An increasing number of fitness professionals, including personal trainers, nutritionists and sponsored athletes are starting to display worrying trends when it comes to their attitudes towards food. Many are suffering from food aversion and dietary obsession, including starving, purging and binging, as well as introversion and the withdrawal from social situations where food consumption may play a role.
One of the key contributing factors to the onset of eating pathology and mental health disorders is the individuals’ dissatisfaction with the perception of their own body.
Clinical research has shown that the drivers which contribute towards our body image perception are: peer appearance, conversations and criticism, internalisation of appearance ideals, and our own height and weight[ii].
In the fitness industry we are bombarded with images of scantily clad, muscular competitors from both male and female gender every time we turn on our computers or our phones. Pictures, videos, snap chats, instagram, twitter feeds and facebook news bulletins are all bristling with toned, tanned and tight, photo-shopped depictions of the people that we are all striving to be. Or even worse, pictures of ourselves in stage condition when the current us is 5kg over that weight, feeling like a shadow of our former ‘perfect’ self.
Recent studies highlighted that the majority of research into disordered eating has centred on the drive for thinness, which is most commonly observed in girls and women[iii], so have we as a society inadvertently pigeonholed eating disorders as only being applicable if the subject looks like they are about to die?
Studies into normal anorexia sufferers found that the influence of the media portrayal of idealized mainstream female bodies in women's fashion magazines found that women overestimated their own perceived “fatness” further after they had seen pictures of runway models, as opposed to when they saw photographs of neutral objects[iv].
However, if it was the case that runway model images invoked an emotional response in fitness athletes, then these athletes would be motivated by the drive for thinness not the drive for muscularity?
A study found that social standards dictate that male attractiveness is measured in muscularity, not thinness, and thus those males seeking to attain muscularity and perceiving to have not achieved this aesthetic were far more likely to display disordered eating and signs of depression[v].
It is therefore the likely and probable result of the public and social swing in female idealism, shifting from runway-model thin to an almost impossible image of healthy, lean and shredded female muscularity that has played a part in the rise of a new sort of fitness related eating disorder, created by images of our fitness peers.
There is also a subtle but crucial differentiation which has been identified between bodyweight dissatisfaction and muscularity dissatisfaction. Muscularity dissatisfaction has been found to be more prevalent among men who frequently engage in muscle-building or fitness related conversations and when the bodyfat percentage is lower. Females or males with a higher bodyfat % reading are less likely to be dissatisfied with their musculature and are more likely to be concerned with bodyweight and bodyfat issues[vi].
Interestingly what we may find is that as bodyweight drops through disordered eating or purging; competitors will shift from bodyweight dissatisfaction to muscular size dissatisfaction and back again as they bulk to attempt to gain muscle.
Strangely, most female fitness competitors all display a desire to be bigger, more muscular and more defined – this is in stark contrast to medical research into classic eating disorders – for example in a study by Silberstein et al, they found that only 4.4% of the women they studied wanted to become bigger compared with 46.8% of the men.
This suggests that female fitness competitors are more likely to have disordered eating that relates to their bodyfat but that allows for the retention of muscle – this is backed up by studies showing that those who exercise with weights or in bodybuilding are a subpopulation at greatly increased risk of developing eating disorders[vii].
Overall the competitive fitness population seems to be overly concerned with food, overly concerned with weight, body fat and muscularity and is a western phenomena perpetuated by the pursuit of the perfect body – the fitness societies and federations encourage and reward the pursuit of the perfect body because it is an ideal that symbolizes the attainment of numerous personal virtues and achievements.
To summarise: Are fitness competitors becoming the unrecognised victims of wide-spread disordered eating and depression caused by body dissatisfaction?
Written by: Georgia B Simmons
REFERENCES: [i] Journal of Youth and Adolescence January 2011, Volume 40, Issue 1, pp 59-71, ‘Body Dissatisfaction Among Adolescent Boys and Girls: The Effects of Body Mass, Peer Appearance Culture and Internalization of Appearance Ideals’, Margaret Lawler, Elizabeth Nixon [ii] Margaret Lawler, Elizabeth Nixon [iii] Journal of American College Health, Volume 48, Issue 6, 2000 , ‘An Exploration of the Drive for Muscularity in Adolescent Boys and Girls’, Donald R. McCreary PhD & Doris K. Sasse PhD [iv] The British Journal of Psychiatry (1993) 162: 837-840, ‘Media influences on body size estimation in anorexia and bulimia. An experimental study’, K Hamilton , G Waller [v] Donald R. McCreary PhD & Doris K. Sasse PhD [vi] Journal of Youth and Adolescence, December 2005, Volume 34, Issue 6, pp 629-636, ‘Adolescent Boys and Body Image: Weight and Muscularity Concerns as Dual Pathways to Body Dissatisfaction’, Diane Carlson Jones, Joy K. Crawford [vii] Franco et al (1988) [viii] Brownell, K. D. (1991). Dieting and the search for the perfect body: Where physiology and culture collide. Behaviour Therapy, 22, 1–12.
