How to Help Your Clients Develop a Positive Self-Image

Body image

Ahhh, summer is almost here. Newspapers and magazines, in fact the entire media, seems to have found a seasonally sensational way to fill space…and your client’s heads. Articles about the “Hottest Celebrity Beach Bodies of 2014” and “How to Get Your Beach Body On in One Month” help fuel unhealthy expectations about bodies, size, shape and how women and men “are supposed to” look.

For the media, this is serious financial business. For mental health professionals and fitness coaches, it’s also serious business. While the former are, unwittingly, promoting body-image disturbance, we strive to promote optimal health—mind and body.

Clients with body-image disorder, also called body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), display persistent and intrusive dissatisfaction and negative preoccupation with an imagined or even a slight “defect” in their appearance along with anxiety over their lack of muscularity. For some, BDD can be so controlling that it affects their work performance and social relationships, not to mention their reluctance to come to a gym or other public facility to exercise.

Beach body articles, similar media and cultural influences, and Barbie and GI Joe dolls certainly aren’t helping your clients, male or female. These unrealistic ideals are unattainable and dangerous for many. Yet, statistics suggest that 80 to 90 percent of women are unhappy with their mirrored reflection.

It’s mandatory that while we focus on promoting exercise, health and fitness, we consistently and unrelentingly use positive, proper and sensitively focused language.

We know that clients of almost any size can be fit—but do clients really believe that?

The research on trainers’ own body-image issues suggests that what trainers believe about themselves and portray in front of clients has an impactful role, right alongside the language that trainers and coaches use with clients about size, body type and appearance.

When training a client, constantly looking in the mirror while complaining about your own appearance, for example, can only have a negative impact on clients struggling with their own body-image issues. Perhaps it’s time to de-emphasize the attention given to “beach body bikinis” “ripped abs” and “shredded muscles,” and instead focus on being self-accepting, authentic and real, 12 months a year. Did I say “perhaps”? No, not perhaps, IT’S TIME. And here’s how.

In his excellent 1997 workbook, Body Image Workbook: An 8-Step Program for Learning to Like Your Looks, Thomas F. Cash, Ph.D., uses empirical research to help everyday readers increase body-image satisfaction and decrease emotional distress. I recommend you consider this book as a resource for your clients who display any body-image concerns. These steps are useful to keep in mind

… Continue reading here.
Fitnovatives Blog — Courtesy “American Council On Exercise” (ACEfitness.org) <p>

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