Olympic Bodies: One Size Fits All? (Part One)


The Summer Olympics are ON!

How do you spend your summer nights every four years when that familiar Olympic music starts filling up your living room? Do you stay up late? Plan your afternoon around a specific event or game? Do you admire the amazing athleticism? Cheer and clap as if they can hear you?

As a kid, if you asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would say: “I want to be in the Olympics”.  

So I watched them, year after year. The problem was, I wasn’t watching them with admiration and joy, I was watching with a critical eye.  Critical about myself. Critical about the fact that I wasn’t good enough, I couldn’t work hard enough, I didn’t have enough drive, and I certainly wasn’t thin enough.  

I  would bash and beat myself up because my body didn’t look like any of the athletes.

This Was the Start of My Own Comparison to Others

Not only did I compare myself to the Olympic athletes, noticing their perfect bodies, I compared myself to my teammates, my friends and strangers at the gym.    

I knew that I would never be able to look as good as any of them. I lacked the discipline, the willpower, strength and determination to be anything but plain old Anne.  

I wasn’t good enough.

Turns out that many Olympians actually feel the same way about their bodies. They comparing themselves to their competitors, feeling not good enough.  

Body Shaming in the Olympics

Trampoline Gymnast Rosie MacLennon stated, ”I remember warming up and looking at the other athletes, and looking at myself and feeling uncomfortable.”

All she could think about was how out of place she felt next to her smaller and thinner competitors, not about the competition at all.

It is no wonder, because the bodies of Olympic athletes get judged on how they look, as if one size fits all. Over the years we have heard comments about how the athletes look rather than how they perform Just this year we’ve heard

  • “She is built like a fire hydrant.”
  • “She has the body of two gymnasts put together.”
  • “ A diet before the Olympics would have been nice.”

I always thought the Olympics were about performance, not how you looked…

Body bashing from the sports commentators and the public DOWN-sizes the athletes hard work, dedication, accomplishment and performance, and PLUS-sizes physical traits that have a lot to do with natural genetics.  

These traits make them special and unique to the sport they compete in. (The powerful thighs, the strong glutes, the broad shoulders, the long legs.)

Did you know that many professional athletes and Olympians develop eating disorders as a result of their own body image issues? Or due to pressure from coaches? Or due to pressure from family and friends?

Just to name a few:

  • Gymnasts Cathy Rigby, Christy Henrich, Kathy Johnson and Nadia Comaneci
  • Swimmers Amanda Beard, Dagny Knutsen and Misty Hyman
  • Divers Brittney Viola and Megan Neyer
  • Ice skaters Nancy Kerrigan and Jamie Sliverstien

Eating disorders have taken some of these amazing athletes away from their sport completely.

When do we say enough is enough?

When do we start valuing our athletes on their talent, their hard work, determination and performance, not on the “LOOK” of their bodies? Not on the size of their thighs or how much they weigh?

Thinner Doesn’t Mean Better, Faster or Stronger

The strive for thinness as written by Stephen King in the book (and movie), “Thinner”:

“Actually this is Horrific. Girls and Women pausing life, counting calories and points, exercising obsessively, obsessing over food, pinching waists and thighs, comparing themselves to others, judging their bodies and avoiding activities they love because the number on the scale is too high.”

Isn’t it time to call a truce?

Tune into my next blog, where we take this horrific madness and start to make sense of it.  

We face this comparison, negative body image and obsession over weight every day here at Green Mountain. We know that one size does not fit all. I will share with you what we do.

2 responses to “Olympic Bodies: One Size Fits All? (Part One)”

  1. Beverly says:

    Great post. It is a shame that looks are commented on when all the athletes are amazing to compete and get to that level. Kudos to them and shame on the people that don’t recognize that.

    • Anne Poirier, BS, CSCS, AFAA says:

      Thanks Beverly, I wholeheartedly agree. I love to see the athletes recognizing what thier bodies can do, and are speaking up for themselves and their sport as well. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

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About the Author

Anne Poirier, BS, CSCS, CIEC

Former Program Director at Green Mountain | Program Director at Shaping Perspectives - A Woman’s Way to Joy

By sharing experiences and lessons learned through her writing, Anne’s goal is to first, help women finally feel free enough to break away from their dieting chains and learn how to listen and honor their body’s internal cues. Second, to discover and experience more joy in moving their bodies and finally, understand the importance of taking time for themselves. Her philosophy of strengthening the connections among participants’ minds, hearts and bodies fits perfectly with Green Mountain’s philosophy of lasting change through comprehensive, integrative health programming. Anne is the Program Director at Shaping Perspectives - A Woman’s Way to Joy and former Program Director at Green Mountain at Fox Run.

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