What role does body image play in student-athletes’ mental and physical health? What can performance professionals do to support a healthy body image that is aligned with performance goals? We explore why this is such an important topic, how performance professionals are working with athletes on this issue, and the role data & analytics is playing. We’ll also leave you with some practical tips to incorporate in your organization or practice.
CONNECT WITH THE PARTICIPANTS
- Lenecia Nickell – Director of Sports Psychology and Wellness at the University of Cincinnati Department of Athletics. LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/ldnickell
- Rachel Manor – Sports Performance and Eating Disorder Dietitian with Lutz, Alexander and Associates Nutrition Therapy. Email: Rachel@lutzandalexander.com
- Taylor Lipinsky – Associate Athletic Trainer for Women’s Basketball at the University of Cincinnati. Email: Lipinstm@UCmail.uc.edu
- Emma Ostermann – Human Performance Consultant, Fusion Sport. Twitter: @elostermann20
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Rachel Manor 0:00
I guess one other thing I think that was really helpful in sport cultures to help improve body image, I think is this those veteran athletes and those captains that can have that incredible influence on our team. So, if they can take a stand or against diet culture, you know, promote intuitive eating, promoting, and prioritizing athletes getting their needs met, that that positive peer pressure can be really, really helpful.
Emma Ostermann 0:26
Welcome to the Vanguard roundtable podcast, where we discuss the latest trends driving the human performance industry forward. I’m your host, Emma Ostermann. In this episode, we discuss body image and performance for collegiate student athletes. We explore why this is such an important topic, how performance professionals are working with athletes on this issue, and the role data and analytics is playing. We’ll also leave you with some practical tips to incorporate in your organization or practice. Today’s roundtable guests include Lenecia Nickell, Director of Sports Psychology and wellness at the University of Cincinnati department of ethics. Rachel Manor sports performance and eating disorder Dietitian with Lutz, Alexander and Associates Nutrition Therapy and Taylor Lipinsky Associate Athletic Trainer for women’s basketball at the University of Cincinnati. The views expressed today are those of the individual guests and do not necessarily reflect the position of Fusion Sport or the guests’ organizations. Enjoy the episode. The Vanguard roundtable podcast is brought to you by Fusion Sport, maker of Smartabase. Smartabase is the premier human performance optimization platform for elite sport teams and military organizations. Smartabase is built on an infinitely configurable framework that allows you to create an adaptable solution to support your unique strategy, process and culture. With ultimate flexibility Smartabase helps data driven sport and military organizations continuously leverage the latest science and technology to improve athlete performance and service member combat readiness. To see how Smartabase can help you visit fusionsport.com. Lenecia, Rachel, and Taylor, welcome to the Vanguard Roundtable podcast. Before we dive into today’s questions, could you tell us a little about yourself? Lenecia?
Lenecia Nickell 2:09
Oh yeah, so I am Lenecia Nickell, I am the Director of Sports Psychology and wellness for the athletic department at the University of Cincinnati. I have background of about 20 years in the mental health field, uh we’ll go with the 17 Fully licensed mental health professional. And so, building the program. I’m the first Director of Sports Psych and wellness here. So, we are building a program from the ground up to provide for holistic health for our student athletes here at UC
Emma Ostermann 2:42
Taylor Lipinsky 2:43
I am an Associate Athletic Trainer at the University of Cincinnati. I’m also in grad school for clinical mental health counseling currently, and I’ve had the opportunity to work with various women’s teams here at UC including track and field and cross country, swim and dive, both men’s and women’s, lacrosse and now women’s basketball.
Emma Ostermann 3:07
Wonderful. And Rachel.
Rachel Manor 3:09
Yeah, my name is Rachel Manor. And I’m a sports dietitian. I’ve been a sports dietitian for almost 11 years 10 of which were in collegiate sports. I spent a couple of years at the University of Oregon and then eight years at UNC Chapel Hill. And then for the past year, I’ve been working in a group private practice the lesson on Sander groups based out of North Carolina for the past 10 months or so primarily working with active individuals with their relationship with food and I love it.
Emma Ostermann 3:36
Wonderful. Lenecia, Taylor, and Rachel, thank you so much for joining us today. As you guys can probably tell, we have a like a wealth of knowledge for this topic today on body image and performance. So, let’s go ahead and dive in. Our first question is why is body image and performance an important topic for us to be talking about? Rachel
Rachel Manor 3:54
It is so so important for us to be talking about anything, so many athletes are feeling pressured to look and eat a certain way, because they believe and are often told by well-meaning people that they need to control their body size to optimize their athletic performance. And so, as you can imagine, this can lead athletes to be hyper aware and hyper vigilant about their food and exercise choices. And so, this can be really confusing and distracting and sometimes dangerous for athletes. And so, I’m excited for us to talk about this, you know, when athletes are led to believe that they’ve got to be good at their sport, and they have to look good while they’re doing it. This can lead to self-objectification and eating disorders and I’m really glad that we’re having this this conversation today.
