Terms to know

Body Image

Body image is a multidimensional construct meaning it is comprised of a variety of different body and image related terms. Body image is comprised of the body’s appearance and function, but it is does not comprise of what the body actually looks like.  It isn’t two sides of the same coin, instead it is two distinct facets that are positive body image and negative body image.

Body image is a psychological construct, made up of the thoughts, feelings, perceptions we have around our bodies. 

Some other terms we have used throughout Athletes Embodied…

  • Non-Aesthetic Sport includes:
    • volleyball, soccer, basketball, softball, hockey, tennis, martial arts
  • Aesthetic Sport includes:
    • dance, gymnastics, cheerleading, baton twirling, swimming, figure skating

Eating Disorders

There is a common misconception that eating disorders are a lifestyle choice, when in fact they are actually a serious mental health issue. Eating disorders are persistent disturbances in eating and eating-related behaviours that negatively affect one’s physical health, mental health, and/or psychosocial functioning. We all fall somewhere on the eating and weight concerns continuum below. To learn more about eating disorder diagnoses, visit the Eating Disorders & Treatment page at NEDIC.

It is estimated that up to 40-45% of elite athletes in “aesthetic” sports, such as artistic gymnastics and rhythmic gymnastics, show symptoms of eating disorders.

There are immediate impacts on athletes’ health AND performance:

Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport (RED-S)
A broader, more comprehensive, and gender-inclusive term for what was previously known as the ‘female athlete triad’, RED-S refers to impaired physiological function that includes, but isn’t limited to, many of the aspects listed in the image below. It’s primarily caused by energy deficiency relative to the balance between intake and expenditure required for a person’s health and activities, including and beyond sport.

Learn more about RED-S from Mountjoy et al. (2014) and Statuta, Asif, & Drezner (2017)

Protective factors for athletes

  • Positive, person-oriented coaching style, with emphasis on factors that contribute to personal success rather than body weight, shape and size.
  • Social influence and support from teammates with healthy attitudes towards size and shape.
  • Understand that EDs are complex biopsychosocial problems that are easily glorified, shamed, or misunderstood
  • Unless you’re the dietitian, there’s likely no need for you to comment on the athlete’s food choices. Instead, role model positive eating behaviours when you’re with them. Ditto around “fat talk”
  • Emphasize strength, ability, and overall health – incl. mental health – over thinness
  • Do not discuss other athletes’ weight or shape with your athletes
    • This either encourages social comparison, or makes your athletes wonder what kinds of things you say about them to others – neither are good
  • Lead by example (see below)