If you get stuck with thoughts about shrinking yourself in order to become better, faster, stronger, you are experiencing behaviours called body dysmorphia and imposter syndrome.
If you don't feel accepted for the way you look or if you blame the shape of your body for not belonging to the "category" you want to belong to and you end up living in a constant restriction, you may impair recovery, disrupt normal hormonal functions, decrease energy levels and consequently your original goal of getting faster, stronger and better will simply decline.
As a woman in sport, I can totally sympathise with everyone who feels or has felt inadequate because of a non stereotypical triathlon body or because the sport has rebuilt their body so much that they don't recognise it anymore and the idea they still have in their mind is way different from the way they look now because of swimming, cycling and/or running for long miles.
I have experienced it for a long time, I see it in some clients of mine and people I know in the sports environment, so I came up with 6 tips I use for myself and my athletes to overcome those toxic traits and be happier:
1)Write down your primary goal and the small steps you need to achieve in order to get to it AND SHARE THAT GOAL WITH THE PEOPLE YOU LOVE:
In this way you can visualise the main objective without getting distracted and tell your loved ones how you need to be supported.
2.Work on self acceptance, resilience and kindness :
Shift the focus onto what your body is able to do instead of how it looks.
A typical scenario that happened to me is when I was trying to fit into pre-endurance-training clothes and found out that the zip of my favourite dress didn't go all the way up because my lats expanded. I was unhappy about it. I loved that dress. I loved the way I used to look in it.
But guess what? My body has changed, has evolved into something different because of movements that make me feel good. I accepted that, I evaluated the situation and bought clothes that can enhance the way I look now.
Bodies that train, change! You can't expect to run marathons, climb mountains on your bike and swim for miles without changing the shape of your muscles.
Restricting has negative connotes, it implies a limitation, a set of boundaries with food with the aim to decrease your body weight.
Building, on the contrary, has positive connotes, it creates possibilities and acceptance. Spend more time building a body through movements you love instead of restricting it towards unrealistic misconceptions and false myths.
4) Do not look at professionals athletes to validate how your body should be.
THEY are professionals because of a variety of factors that led them to be like they are, that's why they are making a career out of sports. Their body is simply a consequence of those factors.
5) Share your thoughts with the people you love and your coach.
Communication is key and this topic should not be a taboo anymore
6) Don't look for validation from people who do not understand what you do and do not support you during your endurance sports journey.
There's an abundance of ignorance and entitlement inside some people. Surround yourself with like-minded people who can support you and lift you up in your journey.
I personally recommend listening to episode 330 of The Physical Performance Show where Top Professional Triathlete Kat Matthews talks about body image in triathlon.