I have always been into fitness and sport since I was a young girl, starting off with dancing and then continuing on to do pretty much all sports possible. When I left high school I was introduced to weights by a friend and since then I have not stopped! I love training and everything about training, and couldn’t ever imagine a life not doing it.
My main motivation comes from within – The desire to keep moving forward and to continue to improve my physique and my fitness. On top of all this my fans and clients continually motivate me to push the limits and I couldn’t be more grateful. The kind messages and thoughts that people share about me are a constant reminder to keep living a fit and healthy lifestyle and to keep empowering others.
My preferred form of cardio is H.I.I.T. It is an exercise approach alternating periods of short intense anaerobic exercise with less-intense recovery periods. I do this method using the treadmill, the rower, skipping ropes, kettlebells, sleds or battle ropes.
To be honest my absolute favourite thing is ice cream. So the best healthy recipe for me is making my protein shakes in my magic bullet with HEAPS of ICE and it turns into a thick shake AKA ice cream ;)
As my time is very limited my sponsor 'My Muscle Chef' makes sure that all my food is prepped and exactly what I require. I eat 6 – 7 meals per day which consist of 4-5 main meals with lean meats, complex carbs, good fats, veggies and 1 – 2 Optimum Nutrition Protein Shakes.
I schedule a cheat meal every week. Usually on a weekend I will have one night when I am relaxed where I will eat a dinner and a dessert. This rewards me for a hard week of training and then motivates me for another week ahead.
Yes, music is a must for me!!! I listen to a lot of different albums, from Drake, Chris Brown, Dj Snake, the list goes on! Sound cloud is my best friend!
My training routine is never the same. In saying that yes I have structure and records of what weights I lift but I am constantly reprogramming my training, depending on if I’m in my strength phase, hypertrophy phase or endurance phases. Plus simple things such as mixing up an exercise from using a dumbbell, barbell, machine or cables.
At the moment my current plan is:
Saturday: Full Body cross training session
Sunday: Rest day
Yes absolutely. I believe setting short-term and long-term goals are very important! At the beginning of every year I reflect upon the year that passed and what goals I achieved. I then always set short-term and long-term goals for the year ahead and make a plan of action with the steps I need to make to move forward to achieve those goals.
I believe EVERYONE has their OWN obstacles and setback towards achieving their goal physique, whether it’s a physical injury, or even an emotional setback. It’s the process we take to overcome these setbacks that make overcoming them that much more rewarding.
I measure my progress every way possible, yes I weigh myself and I get the occasional dexa scan to get an understanding on what is happening with my body composition. But the best for me is the mirror and the way my clothes fit my body. Scales can’t tell you if you have lost water, fat, or muscle. Clothes and the mirror usually will. I also like to measure my performance, both cardiovascular and strength wise. It is so important to have performance goals off comp season to give you goals between comp preps. Remember it’s not all about how you look, it’s also about how you FEEL!
Paige Hathaway and Amber Dawn Orton.
Age: 24 years old (1990)
Optimum Nutrition – My Muscle Chef – Gripped Fitness – Greenteax50 - Core 150 – Lift Watches
A quick and easy video recipe for Quest Style Bar Recipe – Cinnamon Roll
Simon’s Channel: www.youtube.com/user/thedietkitchen
About 8 years ago when I swapped starvation and cardio for healthy meals and weight training.
I don’t believe everyone hops out of bed every morning rearing to go, and I'm the same in the sense that I have great days and not so great days, but training has become such a part of my routine I do it without a second thought and at times when I am less motivated and under pressure in other areas of my life, I’ve learned that an hour in the gym is like an hour of meditation for me so then it becomes more of a question of discipline that motivation.
I’m not a fan of cardio in the traditional sense. Metabolic training works best and I really enjoy pushing myself through these types of workouts; sprints, battle ropes, tyre flips and sled work to name a few of my favourites!