Lenecia Nickell 4:38
I think it’s a very important conversation and points to be made on you know, specifically when you’re thinking about female athletes, and the two worlds that they can live in, you know, depending on the sport of being a very strong competitor. And the body image and style that goes with that, versus what society deems acceptable or valued in terms of the female body, and how those two things can really kind of be at war with each other. And so that’s war in someone’s mind. And we’re also talking about the 18 to 20, 22, 23-year-old mind in college athletics. And so, you know, putting all of that kind of stress and pressure on a brain, and it’s just wear and tear in general, it’s a hard, hard thing to navigate.
Emma Ostermann 5:36
Absolutely, I think we can sorry, Taylor, go for it. Yep.
Taylor Lipinsky 5:39
No, no, I agree with both points they’ve made, I think it’s important to talk about because it affects all populations all ages, not just the female athlete. But male athletes too, especially in sports, like swimming or tracking field where they were tight, close or a little close. I think that it’s just a topic in the populations we work with, that we can’t really get away from, and people think that their body has to look very specific to perform in certain ways. So, it’s important for us to bring up and discuss.
Emma Ostermann 6:15
Absolutely, I noticed, you know, obviously, the 18 to 22 is the college age. But, you know, do we find that this is more prevalent for particular groups, we see this happening at an early age as we get more and more into these specializing for athletes. And you see gymnasts now stay at 8, 9, 10 years old, and they are now competing at a very high level. Have you guys in your experience, seen these with these other particular groups?
Rachel Manor 6:41
Absolutely, I think I’ve seen some research that young girl of ages like five and six, are internalizing ideas that fitness is important, and fatness is bad. And so that’s really, really scary when little girls are getting that message that their bodies are okay, as they are and that they need to try to control it. It can make her really young.
Lenecia Nickell 7:04
Yeah. And my previous experience before coming to see us in private practice, specializes in working with kids, adolescents and emerging adults, and definitely started to see it in elementary aged kids being concerned about weight about what they’re eating about, you know, looking like the next person I remember, you know, I feel like I’m fairly active on social media, but being introduced to the term hip dip there for a while and was kind of like, why do you as a middle schooler? What is this? What are you teaching me here? So yes, very early on. And, you know, like Taylor said, you know, kind of across the spectrum of any classification or, you know, where you could place people categorize people, that it’s pretty pervasive and kind of maybe one of those things that’s flies under the radar a bit, um, just because as a society, we have such an interesting relationship with health, wellness, food, body image, etc., that it just makes it that much easier for it to just kind of stay right underneath, and not be discussed as much. But yeah, I’ve seen the same, the same research about, you know, very, very young kids being concerned about it.
Emma Ostermann 8:21
Absolutely. Lenecia, I do want to ask, you know, you from your previous experience, and you’ve seen it now younger and younger, and I invite everyone here to also chime in, but what do you think is leading with this change are the shifts so now your 5,6..5,6 year old is now Hey, Mom, Hey, Dad, like, whoever it might be? My body, you know, I need to now focus on this, I got to lose weight, I have to do this, or my body image is so important, like what’s causing that shift? Or what would you what would you think it might be leading to that?
Lenecia Nickell 8:51
I mean, it’s really hard. I mean, I could, I could say, there’s some, you know, you could point out certain things, right, the hot thing to point stuff out right now with social media, you know, the images that we see. Um, but, you know, there’s never an easy answer for that, right? Because you talk about the family’s relationship with food, and the things that are being modeled for the kid Oh, it could be, you know, if you’ve got a kid that’s, you know, already participating in club level sport, you know, what are those people, you know, putting out to them as far as what they look like what they should be doing? Oh, you look a little heavier today, you’re having a hard time jumping, you know, those kinds of things that are that are coming out and also say, you know, when you’re dealing with younger kids and an early adolescence, you might not hear the exact phrase, oh, in fact, oh, this and that. You’ll have some food avoidance. You’ll have some I’m going to work out extra hard. I’m gonna go for another run. Oh, I want to stay out and play some more. I want to do this. So being able to verbalize what’s really going on within might not be exactly what’s happening. And so that might be another way that parents, coaches, people who working with them might completely miss it. Until you look up and you’re like, wait a minute, there’s food restriction. There’s food avoidance. There’s, there’s all this other activity, there’s agitation, right? There’s so many different ways for people to respond to, and for us to observe what’s going on with folks. And if they can’t even articulate it for themselves, it can be very difficult to pick up one.
