My Coach Wanted Me To Share a Breadstick! - Body Image Struggles of a Female Athlete

May 01, 2023

My Coach Wanted Me To Share a Breadstick! - Body Image Struggles of a Female Athlete


Female athletes, like all women, may struggle at some point in their career with body image issues, particularly in sports where there is a strong emphasis on appearance or weight. Body image issues can range from underfueling to negative self talk all the way to the extreme of having an eating disorder. Volleyball players, gymnasts, swimmers, and runners are especially vulnerable due to the exposed tight fitting uniform they wear coupled with the extreme pressure to perform. 💪🏼 🤯


I struggled so much in college wearing spandex, feeling exposed and praying that the gym lights would not expose my cellulite or make me look terrible. 😫Many female athletes have anxiety about how they look and how they are being judged by what they look like while competing. In an interview with CNN, Olympian Simone Biles brought up that she was teased by boys at her school for being muscular. “I think in the gymnastics world, it is your body figure because you get a little bit shy about your body because you are very muscular,” Biles told CNN when asked what was the biggest personal challenge she has had to overcome. This especially rings  true when looking at photos or videos of our performance. What a wild thing to focus on instead of your performance huh? 


My college coach used to always tell us to “look good, feel good, play good”, and he was convinced that his controlling food rules  were ‘helpful’ for us ‘looking good.’ I remember at pre-game meals going to a restaurant, sitting 5 girls at a table and him telling us that we were allowed to share 1 breadstick between 2 of us. It was awful.😞


His controlling behavior impacted many girls' relationship to food and their body which led to a long history of disordered eating for many of us. There are so many female athletes who struggle with disordered eating habits, depression, and anxiety, which can have a significant impact on performance and overall well-being. Many female athletes also struggle with other people's perceptions (media included) of how our bodies ‘SHOULD’ look. I have a friend who was constantly doubted, questioned, and underestimated in college as well as in her professional career all because of her body type, but she is a phenomenal volleyball player. 🏐 


Because she didn’t ‘fit the volleyball player mold’, she had to work so hard to prove that she could play to coaches, teammates, fans, etc. Oftentimes female athletes are put in a box and feel SO stuck in that box and have a hard time accepting their bodies if they don’t fit in that damn box. Thank god my friend was literally the most confident person in America and enjoyed proving people wrong about her abilities, but constantly being doubted and not feeling accepted still weighed on her mentally and emotionally. 🧠


                                         Other common FEARS associated with body image 



  • How our bodies will change if we get injured or sidelined…🚩


 When we get injured, our emotional brain takes over and our negative self-talk will definitely take the front seat if we let it. Many female athletes have fearful thoughts of how their body might change as a result of the injury. This may include fear of gaining weight due to a change in workouts or fear of losing muscle and losing strength, energy and fitness. 



  • How our body will change or transition when we move away from our sport…


For many high performing female athletes, having a structured workout routine and/or schedule is a big part of our identity. We get used to how our bodies look and feel when we have our workout routines or compete at a certain level. But what happens if you graduate from High School, college, or just decide that you don’t want to compete at that level anymore? Our minds can negatively focus on how our body will look and change and bring us stress and anxiety about our body image. 😆



  • How our relationship with our body and ourselves will change when we are thinking about having kids, have kids or can’t have kids…


The thought of having kids maybe even will bring some female athletes some anxiety if they are not ready to have a child and don’t want to even think about what that would mean for them, their body and their sport. I spent from 18-29 years old SO focused on my college and pro career and wasn’t in a place to even entertain having kids and didn’t really even want them because I was so scared of how my body would change. My body has looked a certain way and been in such great shape for so many years, I was worried about gaining weight, not being able to lose the weight and my body never looking the same. Now that I am 37, and have been trying to have kids for the last 4 years, my body image has shifted even more. Struggling with infertility can really mess with your belief system in what your body ‘should’ be capable of doing. There is anger, anxiety, frustration and resentment towards your body for not being able to ‘perform’. If you’re a high performing female, you may even feel like your body has turned against you. Infertility issues most definitely impact your relationship to your body, yourself, and the world around you.




  • You’re not alone. SO many high performing females are/have been RIGHT where you are right now. Remind yourself that your relationship to body changes everyday due to SO many factors! Where you are in your cycle/hormones, the food you’re eating or not eating, stability in your relationships, etc.


  • Give yourself permission to go through a wave of different emotions when necessary. MOVE THROUGH the emotions and thoughts, don’t shut them out.



  • Start a gratitude practice toward your body. START SMALL:

         “Thank you legs for carrying me all the places I had to go today” 🙏🏼

         “Today I’m grateful for my earlobes” 👂🏼


  • If you or a friend is struggling with an eating disorder please reach out for support. You are not alone and you deserve to be supported ♡


  • Make an appointment with your OBGYN, naturopath or fertility specialist to get bloodwork and comprehensive hormone panels done! Proactive vs reactive for the win!

                    Until next time! Be well & Stay mindful 🌿



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