I don’t have one favourite recipe. I eat fresh, natural food and I like to keep it pretty simple which also makes it easy to prepare food and by adding one or two different herbs or spices, I can change up the flavours enough to keep it interesting.
High protein, good fats and carbohydrates, which I cycle. I’ve found that eating smaller meals more regularly works best for me and this is what an average day looks like;
I rarely have cravings, probably because I don’t feel that the way I eat is restrictive and I actually enjoy the food that I do eat, so psychologically I think that has a different effect. If I really am craving something, I’ll usually have it but I also choose things like red wine and dark chocolate so it's not all bad. I have been known to eat the odd tub of homemade ice-cream too just probably not while prepping for a show!
Pull-ups, Deadlifts, Squats – big movements that utilise your whole body mean these 3 exercise give great returns for the time invested.
Always… My favourites right now are Queens of the Stone Age, Brand New and Being as an Ocean.
Sure, I think it’s important to set goals both short term, so that you can celebrate the small wins and stay motivated and long term, so that you're always moving forward. Currently my goals are business related as we look to grow the gym and make some changes.
My South Africa records achieved in drug free powerlifting, my first figure show which I placed 1st in an opening in a gym in Cape Town, Progressive Edge Performance.
I was fortunate enough to never really struggle with injuries until recently, when I developed tendonitis in both my elbows. It meant taking it easier than usual, which has been frustrating but not all negative; with a growing business it has allowed me to focus on different things. Unfortunately it’s also the reason I decided not to compete this year, but who knows what next year holds.
Truthfully, I’ve used all 3, with body fat measurements being my primary tool because it allows me to be more specific. When it comes to competing at figure, the only one that really matters is the mirror and for powerlifting, it's performance.
I take my inspiration from outside of the fitness world for the most part; there are so many incredible women who’s main goal is performance and they look amazing.
My basics are quite simple; fish oil, zinc, magnesium and D3. Anything else I use changes based on what’s going on with my training.
Give up on the idea that there is a masculine and feminine way to achieving results in the weight room. Be prepared to get your hands dirty and lift heavy. Start eating healthy, natural food sources and avoid the mentality that if you cut out one thing (like sugar) it needs to be replaced (with sweeteners).
Year of birth: 1980 Weight: 138lbs Height: 5’5"
In September of 2012, my daughter was almost one year old and I realized that I was in the worst shape of my life. I wasn’t eating well. I wasn’t exercising. My weight was the most it had ever been. My energy was poor. The only clothes I could fit into were my maternity clothes. At one year postpartum, all I wanted to do was fit back into my clothes. I was working full-time as a Pediatric ER/ICU nurse and busy being a mom when I wasn’t working. I knew that I needed to make a change. A BIG change. I hired a local trainer who I knew of through Facebook. He gave me a diet plan that consisted of 5 meals a day, high protein, only good carbs and good fats. I cut out sugar, white flour, and processed foods. I also began drinking a gallon of water a day. The trainer also created a workout plan for me that included weight lifting 5 days a week, split into different muscle groups. And cardio 4 days a week. I began this plan with the goal of losing between 10-15 lbs and wanting to be in the best shape of my life as a 27 year old mom. The results I began to see were amazing. My body responded SO well to these changes in my lifestyle. By 3 weeks I could see a huge difference in my weekly progress pictures. By 5 weeks it was noticeable to everyone around me. My energy dramatically improved. My motivation skyrocketed. I had never been so excited about eating healthy and exercising regularly before. Seeing such amazing changes propelled me. The depression that I had battled since I was 11 years old was now non-existent even without medication. I literally had never felt happier. I became interested in trying to compete in a fitness competition as a goal to help me get into the best shape of my life. It seemed like a cool “bucket list” thing to do. I had no idea it would lead me to where it has today. 7 weeks away from my first NPC Bikini competition, I switched trainers to someone with more expertise in contest preparation, Shane Heugly of Team Heugly. With some changes to my diet and training style, my physique continued to improve dramatically. 6 months after my first day of training and eating a healthy diet, I stepped on stage at the local NPC competition in Utah and placed top 5 in all 3 categories I competed in. Two weeks later, I took first in my class in Denver, Colorado. I was hooked. I went on to compete in 3 National shows that year and earned my IFBB Pro Card at my 5th ever Bikini competition, at NPC Nationals in Fort Lauderdale, Florida in November 2013 (just over 1 year since changing my lifestyle and only 8 months of competing).
My own progress greatly motivates me. I set goals for myself and then work very hard to reach them. Since living this lifestyle, I have become more ambitious and productive than I have ever been in my whole life. There is nothing like seeing the actual change that I am able to create with my own hard work.
I love the stair-master and stationary bike. I used to only do HIIT for short periods of time. But have lately been experimenting with fasted steady state cardio.
I love to make a healthy Turkey Chilli. I also love to make protein pancakes.
I eat a high protein diet, including a lot of chicken, turkey, and eggs. I choose to eat whole grains and fruit as my carb sources. And nuts or nut butters as my fat sources. I eat a TON of green vegetables!
A lot of my cravings can be dealt with mentally. If I’m bored, I notice that I feel more “hungry”. And the more I think about junk food, the more I want it. So I make a point to keep my thoughts on track as much as possible. However, I have found many alternatives for junk when I’m wanting something sweet or salty. I will make healthy protein cookies or air popped popcorn and fit it into my diet as I am able. That way I can satisfy my craving for these foods without ruining my diet.
Squats, straight-legged dead-lift, and shoulder lateral raises. Nothing better than strong legs/glutes and shoulders!
I listen to a mix of fast beat music like Calvin Harris, David Guetta, and Armin van Buuren.
Currently, I have been competing in many IFBB Pro Bikini shows. From May 10-June 14th I competed in 5 IFBB Pro shows. My short term goal was to gain experience on the Pro stage and to improve my physique with each competition. I of course would have liked to place in the top 5 at these shows but I haven’t achieved that yet. I will continue to compete this year with the goal of placing top 5. My long-term goal is to be a current competing IFBB Pro and to inspire others to live a healthy and fit lifestyle while juggling being a mom, wife, and nurse.
I am most proud of the fact that I have not given up or gotten discouraged despite how many different roles I play. Being a full-time RN and mom while competing and travelling a lot has NOT been easy. But it has brought so much happiness to me.
One of my biggest obstacles is how boxy my middle section is. Many other bikini competitors have very small waists. Many of them wear corsets or “squeems” to get that small waisted look. I refuse to use unhealthy methods to get my goal physique, so this has been a great challenge for me. At the same time, I am continually trying to build my glutes to be as competitive on stage as possible.
My coach and I measure my progress by how I look. I send him progress pictures often. I do personally weigh myself to notice my trends in fat and water gains/loss, but I do not let that determine what I eat or how I train. It’s all visual.
I personally use the NLA for Her Ultimate Stack for Her. It contains a Whey Isolate Protein powder, an all natural thermogenic Fat Burner, a pre-workout, BCAAs recovery drink, and an Omegas supplement. I absolutely love the stack and have had great results with it. I also take a multi-vitamin and CLA.
Eat plenty of protein, drink at least a gallon of water a day, and LIFT HEAVY!
Amy Suzanne Updike
Year of birth: 1985. Weight: 108lbs. Height: 5’1"
Tri set - 4 x 12 reps each
- Preacher curl with EZ curl bar
- Standing barbell curl with EZ bar
- Dumbbell curl
Tri Set - 4 x 12 reps each
- Rope push down
- Rope overhead tricep extensions
- Tricep dips to failure
If you toss and turn all night, wake up groggy, and aren't getting the results you want in the weight room, then make some positive changes at home. Get to bed!
We all know the feeling after waking from a long, deep sleep. We're rested, relaxed, and feel like a million bucks.
But for too many folks, this feeling is as elusive as a forgotten dream. Their restlessness prevents them from getting the quality rest their body needs for proper physical and mental recovery.
What can you do to ensure adequate quality sleep? It doesn't have to cost money, and might take but a few minutes of your time.
Try these proven methods to prime your body and mind before hitting the sack.
Turn the temperature down in your home and dim the lights or use less light as you prepare for bed.
The lower light and temperature combine to create a relaxing environment and help set off the release of the sleep-promoting hormone melatonin. In contrast, exposure to artificial light suppresses melatonin release and increases alertness.
Turn off the electronics one hour before bed. We're so connected in this day and age that technology has become second nature.
In a survey conducted by the National Sleep Foundation in 2011, more than half of respondents experienced a sleep problem every night.
Of those people, nearly 95 percent watched TV, used their computer, played video games, or were on their cell phone at least a few nights each week in the hour before bed.
