Written By: Jessica Summerall
Photo By: Velvet Owl Photography
I have worked the fitness industry since my junior year in high school. I coach people to make amazing body and mind transformations only to see some of them wanting to be skinnier or more defined. One of my challenges as a trainer is to watch a client who is beautiful and healthy nitpick her body and fail to appreciate the improvements she has made in herself over the course of the transformation. I have to admit I have even caught myself failing to do so in the past. Did you know that body image dissatisfaction has been a concern throughout the ages? During medieval times, in efforts to appear more masculine and muscular, men would stuff their shirts with hay1. I think it is important for everyone to strive for a healthy, strong body. You can’t deny that everyone wants to feel comfortable in their skin and they possess a desire to be found attractive. It is equally important to strive for personal growth and self acceptance. Oftentimes, I feel like this is the missing component of a client’s journey and, up until last year, it was definitely missing in mine.
According to the American Psychological Association, three of the most common mental health problems that women experience are eating disorders, low self-esteem, and depression1. I feel that this stems from our focus on our outer appearance rather than the gifts we have to offer the world and recognition of who we are inside. Extensive research has been conducted regarding women’s feelings of self worth and the exposure of images of physically attractive women. In one study, when females were exposed to a picture of an attractive female, they responded with a lower evaluation of themselves. The opposite occurred when study participants were exposed to a picture of an average woman2. For some, images like these may motivate the individual, but most of these images cause feelings of inadequacy. The average person does not realize the intense dedication it takes to hone a super-lean and toned body. She also doesn’t understand that a good tan, oil, and a little play on lighting can work wonders. Because of this, they feel like their efforts are not good enough and they never learn to fully accept their bodies. They feel like their body is unacceptable, flawed, or unattractive even though they are healthy. People around them can’t contemplate their irrational thinking and do not understand how they could possibly feel that way.
In one study conducted, researchers used participants who had no previous history of an eating disorder and who were not on a diet. All of the women overestimated their body size, especially the size of their waist. The research suggests that it is not only women with eating disorders who have a misperception of their actual size. Women who have no eating disorder and are not dieting will misinterpret the actual size of their body. This excessive concern and worry about a person’s physical image may lead women to believe that all they have to offer is their appearance. This happens to us because we have unrealistic expectations and a skewed perception of what being beautiful really is2.
Our bodies are absolutely amazing. The fact that we have the ability to walk, breathe, and create life are simply miracles. With our bodies we can be a shoulder for a friend to lean on. We can dance with someone we love. We can chase our children. We can see the beauty of the world. How much more enjoyable would all these experiences be if we developed a deep love and respect for our bodies?
My challenge to you is to strive to be healthy. Take perfection and extreme measures out of the equation. Celebrate how far you have come and the achievements you have made. Learn to appreciate your body and all it does to support you every day. Work to be a more beautiful person on the inside and you will be amazed at how beautiful you will appear on the outside!
To your health,
1. Leone, J., Sedory, E., & Gray, K. (2005). Recognition and treatment of muscle dysmorphia and related body image disorders. Journal Of Athletic Training, 40(4), 352-359.
2. Sides-Moore, L, & Tochkov, K. (2011). The thinner the better? Competitiveness, depression and body image among college women. College Student Journal, 45(2), 439-448.
ABOUT THE WRITER: Jessica is a business entrepreneur, full time student, wife to a military man, and
super mommy! She owns About Face Fitness, a personal training studio where she helps women and men of all ages reach their health goals. Jessica is a nutritional cleansing coach with a passion for
helping people change their lives. Photo Credit: Heidi Haden from Velvet Owl Photography.