Rachel Manor 10:30
So, I think there’s a big sort of normalization of those comments, like, oh, I shouldn’t eat that so bad. Or I’ll just burn this off later, or the, the praising of willpower. And it’s just, it’s just so normalized, and can certainly perpetuate disordered eating and negative body image and preoccupation with our food. And I think it’s so important that says, clinicians and performance professionals that we’re calling this stuff out and calling out diet culture and calling out these things that aren’t contributing to optimizing our performance and that distract us and confuse us. So yeah, those little normalized subtle comments, kids pick up on those they know they’re, they’re smart, they’re interpreting them in a certain way, that’s not helpful. But to the point about social media, and social media certainly contributes to negative body image and people’s thoughts around food and bodies. But there are certainly spaces on social media that are also really helpful. There’s a lot of body acceptance being talked about mental health and intuitive eating. And so, I think if athletes can find themselves in those spaces of social media, that can provide a lot of helpful body image resilience, if they can find it.
Taylor Lipinsky 11:43
Yeah, I agree.
Emma Ostermann 11:45
Definitely would agree. And speaking of social media, and Taylor, I’m going to actually pose this question to you, you know, for me, when I was a strength and conditioning coach, you would have an athlete, and maybe all of you experiences like, hey, I just noticed this workout on like, on this Instagram app. And you’ve probably seen that, like, hey, I just noticed, like this recovery information, like this recovery modality that you can use, you know, within the athletic training room, you know, when you have an athlete, when you have an individual who comes to you shows you this social media post that says like, hey, maybe I should be doing this. How do you navigate that conversation? So, it’s, yes, I’m acknowledging that Yep, you’re, you’re viewing it, you’re seeing it, you have access to it. But it’s, it’s obviously gonna be an education point, like, how do you navigate that conversation on your site? Taylor?
Taylor Lipinsky 12:32
Yeah, we actually had a big issue when there was like a Netflix documentary that came out a few years ago, and our entire cross-country team wanted to switch diets. And it was in the middle of cross-country season. And whenever they bring something to me, I kind of push them towards the proper professional, to give them the answer. So, when it was switching their whole diet, it’s like, okay, let’s go talk to our dietician. Before we have this discussion, and just decide we’re gonna change all these things, like, let’s make sure we talked to the proper professional, to integrate these things into your life, if that’s what you decide to do. Like, if you want to decide to do this workout, or you want to decide to switch diets, then we’ll work with you on it, but you need to seek resources from the proper professional as well, before you make those decisions. It’s kind of how I tried to go about it.
Lenecia Nickell 13:21
You know, Rachel mentioning there’s, there’s good spaces and bad spaces, right online. And I think across the spectrum, right, you get the workout, take a look at this workout. I’ll get I saw this tick tock, and I think I have this diagnosis. It’s like, okay, tell me more. What are the similarities that you’re seeing? So, there’s, like you said, there’s opportunities for education. And there’s also opportunities to model hey, let’s bring it back in. And like Taylor said, let’s make sure that we’re involving the right people, so that we can get the best advice possible for us as an individual instead of consuming something that’s coming out into the wide world and going, Oh, that’s me. Let me let me let me talk to somebody who might actually know me and see if they’re in agreement that that’s a good, good idea.
Rachel Manor 14:17
And to kind of echo the things that you guys have shared, I think, we know when people are bringing like, oh, this documentary, this supplement or this, this diagnosis, making sure that we’re being a curious non-judgmental provider that that, you know, tell me more about that. What brought you to this, why are you interested in this particular thing? And then maybe give them some validation, like, okay, yeah, that makes sense that you’re interested in this because this is your end goal. Let’s talk about this some more. How can we align your thoughts, feelings and behaviors with this end goal, and maybe this supplement or whatever may be helpful, but maybe aren’t, but still making sure that the athlete like feels heard and understood when we help them with their choices?
Emma Ostermann 15:01
A lot of good information so far. And we’re gonna keep this conversation moving. And let me show I’m actually going to pose this next question to you first, but as a clinical mental health therapist, dietician and athletic trainer respectively, how have you worked with athletes on this issue Lenecia?
