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Understanding Body Dysmorphia in Fitness: A Guide to Healthy Perspectives

By: Nazirah M. Jones, MS., CPT-NASM

In the pursuit of fitness and health, it's easy to become preoccupied with our bodies. However, for some individuals, this preoccupation can escalate into a serious mental health condition known as body dysmorphia. In this blog post, we'll explore what body dysmorphia is, how it relates to fitness, and provide strategies for maintaining a healthy mindset.

What is Body Dysmorphia?

Body dysmorphia, also known as body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), is a mental health condition characterized by an obsessive focus on perceived flaws or defects in physical appearance. These flaws are often imagined or exaggerated, leading to significant distress and impairment in daily functioning. Individuals with body dysmorphia may spend excessive time checking their appearance, seeking reassurance, or engaging in behaviors to camouflage or alter their perceived flaws.

Body Dysmorphia and Fitness: In the realm of fitness, body dysmorphia can manifest in various ways. Some individuals may become obsessed with achieving a certain physique, constantly comparing themselves to others or striving for unrealistic standards promoted by media and fitness culture. This obsession can lead to unhealthy behaviors such as overtraining, restrictive eating, or the misuse of supplements or performance-enhancing substances.

Additionally, body dysmorphia can interfere with one's ability to accurately perceive their own body. Despite making progress in their fitness journey, individuals with body dysmorphia may still feel dissatisfied with their appearance, leading to frustration and dissatisfaction.

Strategies for Maintaining a Healthy Mindset:

  1. Practice Self-Compassion: Instead of harsh self-criticism, cultivate self-compassion by treating yourself with kindness and understanding. Recognize that everyone has imperfections and that it's okay to embrace your uniqueness.

  2. Focus on Health, Not Appearance: Shift your focus from achieving a certain look to prioritizing overall health and well-being. Celebrate progress in strength, stamina, and flexibility, rather than solely focusing on physical appearance.

  3. Set Realistic Goals: Establish achievable fitness goals that are based on your own capabilities and preferences, rather than comparing yourself to others. Remember that progress takes time and consistency.

  4. Challenge Negative Thoughts: When negative thoughts about your body arise, challenge them with evidence-based reasoning. Remind yourself of your strengths, accomplishments, and the progress you've made in your fitness journey.

  5. Seek Support: Don't hesitate to reach out for support from friends, family, or mental health professionals if you're struggling with body image issues. Surround yourself with individuals who promote positivity and acceptance.

Body dysmorphia can significantly impact one's relationship with fitness and body image. By understanding this condition and implementing strategies for maintaining a healthy mindset, individuals can cultivate a more positive and balanced approach to fitness. Remember that true health encompasses not only physical well-being but also mental and emotional wellness. Embrace self-compassion, set realistic goals, and prioritize overall health over appearance in your fitness journey.


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