Education

Gymnastics Australia launches new body image program to protect young athletes

The new program, Body Care, aims to combat body image dissatisfaction, disordered eating and eating disorders in the Gymnastics community.

Recognising the long-term severe physical and mental issues that can arise from how bodies are talked about and treated in sport, Gymnastics Australia has released Body Care, an authentic athlete-centred approach to re-writing the narrative about the way bodies are treated and talked about in gymnastics.

Developed in partnership with Butterfly Foundation, Body Care is a strength-based approach which equips all members of the gymnastics community with the language and understanding to foster an environment where every body is cared for, nourished and empowered to achieve their personal goals.

By listening to the stories of the athletes and participants, Gymnastic Australia has come to understand the serious long-term physical and mental issues that can arise from behaviour, language choices and practices which promote the perceived ‘ideal body’ that has existed in our sport historically.

Gymnastics Australia’s Chief Executive Officer Alexandra Ash believes this approach, which builds on the Body Positive Guidelines developed in 2019, is an advocate for every body in the sport.

“We recognise, within our sport, this is an area that we have a responsibility to lead and educate our community. We also recognise that the real work begins now as we look to make this transformational change,” said Alexandra.

“When people are dissatisfied with their bodies, they can turn to quick fixes, including dieting and unhealthy eating and exercise behaviours, which have the potential to escalate beyond disordered eating to eating disorders.

“By identifying practices and conduct which may be damaging and harmful in the development of body dissatisfaction, such as Body Composition Assessment, we aim to foster a culture free from body shaming practices.

“Poor communication style, choice of words, the timing of feedback, and off-the-cuff comments can be impactful and potentially have a deleterious effect on self-esteem and self-image.

“Gymnastics is a place where we want every body to feel safe, welcomed and empowered to do their best and achieve their goals, without any limitations placed on their body,” said Alexandra.

Gymnastics Australia would like to thank the several experts who contributed to the development of the Framework including; Butterfly Foundation, Australian Institute of Sport, industry professionals, and Youth Advisory Panels and Youth Advisory Groups.

For more information on Body Care, click here.

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