Lenecia Nickell 15:17
So, I’d say the biggest thing is kind of going back to what Taylor mentioned about getting the right people involved. And what does good look like? Who is informing what good looks like, you know, specifically talking about body image and what’s required for your performance, right? Because in this scenario, what we’re looking for is optimal, what’s going to get you performing at your best level. And that very well might not be, you know, bulking up on a plate of French toast sticks. You know, it, let’s, let’s get some very specific definitions around what we’re looking for. Right? Because sometimes, there’s a disconnect in what that even means. And so, if everybody’s operating off of different definitions, then yes, the treatment, the outcome is going to be extremely disjointed. Right? So, let’s get down to what are the definitions get very specific on the goals? I’m very much on, you know, very small, measurable goals, right, we’re not going to do a major overhaul because we’re looking for X, Y, and Z. And from a clinical mental health standpoint, we’re not trying to overwhelm people with change. And so really getting into the specifics and working from there. Instead of kind of, you know, these broad generalized ideas of what’s going on. It’s where I started, typically, my, my schpeel.
Emma Ostermann 16:47
Wonderful, Rachel, what about within your area, especially with dietetics? Do you have anything done?
Rachel Manor 16:53
Absolutely, you know, body image negative body image can be a significant disrupter to an athlete optimizing their nutrition. And so, when an athlete again, is led to believe that their body needs to look a certain way, in order to optimize their performance, and they feel like they need to be really strict or rigid, or you know, cut out things or for groups. Slippery slope, right? I think I do a lot of I tried to do a lot of validating a lot of I do some apologizing to like apologizing to them that they’ve been led to believe that they need to look a certain way. To be a good athletes, I try to provide education around diet culture, and how that has influenced their thoughts and feelings about their food and bodies, I think it can be really helpful for athletes to understand that it’s not their fault, that they’re feeling maybe preoccupied with their food or their body. And I think especially with females, they are put under so much pressure and told these lies that they need to look a certain way not just to optimize performance, but also to be more successful, to be happier, maybe to be more desirable. It’s just, it’s just so much pressure. And so, I think in our nutrition sessions, when we can kind of unpack all those messages that we get from the media, from family, from friends from healthcare providers, that we can begin to understand maybe where some of their anxiety or concern is coming about their body image. And so, when we can better understand, and we can reduce some shame around it and create more space for the conversations that we are going to have around nutrition and optimizing nutrition and nutrient timing and things like that.
Taylor Lipinsky 18:29
Yeah, from I think I have a lot of experience working with student athletes with body image issues. Most of mostly with my experience with track, cross country and swimming. I think the way we kind of approach it is definitely a team approach, making sure that we have a medical doctor in the mix with the athletic trainer, a mental health professional and one of our dietitians, I think it’s kind of important to take the team approach. And I think I’ve also had to spend a lot of time educating coaches, I think a lot of issues we have in college athletics, some of it comes from the coaches also put in kind of this negative perception of body image in their head and having to educate coaches on maybe why pointing this out to one student athlete isn’t the best idea where you could say that to another one, making sure things are individualized and just kind of really educating people from the body image and performance standpoint eating standpoint.
Lenecia Nickell 19:38
Absolutely gonna say another thing that that I’ve kind of approached with some of my some of the student athletes is the long-term health right in terms of the decisions that you’re making, and that body image and you know, there will come a time after sport where you’re a Um, understanding of what healthy is, will change what’s around you will change. And so, making that transition, maybe making some adjustments to thinking, Okay, well, what is what is long term health look like for you? What is long term sustainability for your body type size, you know all of those things, and kind of going, okay, there’s right now there’s in the present, and there’s also looking and going, okay, 20 years from now, you’re going to be this person. And you’re going to need this. So how do we, how do we make all how do we make all these people work together is one of the ways that I brought it up and just kind of really going, you know, in your 40s. You know, for example, somebody I got stuck on the French toast sticks, you know, you can’t sit there and eat a play to those in your 40s and be like, I’m good, I’m gonna, I’m gonna go, this is going to be great. And so Okay, let’s change what your idea of that is, or work on exploring what that is to move forward, but kind of looking forward has worked with some people as well.
Emma Ostermann 21:09
When you shouldn’t Rachel, you guys actually both sparked a couple questions based off your responses that I have for, for the group. And just I’m gonna go to you first. You mentioned diet culture. What do you mean by that?
Rachel Manor 21:21
Is that a term? Have you seen that term before? Or is this the first you’re hearing of it?
Emma Ostermann 21:26
Just for like, for those listening. Like, what do you would? How would you define diet culture?
