Body Image – What does it mean to you?

Hayley Morran, Head of Curriculum at Fit Training (fittraining.co.uk), shares her thoughts on the importance of Body Image

From a very early age we’re bombarded with the message that we must look a certain way if we are to be happy and successful.  I find it impossible to open a newspaper, magazine, watch TV or see billboard advertisements without being confronted with the message that to be overweight or imperfect in any way is undesirable.

The most frightening part of it all is that this destructive message is reaching children as young as 8 years old. By the time these children reach their teens, they feel totally flawed by the fact their breasts, hips, noses, biceps or hips don’t match up to those of cover star supermodels. The result is a distorted body image which means we don’t see ourselves as others see us. For some, the pressure to fit in and look “normal” can lead to eating disorders and self-harm, problems which are becoming much more common in modern day society.

The Body Shop once famously ran an advertising campaign which demonstrated there were only seven people in the world that actually looked like supermodels and that the average size for women in the UK was 14. We know this, yet we all, both men and women alike, strive to look younger, thinner and more attractive.

BBC Radio 1 carried out a survey of 25,000 17 – 34 year olds on how they felt about their bodies, almost half of the women surveyed said they skipped meals to lose weight and 2/3, who were a size 14, thought they were fat. An astonishing 50% admitted they would even consider plastic surgery.

People need to develop a healthy perception of their bodies and to raise their self-esteem in order to develop positive ways of coping with life situations which may otherwise trigger negative body image.

As a fitness professional, I focus on the functionality of training, such as working on abdominals for posture and to decrease risk of injury, rather than focus on goals with concerns to appearance. I do this by praising clients more for improvements in their exercise routine, rather than changes in how they look.

Physical fitness doesn’t always mean reaching an ideal body weight, no matter how hard some people try, they will never healthfully reach or maintain the stereotypical “thin physique”. Too many people go by the weight on the scales rather than monitoring their body fat percentage.

Hayley’s top tips for a healthy body image are:

Think of what your body can do, not what it looks like – set yourself realistic goals such as run a marathon or gain a personal best during a lift.
Redefine “health” – eat a balanced diet that fits into your active routine and enjoy yourself when out with friends rather than fret over calories
Throw away your ideas of “normal” – Serena Williams and Arnold Swartzenegger both have a BMI reading of 32 which classes them as “obese”. Really???
Stay off the scales – weight fluctuates and has nothing to do with body fat percentage.
Keep positive people around you – friends should build you up and not tear you down!
Eat regularly through the day – not eating frequently confuses your metabolism. Planning your meals can make you feel more in control, and self-discipline is a big part of self-worth.

For more advice add Hayley as a friend on Facebook by visiting www.facebook.com/hayleyfittraining or by calling tel: 0191 5801080.