Experts, athletes, coaches, and parents agree that raising young female athletes requires careful navigation through many challenges, especially during and after puberty. We’re only starting to understand what it takes to help them flourish. Partly, perhaps, because we’re only starting to understand what it takes to help ourselves truly flourish.
We examine both how to #FixGirlsSports and raise a stronger, healthier next generation, as well as how to re-evaluate our own body image for the better, including the resources you need to rebuild or fortify one of the most important relationships of all—the one with yourself.
Healthy Body Image, Defined
One way to think about body image is the thoughts, feelings, and perceptions related to the experience you have of your physical form: “an inner picture of your body and the way you feel about it,” says Marci Evans, R.D., a Cambridge, Massachusetts–based dietitian. Body image is often framed, incorrectly, as a black-and-white issue: Either you feel good about yourself, or you don’t. The reality, however, looks more like a spectrum, eating disorders specialist Riley Nickols, Ph.D., says.
The Scope of the Problem
“Pretty much everybody experiences a little bit of a dissatisfaction with how they look,” says Angie Fifer, a runner, triathlete, and certified mental performance consultant based in Pittsburgh. Women tend to be more prone to the problem than men, especially when it comes to thin ideals. In one Northwestern University study, about half of all middle-aged women reported being dissatisfied with their shape or size.