Beach body articles, social media influences, and Barbie and GI Joe dolls certainly aren’t helping your clients, male or female. These unrealistic ideals are unattainable for many. Yet, statistics suggest that 80 to 90 percent of women are unhappy with their reflection.
For mental health professionals and fitness coaches, 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 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.
It’s mandatory that while we focus on promoting exercise, health and fitness, we consistently use positive, proper and sensitively-focused language.
1. What is your client’s body image?
Inquire about their main concern: “Is your main concern that you aren’t thin enough or you might become overweight?” Of course, you’ll also want to learn, “How has this affected your life?”
Asking these types of questions is entirely appropriate to learn more about a client’s body-image issues, according to experts. It’s valuable to see how your clients see themselves in the mirror and these questions may help.
2. What are the causes of your client’s discontent with body size and shape?
Discuss these issues to help your clients see how these outside forces are impinging on their lives – and receiving extra fuel through their patterns of thought. These issues will touch on positive and negative feelings your clients have about their bodies from the messages they’ve received their entire lives.
Are you unwittingly focusing on the wrong messages through tracking strategies? For example, if weight and inches are main factors logged into a journal or on an app, you may be conveying that only the scale and tape measure can give permission to feel good about oneself. It may be that other, more comfortable measures should be included at the outset to take the focus off size, shape and appearance.
3. Hearing faulty thinking and negative self-talk.
This seems to be a key source of much body-image concern. What your clients think about their bodies and how they evaluate their appearance is a critical piece of understanding for the advanced health coach. You may hear clients “compare and despair,” when they compare themselves to you, or others in the fitness center. Helping clients focus on their own performance, progress and reality is most helpful.
There are many ways to help clients with negative body image. It starts with the language you use and the trust your clients have in you. Trust = being Truthful, Respectful, Understanding, Sensitive and Tightlipped.