Simone Biles: A powerhouse against body shamers

Simone Biles: A powerhouse against body shamers

Four-time Olympic gold medalist and gymnast Simone Biles is one of many female athletes to experience the hurtful words of body shamers.

Biles recently posted a picture on Instagram of her in a bathing suit and cut-off shorts. A user’s comment criticized the Olympian, saying, “You’re so ugly Simone Biles, even I look better than you.”

Occurrences like these are not uncommon for athletes in today’s society. Such comments can lead to dangerous health outcomes particularly for female athletes, research shows.

In a study of Division 1 NCAA athletes, more than one-third of female athletes reported attitudes and symptoms of disordered eating, placing them at risk for anorexia nervosa.

Additional research indicates that female athletes, specifically those in judged sports, have a 13 percent prevalence of an eating disorder compared to three percent in the general population.

Although the research puts emphasis on female athletes, Sarah Katula, advanced practice nurse in psychiatry at Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove, Ill., says that females and male athletes alike are prone to disordered eating and eating disorders.

Additionally, Katula states that regardless of gender, the nature of the sport — whether based on how you look or how much you weigh — can have a major effect on athletes.

“Sports that look at and judge the individual — weight lifting, crew, running, ballet, synchronized swimming and gymnastics — can lead to an increased risk for female and male athletes,” Katula says. “At an early age, these athletes are directly exposed to the ideals of thinness, dieting and cutting weight, and when not monitored, a negative self-appraisal and problems with food can result.”

Coaches and parents can also have an impact when it comes to monitoring and raising their athlete in a healthy way.

For example, in 2013, Biles was told by a male coach that she was fat. However, she told People magazine that his comment actually made her embrace her body more for what it is.

“It was really hard because growing up I never felt overweight or fat, so it shocked me like, ‘Why would he say that?’” Biles said. “But in a way, it actually shaped me for the better because it just taught me to rise above and love my body no matter what.”

Katula says that it is important for everyone involved in an athlete’s life to be trained and educated in how to prevent and intervene on a potential risk for an eating disorder. She emphasizes that coaches are key and can have a tendency for “fat talking” or “size teasing” their athletes.

“When these types of shaming are said to athletes, perfectionism can arise in them, which can create an eating disorder,” Katula says. “For example, when an athlete goes through puberty, this can have an effect on his or her performance. But when coaches understand the changing bodies of their athletes, and embrace and support this change, athletes are then surrounded by the healthy, positive attitude they need.”

Katula advises coaches and parents — the ones closest to the athletes — to accept and praise the power within the athlete. They can help by being educated in potential risks of eating disorders and live their own healthy life for the athlete to replicate.

Biles defends herself against body shamers by saying this to People magazine:

“You can judge my body all you want, but at the end of the day it’s MY body. I love it and I’m comfortable in my skin.”

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6 Comments

  1. Young lady, from what I have seen of you whether it be performing or your presence during personal appearances you have shown the upmost professionalism and I wish you the very best of luck and keep up the good work. There is nothing wrong with your body and as far as that coach that ridiculed you about your weight, he can go to hell what ashame for an adult to make such a negative comment. You go girl and negativity from an adult is awful.

  2. I love you Simone and I absolutely loved your response to the jealous people that submit hurtful comments. You’re a hero! Love, love, love you, you beautiful person you.

  3. Jeanne Hernandez August 8, 2017 at 12:39 pm · Reply

    I am short just like Simone, 4’10” and had to deal with teasing most of my adult life , but I have a great family , and friends who care about me, a wonderful husband who adores me. I too love my body and feel that people who can’t see past the outside into the inside of me need prayer to get over their own issues. I am 66 and yes, I am comfortable in who I am and how I look.

  4. You go girl, talent should be your 1st name.proud is all that should be seeing through. Some are jealous, others ignorant. Be prod, you got the A game going. May I add it was very entertaining o watch. I was stunned by what your performance is or did. GOLD is & rightfully should & was yours, yours in very deserving manor. You are beautiful, talented, amazing & I was excited with you. 10’s across any God given board! Inside and Out.

    Cheers to a very awesome Rocket Pocket Power !

    love Ya Girl, fan, Lisam Majcher

  5. I am appalled that anyone would dare to have the audacity to body shame or criticize Simone Biles. Her body does amazing things and she represents herself with such poise and eloquence. She won Olympic medals for gymnastics and remains beautiful, humble, and caring. She has the most amazingly beautiful smile! Her inner spirit and her outward person personifies beauty. I pray that she continues to be blessed and keep that smile in the midst of all of those who spew negativity and hatred.

  6. *SIMONE* when it comes to people who waste time talking, remember not to waste time listing or answering. To be seen is all they want and to be heard is what they want, but say nothing and evil will go away. God Bless You!

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About the Author

Taylor Hisey Pierson
Taylor Hisey Pierson

Taylor Hisey Pierson, health enews contributor, is a public affairs and marketing intern at Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove, Ill. She is a junior at the University of Missouri studying strategic communications with an emphasis in public relations. When not studying, Taylor can be found practicing with Marching Mizzou as the clarinet section leader. In her free time, Taylor enjoys shopping with her friends and exploring the world both domestically and abroad.

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