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Body Image: Why Active Women Still Struggle

From the Show: Train Your Body
Summary: Are you an active woman still struggling with your body image?
Air Date: 1/6/15
Duration: 10
Host: Melanie Cole, MS
Guest Bio: Michele Olsen
OLSON-HeadShot 13 resizedMichele Olson is a Professor of Exercise Physiology in the Department of Physical Education and Exercise Science at Auburn University Montgomery (AUM). Known internationally as THE Exercise Doctor, since coming to AUM, Dr. Olson has directed numerous research studies resulting in over 90 publications in peer-reviewed professional journals. Areas of research expertise include:

 -Abdominal Exercise and Pilates;
 -Energetics and metabolic responses to: Spinning, Pilates, Kettlebells and Tabata exercise;
 -Body image and Eating Disorders in active women, dancers and athletes;
 -Injury mechanisms with popular fitness activities: Running and Step Aerobics, etc.

Dr. Olson is a Fellow of the American College of Sports Medicine for outstanding service to research and is also an NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist. She heads the NSCA-ERP Exercise Science Program at AUM and well as being the director of the Scharff-Olson Kinesiology Laboratory.
Body Image: Why Active Women Still Struggle
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STAFF WRITER
You are active, eat well, and take care of your health as much as possible, yet you are still unhappy with your body image. This is a common problem many women face, but the struggle to combat this unhappiness and turn it into something positive can be significant.

The Real Definition of Positive Body Image
Michele Olson is a Professor of Exercise Physiology at Auburn University Montgomery, and is known internationally as THE Exercise Doctor. In Olson’s experience, women tend to think of a positive body image meaning a small, fit body, but this is the wrong approach. Instead, realize that aging is a fact of life and there will be physical changes as you mature. Rather than dealing with these changes by attacking them and trying to stop aging, look for more viable solutions.

According to Olson, the key to having a better body image is maintaining a positive attitude and high self-esteem. Instead of looking in the mirror and complaining about those flabby arms, remove that negative talk and don’t scrutinize what you find in the mirror.

In fact, Olson is a huge believer in avoiding mirrors altogether, as it can make you focus too much on the small details. People unhappy with how their body looks tend to check the mirror an average of three or four more times a day, regardless of their weight or age. Many gyms are starting to introduce mirror-free workout areas, which will help you concentrate on what your body is feeling rather than how you look during exercise.

How to Fight Poor Body Image
In today’s society, there is too much focus on exercise as a way to look great and improve your physical appearance, and it’s affecting everyone. Even girls in elementary school struggle with the idea that they can’t control how their bodies look as they age. Olson has several great tips for fighting poor body image:

  • Get rid of the negative talk you might tell yourself.
  • Realize that body image is not just about physical appearance, but also how you perceive your whole bodily system, your overall wellness, and your ability to participate in daily activities without feeling out of shape.
  • Get a brand new pair of shoes that you absolutely love, fit well, and enhance that “feel good” feeling at the gym to motivate you into going more often
  • Fitness clothes isn’t just for thin people: wear clothes you feel comfortable and love wearing.
  • Improve your posture. Sitting and standing straighter will help you feel taller, thinner, and stronger. As an added bonus, blood flow improves with proper posture, helping your body feel better overall.

Perhaps the best way to combat poor body image is by focusing on all of the internal changes that happen during exercise. Allow yourself to take a step back and recognize how you are feeling. After all, how many times have you left the gym after a good workout and suddenly realize that you feel great? Instead of waiting until the end of the workout, you could be feeling that positive energy throughout the entire session.

Alonso is a long-time health and wellness advocate who loves to write about it. His writing spans the scope of blogs, educational magazines, and books, both on and offline.

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