace with their bodies. Most of these active people take the outside-in approach. They think if they change their body from the outside by losing undesired body fat or by adding some muscular bulk, they will be happier on the inside. Unfortunately, not true! No weight will ever be good enough to do the enormous job of creating happiness.”

http://www.nancyclarkrd.com

http://www.beginnertriathlete.com/cms/article-detail.asp?articleid=1665

  • Adios, Barbie – The Body Image Site for Every Body

“As women, our relationships with our bodies are dysfunctional at best. With multibillion-dollar diet and cosmetics industries barking at our heels, and even role models like Rosie O’Donnell caving to the “thin-is-in” pressure, loving our bodies is no stroll in the park. It’s especially hard when our friends complain about their bodies, and our moms have been on diets since we were in diapers.

But this is a matter of life. When we don’t feel comfortable in our bodies—our natural bodies—we deny our spirits everything from dancing to delicious food to lustful abandon. We miss out on all the sensuality and joy that life offers. And we deserve to have it all.”
http://www.adiosbarbie.com/

  • Finding Balance – Eating Image Life

To remove the stigma surrounding eating and body image issues, promote prevention, and empower those who struggle to find a Christ-centered path to freedom.

In April of 2008, Self magazine reported on a study done with Cynthia Bulik, PhD – a specialist in the field of eating disorders – which indicated that 75% of women had eating issues of some kind.

http://www.findingbalance.com/

“Women need to celebrate their God-given beauty instead of always trying to be something else.” –Iman



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