Respecting Your Body as an Athlete

respecting your body as an athlete

The 8th principle of intuitive eating is all about respecting your body. Respecting your body does not mean that you have to love everything about yourself, but rather that you accept the genetics you were given and avoid things like crash dieting and excessive restriction in order to fit into a body type that you aren’t meant to be. In this post, we’ll cover how poor body image harms athletes and active individuals and teach you how to respect your body for performance!

Why Athletes Struggle with Body Respect

Considering that we live in a culture that values thinness and promotes body shaming, it’s not surprising that a lot of women struggle with the concept of respecting their body. Female athletes and active individuals in particular are prone to feeling insecure in a body that’s more muscular than the average woman and also have added pressure to look a certain way while performing. Coupled with the fact that athletes often compare their bodies to their teammates, competitors, and other athletes they look up to, it’s no surprise that body dissatisfaction runs rampant in this population. 

The Importance of Respecting Your Body

It’s important for athletes to work towards body acceptance if they want to lessen the chance of developing a negative or disordered relationship with food. Being critical of your body interferes with intuitive eating and makes it hard to even work towards the first principle of intuitive eating, rejecting the diet mentality. It’s difficult to reject the diet mentality and let go of the pressure to diet if you believe the body you have isn’t good enough. 

Keep in mind that even if you ate and exercised the exact same way as your teammate or a famous athlete, you won’t look like them. We all have different needs, genetics, and preferences that influence how we look. 

What’s worse is that body comparison and poor body image can lead to athletes being under fueled and more prone to injury (for a simple video on this, click here). With the abundance of false nutrition advice on social media and trends like “What I Eat in A Day” videos, athletes and active individuals are placed in a position to question their own food intake. This can create pressure to follow low calorie meal plans that don’t meet their nutrition needs, therefore increasing the risk of injury and illness. 

RED-S energy deficiency in sport

3 Tips for Building Body Respect

1. Express gratitude

If it’s too hard to think about why you love your body, think about why you are grateful for it. Expressing gratitude leads you on the path to appreciating the current body you have. Here are some journal prompts that may help.

  • Write down things your body does for you
    • Instead of “my thighs are huge I hate them → I have muscle that allows me to run down the field”

  • Focus on what you’ve accomplished because of your body
    • Weights you’ve been able to lift
    • PRs you’ve met
    • Distances you’ve been able to run
    • Championships you’ve won!
    • Confidence and mental strength you’ve gained

2. Ditch the scale

Getting rid of the scale is a tough decision, but it’s a big step towards respecting your body. For athletes who often have higher muscle mass, the scale isn’t the best way to measure health. Too often, athletes put so much emphasis on the number on the scale that they lose focus of what’s really important like their energy, mood, stress levels, digestion, variety of food intake, eating consistency and more. 

3. Do a social media detox!

This is probably the only time you’ll hear us recommend a detox, but it’s not what you think! A social media detox is all about unfollowing anything and anyone who makes you feel bad about yourself or questions your food intake!

People to follow instead:










4. Work with a professional

Tackling body image is hard work, but it’s easier to do when you have support. We at KJN help our clients reach their nutrition and performance goals all while cultivating a positive relationship with food and their body. To learn more about how we can help you, click here to learn about our 1-1 coaching offerings. 

Additional Body Respect Resources

To further help you on your journey to body respect, here are some additional resources to help you.


Body Kindness By Rebecca Schritfield 

Anti-Diet By Christy Harrison 

Health At Every Size By Lindo Bacon


Behind the Before and After By The Body Love Society 


Healthy Body Image via

Fueling With a Purpose via CPSDA

Intuitive Eating for Performance Series

Check out the other posts in this series!

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