I was surfing the net yesterday and stumbled across an article that stated 80% of 10-year old girls had been on a diet. 80%! Those numbers are staggering, in my opinion (for those who are curious, THIS is the article right here) These numbers got me thinking: are these girls really overweight, or is their body image already that awful? It’s probably a combination of the two considering that childhood obesity is growing exponentially. But that’s another blog for another day. Today I want to talk about body image, especially in how it pertains to women. From a very young age women are inundated with images of extremely slender models in fashion magazines. I used to read “Seventeen” and “Allure” when I was younger, and I very distinctly remember thinking the models were extremely thin. I’ve always been an athlete and a tomboy, so the cocaine-chic look has never been a hit with me. However, the way in which these women are presented and marketed can really affect our self-perceptions, especially when we’re young and malleable. They wear the finest clothes, pose with the hottest men, and seem to be happy, vibrant, rich, and successful. What kind of message does that send? It tells girls that in order to have all of that and a bag of chips that you have to look like the model in the picture. So, impressionable young girls who are trying so desperately to fit in and to be accepted by their peers will try to do whatever they can to look like the model. If they wear the right clothes and makeup, go and spend $200 on a blowout, and weigh 100 pounds and wear a size 2, they will finally be loved by all and be happy…………right? To add insult to injury, middle school and high school are extremely difficult, socially. My high school was full of hateful, nasty girls who loved to cut others down and to make fun of people who weren’t pretty and popular. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t hurt that I didn’t run with the cool kids in high school. I sometimes felt like a social outcast, but I was too focused on my athletic and academic efforts to waste much energy on it. And I’m glad I didn’t, because I would’ve been miserable. Now, most of those girls are still living in my hometown with their parents, so…………I win! I am already dreading the fact that I’ll have to deal with this self-image issue if I have a daughter. No matter how many times you tell a girl she’s beautiful, it doesn’t make a difference. If she doesn’t feel it and own it for herself, your words will fall on deaf ears. So how do we cut through the media BS and the hateful kids and let our daughters and our friends know that they’re beautiful and successful no matter what they look like? This is the age old question, indeed. There is some science behind what you look like: your body type (endomorph, ectomorph, mesomorph) and your metabolic set point are major factors that determine what you will ultimately look like. You can only fight those things for so long. That’s not to say that you can’t or won’t lose weight, because you can and you will if you do the right things. But my point is, you have to accept and love what you’ve been given. I’ll use myself as an example here. I played soccer for 18 years – 18 years of sprinting and strength work on my legs has developed them……..a lot. They’re big. I constantly have to buy jeans that fit my quads and then get the waist taken in. And I am sometimes self-conscious in a bikini because I can feel my thighs jiggling. But, you know what? My legs are awesome. They’re powerful and strong, they’re sleek, and they’ll stomp on anyone who gets in their way. They make me run fast, they help me go deep and put up a lot of weight when I squat, and they help me get up considerable weight in my Oly lifts. And my boyfriend tells me he likes my “wheels,” which means more to me than he’ll ever know. So, as self-conscious as I am about them sometimes, I do appreciate them for what they are: a part of me. And this isn’t some sort of “rah-rah” article. I’m serious. Love your body. Take the part of you that you dislike the most and write down (yes, physically write down) 3 things that you love about it. Understand that these body parts are what make you YOU and accept that you can change them only so much. Super clean eating and metabolic conditioning will get you into amazeballs shape, no doubt, but after that work is done, the body you see is the body you’ll keep as long as you keep on the right track with your training and nutrition. The rest is left up to genetics, so don’t sweat it! Beth is a former NPC and OCB Figure competitor who has recently decided to trade in her heels for a pair of Inov-8s. Beth is now actively pursuing CrossFit and loves feeling like a true athlete again. Beth spends most of her free time working on her Oly lifts at CrossFit Durham, playing with her dog, and cooking with her boyfriend, who thinks he could win every episode of Chopped.