How to Overcome Body Image and Be a Better Runner
You don’t know me, but I’m writing so that your teenage daughter won’t fall victim to a running injury. You will get information that will help her understand how to overcome body image and be a better runner.
Want to Learn More?
Well, let’s take a step back first. Remember when your princess was an adorable little thing that always ran to you for a hug? You held so close that you could still smell the milk and Cheerious that she had that morning for breakfast.
She could move fast and agile enough to keep up with the “greatest dog in the universe’’.
And maybe like most little girls she did her own dance. Maybe it was not smooth like silk blowing in the wind. But hey, she was your ballerina and you were proud of her. Once more, she did all that oblivious to her Baby Fat.
“Munchies, munchies, munchies, want some . I’m hungry”, she might say.
You gladly gave her some milk and animal crackers. She chewed them up with gusto, Yap even the dinosaur was crunched and swallowed.
came in all kinds of shape. Tony was big and strong, Captain a little on the chubby side. How did she relate to them? Well, like I said, they were probably her friends and they made her feel good about herself.
When She Got Older, Things Started to Change
For one thing, she started paying more attention to her baby fat. Well, maybe not so much her. Maybe the world she was growing up in was too obsessed with body aesthetics.
An article in the Journal of Exercise Physiology states:
“The concern is a result of the imposition by the media of a stereotyped body image that corresponds to an unreal appearance of thinness”.
In short, How teenagers perceive their appearance, including their body image, can have significant impact on health and wellness.
This is called Body Image Dissatisfaction (BID), which is the the negative evaluations of one’s physical body, shape and weight 
Remember when your angel accompanied you to the supermarket? Maybe she became giddy and her eyes lit up as she saw Tony The Tiger or another cereal buddy. You didn’t mind because it was a fun experience for her. It was all smiles and sweetness—literally.
“Mommy want some of my cereal,” she may have asked the next morning. “Sure”. It was a bit too sweet for you but maybe you tried not to make a funny face or maybe you did.
Hey, your kid was having fun being a kid. It was all good.
But as she got older, things maybe changed. She perhaps became familiar with something called upward comparison. This is the concept that people compare themselves with someone who is perceived better at things that their culture deem important. So for example, when a teenager or young lady sees an ad that emphasizes physical attractiveness, she may compare herself with the models in the ad. This may lead to low self-esteem and feelings of inferiority .
This social comparison theory was reinforced in a study which compared the role of celebrity involvement in adolescents body image dissatisfaction .
A high number of participants said the following statement was true about them:
“When celebrities I follow on SNS share new photos, I tend to compare my physical appearance to their physical appearance”, and “ I sometimes compare my figure to the figure of celebrities I like when I see new photos they show on SNS.”
Another study, focusing on friends, found a similar result.
It found that:
“Of 600 Facebook users aged 16 to 40, 50?% reported that Facebook content made them more body-conscious; 31?% feeling ?sad? as a result of comparing photos of themselves to those of Facebook friends, and 44?% reported desiring the same body or weight as Facebook friends” 
The Credibility of Facebook
Here is the thing that you as a parent trying to help your sport active, but maybe too thin precious daughter, have to worry about. Facebook may have “street credibility” that conventional mags don’t have.
You see most teens are sophisticated about what they see on a magazine cover. Yes, they may want to look like that super model. However, most instinctively know that the model doesn’t really look like that in real life. There was some “touching up and camera magic “ going on.
However, they are inclined to believe that a picture from their friend is the real deal. So if that friend looks hot in her “skinny jeans” that teen looking at that picture may want to look the same way.
This Can Lead to Drastic Weight Loss
If she decides that running is a good way to keep that weight loss, that’s when big trouble can happen.
You see, if you are underweight the bones and muscles that support your body will steadily lose strength. According to a study in  Medical-Expess.com,
Dr. Timothy Miller, assistant professor of clinical orthopedic surgery and sports medicine talks about something that I have covered intensively in other posts– the impact of pounding when a foot strikes the ground.
Miller says “ runners endure repetitive pounding on hard surfaces and, without enough lean muscle mass for dissipation of impact forces, the bones of the legs are vulnerable.”
He further states:
“When body mass index is very low and muscle mass is depleted, there is nowhere for the shock of running to be absorbed other than directly into the bones. Until some muscle mass is developed and BMI is optimized, runners remain at increased risk of developing a stress fracture,”.
In short, your daughter’s low weight can lead to a stress fracture that takes a longer time, according to Miller, to heal than if it were someone with more body mass.
From the time you saw that giddy girl introduce you to her cereal friends, you thought she was a hoot. The last thing on her mind was worrying about what she looked like. And she sure didn’t worry about snacking too much.
Munchies, more munchies, puff, crunchy, sweet, gummy things is what she wanted.
Body image—what’s that? Oh yeah, it felt good for your little girl to just be a healthy kid. And all that moving, sometimes annoying when you wanted her to stay still, did her a lot of good.
Now perhaps things have changed. She is all grown and has become, through no fault of yours, more focused on body image. As a parent you can help by being more aware of body shaming language prevalent in conventional and social media. You can talk to her and help her develop a positive image of herself.
You can also consult fitness experts that may suggest a strength training and diet program that will add weight but also make her feel good about herself.
It’s also possible that your daughter is fine with no body image or self esteem issues. In that case, get her a new pair of shoes every six months or so and just let her run to great health. If ,however, you have noticed or eventually notice some red flags as a result of reading this post, you’ll be more ready to take action that will help her. Feel free to leave any comments about your views on body image.
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1. journal of Exercise Physiology online 20.2 Body image and eating disorders in female athletes of different sports (Apr. 2017) : pA1.
2. Schilder P. The image and appearance of the human body. Oxford: Kegan Paul; 2013.
3. Cash TF, Pruzinsky TE.Body images: Development, deviance, and change. New York: Guilford Press; 1990.
4. Menzel JE, Krawczyk R, Thompson JK. Attitudinal assessment of body image for adolescents and adults. In: Cash TF, Smolak L, editors. Body image: A handbook of science, practice, and prevention. New York: Guilford Press; 2011. p. 3-11.
5.Journal of Eating Disorders. Comparative effects of Facebook and conventional
media on body image dissatisfaction. 3 (July 2, 2015): p23.
6. Social Network Sites, Friends, and Celebrities: The Roles of Social Comparison and Celebrity Involvement in Adolescents Body Image Dissatisfaction. Available from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication
7. [http://eatingdisorder.org/blog/2012/03body-image/-friend-or-foe-how-is-facebook] Clemmer K. Body Image friend or foe? How is facebook affecting the way you feel about your body? The Center for Eating Disorders Blog; 2012. Retrieved from: <url>http://eatingdisorder.org/blog/2012/03/ body-image-friend-or-foe-how-is-facebook</url>- affectingthe-way-you-feel-about-your-body/.