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ESPN’s Body Image Issue Promotes Discussion

ESPN’s Body Image Issue Promotes Discussion

ESPN’s Body Image Issue Promotes Discussion 150 150 se_admin


Now that we have your attention… The release of ESPN’s Body Issue presents an opportunity to discuss body image issues.  Originally, ESPN’s Body Issue was an assumed response to Sports Illustrated highly successful Swimsuit Issue, offering the then-fledgling magazine an opportunity to show some skin like its SI competitor.  Since the first issue 7 years ago the Body Issue has afforded athletes the opportunity to showcase their bodies as vehicles for achieving greatness in their respective endeavors.  It also provides a chance for these athletes to reflect the body image issues we all face. 

This ESPN issue has been useful for raising awareness about our collective body image anxiety and how “perfect” bodies portrayed in media negatively impacts personal perceptions.

The athletes in this year’s edition all reflect varying levels of fear and concern about their body image—certain aspects of their bodies that could be bigger, smaller, tighter, better developed.  This from athletes who have all gained renown for how their bodies have helped them achieve greatness.  Imagine how to rest of us mere mortals must feel about our body image by comparison.

We are barraged with photo-shopped images of celebrities, stars, and even their friends posting to Facebook and Instagram, the statements made by these world-class athletes can only help with body image issues.

Vince Wilfork, NFL nose tackle and All Pro on his body image: “I just want people to see me and know it’s OK to be who you are.  Don’t let anyone take your worth.”

Courtney Conlogue, pro surfer, on feeling strong:  For me, there was a long time when I was a little self-conscious…I was super bulky and built up. But I learned to embrace who I am and what I look like as an athlete, to be strong about who I am and feel good about what I am.”

April Ross, pro volleyball player on how her body helps her perform: Everyone was always like “Your quad muscles are so big!” As a female, you can go either way with that — “Oh, you’re calling my legs big?” But I always took it as a huge compliment, like, “I’m strong, I can jump — thank you!”

Christen Press, U.S. Womens soccer player reflecting body image issues: In this day and age, it’s really hard for women to love their bodies. We’re bombarded by images of perfect bodies all the time. I’ve spent a lot of time being insecure about my body, but it’s done so much for me. It’s my tool, my vessel for my job. I’m very grateful for the way that I feel when I play — I feel very powerful, I feel fast, I feel unstoppable, and that’s because of my body. 

Dwayne Wade, NBA star, with body image fears: To me, doing the Body Issue is bigger than looking at an athlete’s body. It’s more about the story we are telling of overcoming my fear of doing this. I had a fear of being naked in front of others and a fear of being judged. So to me, overcoming that is the biggest thing. Someone may look at me and think, “Why would you have insecurity?” Well, this is real life and I’m human, and these are the things that I deal with that many others might deal with.

Nearing the end of decade one with the ESPN Body Issue, ESPN has helped demonstrate how athletic bodies are tools for achievement and how these bodies come in all shapes, sizes, and forms.  There is beauty in the strength.  Offering athletes whose job it is to pay attention to every detail of their bodies and yet who still struggle with body image issues is incredibly powerful to those of us who have different vocations.