Try an evening flow. Wait, flow? Yes. An evening flow—a style of yoga—always seems to help me calm my muscles and mind after a long day. It can be as brief as 10 minutes or as long as an hour. You can find peace and calm while enjoying a series of movements designed to help you sleep.
This suggested flow is designed so you can practice right from your bed. Each pose can be held up to 2 minutes and should incorporate slow, even breathing.
Watch The Video - 06:52
5-move yoga routine for sleep
Breathing—or deep breathing, rather—oxygenates your blood. This simple involuntary act can also be the center of your focus to help calm your body and calm your mind for a restful night's sleep. By making it voluntary, you can enhance your calm and lower a stressed mind.
According to the Sleep Disorders Center from the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC), concentrating on slow, elaborate breathing allows the rest of the body to relax.
UMMC offers the following suggestions to practice your deep breathing technique:
Deep Breathing Technique
Not that kind of nightcap! Consider an evening "mocktail" of BCAAs and glutamine or a ZMA supplement. I know, I know—folks like to pooh-pooh glutamine, but taken on an empty stomach and just before bed, the glutamine alone can hone in on brain and GI function without interrupting the BCAAs path to the muscle for recovery.
An alternative would be ZMA—a natural supplement comprising zinc and magnesium aspartate, which can be found in capsule or powder form. Zinc plays a critical role in cell growth and protein synthesis; magnesium is responsible for bone strength, immunity, and supports a healthy nervous system. A deficiency in either can disrupt sleep.
What to avoid? Alcohol can actually disrupt sleep patterns and make it difficult to resume sleep after waking. Try to also avoid consuming caffeine 2-4 hours before bedtime. Caffeine is a well-known stimulant which can disrupt sleep and remain active in your system hours after consumption.
You can also sip on hot herbal tea. If you're not a fan of the earthy, green tea; try its estranged brother and opt for an herbal tea or herbal blend—decaf of course. The hot beverage increases natural body temperature, which decreases naturally as we sleep. This temperature spike can kickstart a cool-down and lead to a deeper sleep. The herbal notes and smell can help soothe tension and stress. Chamomile is a popular evening tea. No wonder it's called "sleepy time" tea.
Maintain a regular sleep schedule—wake and bed time—even on the weekends. Our circadian rhythm thrives on consistency. Most of us can already relate to the power of consistency in our lives in the weight room, so take that lesson home with you.
A fave relaxation exercise of mine comes from UW Health Sleep Scientist and Psychologist, Dr. Shilagh Mirgain; it's called "progressive muscle relaxation." This can also be a helpful exercise to return to sleep after waking in the middle of the night.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Another mind-fulfillment technique is to simply take a hot bath with Epsom salts or a hot shower. Body temperature naturally dips at night, so, much like sipping on a hot beverage, the hot water from either a shower or bath will not only help soothe sore muscles but also kickstart the body's cool-down process, helping you sleep.
If your imagination runs wild before bed, pick up a good read. Reading a story can help take your mind away from the stressors of the day.
Alternatively, organize your thoughts by writing them down. Journaling can allow you to release stressful thoughts.
This cannot be stressed enough. Give your body enough time to rest and repair. Researchers at the University of Wisconsin found that the brain needs sleep to learn and memorize new skills.
No, this doesn't mean you're going to lose those sweet, new curling skills or forget how to squat. But a balanced nightly sleep window will help preserve and enhance your brain health and overall function over time.
We make time to exercise and eat healthy, as well as manage our stress, but if we do not get a solid eight hours each night, we undermine all these efforts.
Like trying to soothe a crying baby in the middle of the night, supporting or reinforcing bad sleep behavior will only perpetuate the problem. Avoid getting out of bed for that drink of water. Never look at the clock. Creating habits like this reinforces poor sleep. Correct it.
Stay in bed. Turn your clock away from you before falling asleep. Break the cycle. Most people can return to regular sleep after 1-2 weeks with this reverse strategy.
Written By Christine Anne: Twitter
If you have any questions, tips or tricks, write them as comments below.
Incline Barbell Bench Press:
4 sets x 12, 10, 8, 6 reps
Flat Bench Dumbbell Press:
4 sets x 12 reps
Incline Hammer Strength Press ( Alternating arms start with arms extended):
4 sets x 12 reps
Cable crossover supersets with dips:
3 sets x 15 reps dips to failure.