Body Image In Sports

To What Degree Does It Affect Developing Athletes??


It is important to understand that kids are taught from a very young age of what a superhero or athlete should look like. For example, a few years ago, I managed to purchase five original versions of beloved male action figures: Superman, Spiderman, Batman, Wonder Women, and Black Window. Each child, without hesitating, insisted that, that's what a athlete should look like. (Body Image Issues and the Male Athlete, 2015).
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Recognizing Issues with Body Image

Do males really worry about their body image? You bet they do, and over the past 30 years research has found that boys and men are experiencing dissatisfaction with their body image at an ever increasing rate. This is a negative distraction that impedes a positive sport experience. It should not be surprising, therefore, that up to 5% of male high school students use steroids, and half of those users, including the athletes, used the steroids for the purpose of improving their appearance. Body image is a very real issue among males, and it can lead to serious consequences. Arguably the most serious condition associated with male body image is muscle dysmorphia, a condition in which an individual, usually a male, perceives himself to be inadequately muscular and lean. As a consequence, he engages in a variety of behaviors that negatively impact multiple aspects of his life. (Body Image Issues and the Male Athlete, 2015).
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Suffering Through Body Image

When girls and women practise sport, they can profit from many health benefits. While these positive attributes far outweigh the risks involved in sports participation, there is scientific evidence that, under certain circumstances, the healthy body image of some female athletes can suffer through sport. In particular, the female athlete triad can have a significant impact on the lives of the girls and women concerned. (Medical And Scientific Commission, 2015)
Healthy Body Image # 3 - Anezka Ruzicka - Gymnastics

Why Is This Important ?

Negative Impacts

As a parent or coach of a young athlete, what should you look for in recognizing behaviors that could indicate a problem with body image? Some of the behaviors associated with body image issues are natural outcomes of being an athlete, and therefore some prudence should be exercised when making observations. Here are several examples which might indicate your son/athlete might have a problem with his body image. (Body Image Issues and the Male Athlete, 2015)

Positive Impacts

  • Body image is the way you see yourself and imagine how you look.
  • Having a positive body image means that, most of the time, you see yourself accurately, you feel comfortable in your body, and you feel good about the way you look. Young athletes may not have a general idea around a healthy body and proper diet. Majority of athletes are strict and technical with their diets which benefit their overall performance and diet which would lead to numerous benefits such as:
  • (Casper, 1998)
  • What manifest in sports?

    Anxiety surrounding body image and exercise is related to muscle gain, weight control and attractiveness leading to the question “Does this manifest in sport?” In short, yes it does, while athletes and coaches should be aware that personal sporting identity and body image are vulnerable to damage due to a perceived failure to meet the ideal body shape and physical self worth. This is developed though four forms of physical self-perception:

    (Moore, 2013)

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    Serena Williams

    Serena Williams is among history's most celebrated athletes and refuses to let that be tainted by perception.

    “For every negative comment, there are 300,000 positive ones,’’ Williams told The Miami Herald . “My fans are incredibly supportive. I look like a normal athlete, a normal woman walking down the street, a thicker one. I’m OK with that. I love that. You have to be OK with yourself no matter if you’re size 0 or a little bigger, like me. A lot of other people say I inspire them to be comfortable with themselves. My mom was really strong on that, on learning to love yourself. (Mcmillen, 2015)

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    Overall Analysis

    The Message Being Sent.

    Body image is the way that someone perceives their body and assumes that others perceive them. This image is often affected by family, friends, social pressure and the media.

    People who are unhappy with their bodies and don't seek healthy nutrition information may develop eating disorders. "Eating disorders" are unhealthy relationships with food that may include fasting, constant dieting, or binging and purging. (DoSomething, 2014)

    Body image is closely linked to self-esteem. Low self-esteem in adolescents can lead to eating disorders, early sexual activity, substance use and suicidal thoughts. However us together can bring encouraging words and actions towards each other to break this trend and let everyone be who they are, which is unique!


    There numerous limitations while researching body image in developing athletes. First off a major limitation was, how coaches or guardians could help prevent their children from being influence and in engaging in experiencing aa harmful body image perception. Another limitation was where body image influence was most common and if this mostly occurs in certain parts in the world.

    Future Research

    All of the information that I have learned throughout this project, there are still left over research that should be done to provide a more detail explanation of body image in developing athletes, such as:

    -How do we prevent young athletes from experiencing the lack of self-confidence?

    -How can we inform and give knowledge to coach/guardians about the risk of body image?

    -How can we get developing athlete more access to help?

    -How can WE change the overall perspective of one ideal body to every body is ideal?

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    In conclusion, athletes, especially female athletes, are more at risk for body image problems and eating disorders than the general population. For that reason, they need specialized approaches to identification, management, treatment, and prevention. When possible, they should be in treatment with healthcare providers with experience in treating eating disorders and athletes, but who also understand and accept the importance of sport in the life of a serious athlete.
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    -11 Facts About Body Image. (n.d.). Retrieved January 18, 2016, from
    -Medical And Scientific Commission | Protecting Athletes' Health | Fighting Doping. (n.d.). Retrieved January 18, 2016, from
    -(n.d.). Retrieved January 18, 2016, from
    -Casper. (n.d.). Retrieved January 18, 2016, from
    -Body Image Issues and the Male Athlete. (n.d.). Retrieved January 18, 2016, from

    -Athletes and Body Image Issues. (n.d.). Retrieved January 19, 2016, from

    -BelievePerform. (n.d.). Retrieved January 19, 2016, from

    -BT Sport survey: Body image insecurities rife in women's sport. (n.d.). Retrieved January 19, 2016, from

    -Serena Williams on body image: 'I look like a normal athlete' (2015, August 29). Retrieved January 19, 2016, from