Guest blog by Amy Wilson-Hardy, professional rugby player for England 7s
“Number 13, you have massive legs!” The words still slightly haunt me. As a 17-year-old at college, those are not the jeers I wanted to hear from the side line while playing a rugby match.
We live in a society obsessed with body image. The slender Victoria’s Secret model – with the obligatory 32 DD bust – is still perceived to be an ideal.
There are a multitude of conflicting messages. Even the ‘strong is the new sexy’ campaign focuses on aesthetics. There are more diet plans, exercise programmes and healthy lifestyle campaigns than ever before. Information overload. What is right? One minute something is the being hailed as a super food, the next moment it is carcinogenic.
So we need to find a balance, a sense of perspective. And I believe young women today could do no better than look to female athletes for role models.
To excel, an athlete needs to maximise their strength, improve their weaknesses and do whatever it takes to get them to the top of their game. When I think back to the boy who shouted mindlessly about the size of my legs, showing off in front of his mates, I can excuse him because of his age and immaturity.
But today, seven years on, disparaging comments about athletes’ bodies are unfortunately by no means rare. Men and women are equally guilty of making them.
I remember reading an article the night after the Sports Personality of the Year awards, absolutely slating the female athletes for having broad shoulders, muscular arms and ‘manly’ physiques. I felt angry, knowing first-hand the sheer dedication these women had put into honing their bodies. They needed to do it to perform to their optimum standard.
Olympic gold medallists make huge sacrifices for their sport and we, as a nation, are rightly fiercely proud when they bring home the trophies that recognise their triumphs.
So we should not be carping about their legs being two inches bigger than a “normal” if those same legs meant that they could run 0.01s quicker than the person in second place. Those muscular shoulders, with the ability to surmount enormous fatigue a “normal” female wouldn’t even comprehend, produced a gold medal, not a silver.
And I hope we will soon reach a time when to be strong, muscular and fit is celebrated, not denigrated.
As a female rugby player, my strengths rely on my being strong and powerful. I do not train relentlessly because I want to have big muscles. Neither do I do it to draw attention to myself. I do it to be in the best physical shape possible. My aim is hopefully to get selected to represent Great Britain this year at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games - and, if all our stars align, to come home with a gold medal hanging round my neck.
So what really is important? I appreciate not everyone is an athlete. But I do advocate a healthy lifestyle.
This of course, means eating well-balanced and nutritious food. After all, it fuels our body. This is why I use Lucy Bee Coconut Oil as a regular part of my diet – because I know it contains beneficial fats that I need to help build the strong, fit body I need.
Meanwhile let’s celebrate bodies of all shapes and sizes and stop obsessing about ‘ideal’ looks. If you want to be slim or if you are happy with being a little larger, I am not going to be the one to point the finger.
Don’t let other people tell you what body image is right and wrong. Invest time in finding out what works for you. What is important is being the shape that makes you healthy – and happy.
I thought this was an ideal opportunity to let you know what's going on with my training.
We are currently about to compete in the last leg of the World Sevens Series in Clermont, France before the Rio 2016 Olympic Games in August so everyone is keen to leave a lasting impression on the other teams.
After winning the last tournament in Canada, England have been drawn against USA, Kenya and Spain in the pool stages. We hope that we can repeat the performances of the last tour, taking confidence into Rio. Watch this space!
Check out other articles from Amy:
Photo Credit John White
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