Do you spend too much time obsessing about your body?
Although you might think you know what you look like, think again. You likely have a distorted view of yourself. Your “fat thighs” might not really be so fat, after all. And your frizzy hair may look nicely curly to someone else. You just don’t know what you don’t know. And does anyone else even notice (or care)? Maybe your relationship with your body is the true problem, and not your body itself?
According to Jessica Setnick RD, many athletes hold distorted images of their bodies. Speaking at the annual conference of the Collegiate and Professional Sports Dietitians Association (CPSDA), Setnick spoke about body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), making us aware of this problem — and that it is often overlooked. If you believe you have body flaws, the following questionnaire can help you figure out if your perceived body flaw (nose is too big; arms are too flabby) might be imagined, not real.
- Are you very concerned about the appearance of some part of your body which you consider to be especially unattractive? If yes, do these concerns preoccupy you? That is, do you think about them a lot and wish you could worry less about them?
- How much time do you spend thinking about your flaw per day, on average: A) Less than 1 hour/day B) 1-3 hours/day C) More than 3 hours/day?
- Is your main concern with your appearance that you aren’t thin enough? —or that you might become fat?
- What effect does your preoccupation with your appearance have on your life: Has your flaw often caused you a lot of distress, torment, or emotional pain? Has your flaw often significantly interfered with your social life?
Assessing your answers:
You likely have BDD if you gave the following answers:
Question 1: Yes to both parts
Question 2: Answer B or C
Question 3: Yes might indicate that BDD is present, but it’s possible that an eating disorder is a more accurate diagnosis.
Question 4: Yes to any of the answers.
What to do
If your quality of life suffers from your perceived body flaw, please don’t struggle on your own. Neither dieting nor exercise will resolve the issue. Rather, you need to address the feelings behind your flawed thoughts. Adding a therapist to your health care team can effectively help you reduce anxiety about your concern.
If you think you might have an eating disorder, the therapist could also help you find peace with food and your body, as could a sports dietitian. To find professional help, use the referral networks at www.NationalEatingDisorder.org and www.SCANdpg.org (for a local sports dietitian) . The goal: to be able to appreciate your body and all it does for you.
For more information, refer to the chapter on body image in Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook.