Me, you and body image

So we’re in a strange time. 20 years ago you’d compare yourself to some friends, or maybe a couple of family members.

But now? Oh just a few thousand people you’ve never met from around the globe. (Who live on your phone and use filters and photoshop galore)

Is that good for us? Depends…

I mean comparison usually sucks, but if it motivates you to level up, it might be good.

In Uni I studied things like bigorexia, female perception of body image, bodybuilders and sports people, and looked at the mindsets of these groups and their body image.

So what is body image?

Aka how a person actually looks, thinks they look, thinks they are perceived by others and is actually perceived by others, and this depends a lot on body composition. That’s the amount of fat mass and muscle mass and their ratio to each other, which is better than using the scales or BMI.

Now health markers plus aesthetic goals are very much linked, as to get leaner you need healthier foods, less calories, better sleep, more movement and will generally change some lifestyle factors for the better in order to drop some fat mass.

The amount of people that are overweight/obese and don’t realise is concerning.

Lets discuss the science.

A high calorie diet causes fat cells to act as if under pathogenic attack, and obesity actually makes fat cells act like they’re infected. Visceral fat, which is the fat around the organs and midsection, when increased, stops the heart beating as fully. This is bad.

As the fat cells become larger, your blood supply is compromised. This results in reduced oxygen delivery and cell death. When this happens, a type of immune cell called macrophage is produced causing additional inflammation. There are 17 hormones that can be produced by white fat cells, 15 of them produce inflammation. (This also sucks)

So you can see that if your body fat increases, you get more toxicity.

Obesity rates have nearly tripled since 1975 and have increased almost five times in children. If everyone is getting bigger, then it looks more normal walking down the street, another reason people don’t think they’re overweight or obese, and why body image is now becoming a weird topic.

If the Internet Warriors and PC brigade are correct, then you can say someone is thin but you can’t mention the F word if someone is F.

But body composition is a huge health marker. It’s not an opinion, it is what it is.

If I tell a client they have a bodyfat percentage of 35% and they’re in the obese range, it’s not my opinion, I’m not trying to persuade them of anything or make them feel sad. It’s just a fact. If a fact offends someone, then the way they are actually bothers them. They might actually be unhappy and want help to change. (Probably why they’re sat in front of me having a consultation)

I cant get offended when someone sees me walk in a room at 6’3’’ and says “Hey you’re tall”, which still happens.

Body image in todays society? Well it’s a mess isn’t it?

Remember it’s how we see ourselves physically and how we think others see us.

Someone might be unhappy with the way they look, but use filters and apps before posting to Instagram so they make their waist smaller, bum and boobs bigger, thighs trimmer, because they think that’s what others want to see and will be happier with that version. And yes the guys are just as bad.

I’ve trained both obese clients before and I’ve also trained models who were very lean.

The obese clients? As I mentioned above, there’s a lot of negative health consequences with that.

The models? One was actually told to lose more fat because her fingers were too thick! It can be crazy out there.

In 2018 Cosmopolitan magazine was criticized for ‘promoting obesity’ with clinically obese Plus-size model Tess Holliday’s cover shoot which had her at 5ft 5in and 300lbs, the heaviest she’d been. So society went from demonizing the lean people, to promoting the obese, yet they’re both extremes and neither is great from a health standpoint.

If you’re happy and not hurting others, do anything you like and look how you want. Happiness is key in my book.

But telling everyone to love their bodies just as they are, when they’re not happy with the way they look dismisses their feelings, lacks empathy, and limits their goals. That’s what I hate.

So body image is one thing, but our language to ourselves and others is equally important. Everyone has an image in their mind that they want to look like, it depends what they’re willing to do to achieve that goal. Yes everybody should be happy with the way they look and be confident, but that doesn’t mean you have to remain the same.

People should look however they want to, that’s their choice. But it’s definitely the job of fitness professionals to highlight health risks if that person sways to either extreme of body composition.

Maybe deleting a few obvious photoshopped people off your social media might be a good thing for your head, but mainly surround yourself in person and via the internet with people that lift you up, want you to improve in whatever area, and encourage you to be your best you, in body and mind.

Ultimately be happy with yourself and how you look, just don’t fake it because someone else says you’re not ok. You know what you want, so go for your own goal and make it happen.




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