The Body Issue: Athletes share body image struggles

posted in: Fall, Sports | 0

If theres one thing that almost everyone struggles with, it’s body image. Whether it’s women thinking they aren’t thin enough or men thinking they don’t have enough muscle, many students will admit that there’s a part of their body they would want to change.

But for some reason, when people see athletes, they rarely consider the personal issues athletes have to deal with their own body image.

Some Pacific University athletes are not afraid to show students the struggles they face to do the things they love.

All sports require endurance and dedication. For some sports, like wrestling, that dedication comes down to the nearest pound, when making weight is the most vital thing.

“Sometimes it can be easy to be unhealthy and not eat enough calories in order to make weight,” senior Jassa Gunn said. “Fasting and dropping ten pounds in a couple of weeks is not good for my body, I’ve noticed.”
Gunn splits her time between training in competitive Olympic weightlifting and rehearsal for her dance major. In total, she dedicates from 18 to 21 hours a week to both of her disciplines.

Gunn’s thinking is not uncommon for sports that have a focus on making weight.

“Cutting sucks, to be honest,” senior wrestling team member, Joey Norcia said. “Cutting is absolutely terrible. I think the most I’ve lost during wrestling was 12 pounds in a night back in high school. I just stayed up and kept running. It was bad.”

While making weight is hard, keeping the weight is harder. The free time athletes have during off-season can be a toll on body image.

“During the summer you’re alone when you work out, or you’re working all the time, so you don’t get to work out, and you almost feel yourself kind of get bigger,” senior rower Sierra Myers said.

“It’s just the little things. It usually fluctuates between like five or ten pounds. Your appetite goes down as well, but you have to train yourself to not eat as much as you’re used to,” Myers explained.

While not legal, some college wrestlers and even high school wrestlers will go to extreme measurements to make weight.

This can range from running over 20 miles in a day, taking laxatives, wearing layers of sweats in saunas, and even inducing themselves to vomit.

“Every wrestler has an eating disorder,” Norcia said.

“But it’s not like one of those permanent ones. It’s not to the point where it’s an actual mental issue. Do wrestlers have to sometimes make themselves puke? Absolutely. But that’s all for the love for the sport.”

Not only on men’s sports teams, but female athletes, particularly dancers, will struggle with the social stigma of looking feminine versus being muscular.

“I am pressured by that stereotype all the time, actually,” Gunn said. Not from others, just something I’ve
the more I dance just for the sake of the art and athleticism, the less I feel pressured.”

Gunn isn’t the only one that’s overcoming this stigma.

“I feel like with wrestling, It kind of has the opposite effect with the body issue thing,” senior wrestler Bailey Martinez said.

“It kind of normalizes saying your weight, because I feel like a lot of people feel uncomfortable telling people how much they weigh, but with wrestling, everyone knows how much you weigh, so it doesn’t really matter. And you know you’re in really good shape, so why does it matter how much you weight if you know you’re healthy?” said Martinez.

Along with Gunn, senior wrestler Shawn Speer knows the difference between working for strength and working for aesthetics.

“I try really hard to be comfortable with my body,” Speer said “Most of the time, I am, because why should I care what my body looks like? I don’t think anyone is going to treat me differently because I don’t look perfect,” said Speer.

Norcia also stresses that even when it comes to cutting, it’s all about an athlete’s
dedication to the team and themselves.

“When it comes down to it, you’re going to want to make weight more than you’ll want to eat,” Norcia said. “There’s a method to the madness. You have like a purpose, and you know everything is going to be better in a couple more minutes. It’s not the stereotypical eating disorder.”

As for Martinez, she believes that women don’t have to follow the stereotype of what society says a female is supposed to look like.

“I feel like my body type is definitely not like the thin, stick-like, social media type, but I feel like I definitely have a stronger body type, and I’m pretty proud of it.” Martinez said. “I work really hard for it so I don’t think it’s something to be ashamed of.”

Gunn is doing the same thing, in both dance and weightlifting.

There are many negative misconceptions about women who lift and it also can be very intimidating for a woman to even cross the border into the weight room,” Gunn said.

“Being strong is amazing for the function of women’s bodies, not to mention sexy and beautiful.”


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