Rachel Manor 21:31
Yeah, so diet culture, we’re all swimming in it, whether we know it or not. It is an oppressive system of beliefs that worships thinness and equates it to health and status and moral virtue. And so, it promotes weight loss is a means of the attaining a higher status. And so, this can make people feel compelled to spend a significant amount of time and money and energy and resources to make their bodies fit and ideal. And so, it can be incredibly distracting for folks. And so that’s why I want to call it out like, oh, this this is this is oppressive. It’s oppressive to women to oppressive to people of color to people, it’s oppressive to people in larger bodies. And it’s important that we don’t want this oppressive system of least that is diet culture to infiltrate our sport culture. And so, it’s on our little tagline of our UNC sports nutrition Instagram page, I put like, you know, UNC first nutrition and like keeping diet culture out of sports culture, just to kind of take a stand that that’s not welcome here, where you want to be inclusive of all bodies, and we want all bodies to feel empowered to take care of themselves.
Emma Ostermann 22:41
Absolutely. I think that leads into my question Tonisha based off what you were speaking about long term health, you know, you have a student athlete who comes in, and they’re burning a lot of calories, because they’re gonna have sport practice, they’re gonna have maybe they go see the athletic trainer for rehab, maybe they have weights that day. And they’re able to consume a, you know, a larger amount of calories. But then as they transition out of athletics, they, as we know, not very many GoPro, where are we failing? You know whether that’s, you know, Taylor, you mentioned, we’re working as a team, you know, the sports performance team within like athletic trainers, dieticians, sports psych, many sport coaches, where are we failing, as you know, the sport performance professionals, and the education portion, and educating them for these long-term health benefits?
Taylor Lipinsky 23:31
I think we’re failing because sometimes we put the team over the individual. I think there’s instances where I’ve had to student athletes out and things for maybe like a low via a BMI or having too many stress injuries, like when we really have to sit down, have that conversation with them. They’re putting the team before their own health. And I think that’s a part of the culture that we build in sport is kind of that mental toughness piece. They have to put everything out there for their team. And part of that isn’t always a positive. Sometimes they need we need to consider each person as an individual. I don’t think we do that as much as we should.
Emma Ostermann 24:18
You know, this conversation has been great so far, and I want to keep it moving. Rachel, this next question I’m gonna pose to you first is Have you seen or experienced examples of a sports culture that has gotten it right? What do they do differently? Rachel?
Rachel Manor 24:34
I can kind of try to speak to my personal experience at UNC Chapel Hill when I was a part of an athletics department. I tried to work really hard on influencing that sport culture to challenge that culture. Like I said, just naming it and we made some stickers that said, all bodies are good bodies. One of our cheerleaders like created the little graphic for and passed them out our fueling stations. And speaking of Our fueling station we you know, we provide a lot of different foods, we never would categorize foods as good or bad. We never label them as green or red or anything like that we simply would provide nutrition education that was neutral, we talked about the functions and benefits of certain foods and then ultimately have to respect the athlete’s autonomy and respect that they’re going to make the choice that aligns with, with what they need. And so, I think that’s a little bit different maybe than some other sport cultures or athletics departments. And I think that’s helpful. Also, we phased out that normalized practice of body composition testing, I just in my experience of being a college sports dietitian for 10 years, just kind of seeing how it was impacting our athletes impacting their body image and their eating patterns. And so, we phased that out. We can talk more about that later if we want to. But I guess one other thing, I think that was really helpful in sport cultures to help improve body image, I think is this, those veteran athletes and those captains that can have that incredible influence on their team. So, if they can take a stand or against diet culture, you know, promote intuitive eating, promoting, and prioritizing athletes getting their needs met, that that positive peer pressure can be really, really helpful. As much as like sports psychologists and sports agents and athletic trainers can like give athletes education around the importance of positive body image and optimal nutrition. And no peer influence is just so so valuable. And so, if we can get our captains aren’t leaders to take a stand that can be really helpful.
Lenecia Nickell 26:34
So can you talk a little bit more about intuitive eating, um, I don’t know that a lot of people have heard that.
Rachel Manor 26:44
I would love to, I often talk about how my like area of expertise is in sports dietetics, I’m a certified specialist in sports dietetics. But I’m also just in my experience, as a clinician just kind of noticing how you know, mental health is impacted by people’s food and body. And so, my think that intuitive eating aspect really addresses that mental health piece. So, the intersection of sports nutrition, and intuitive eating. And so intuitive eating is this dynamic interplay of instinct, emotion and rational thought. That’s how it’s defined by the two co-authors of the book, the fourth edition came out in 2020, I highly recommend, but it’s this framework of learning how to eat or self-care, and learning how to reject the diet mentality and learning how to practice that body attunements and be guided by hunger fullness, and be guided by respect for our body, challenging the food, police making peace with it, these are just some of those principles of that framework. And then it’s a relatively new framework as far as like research is concerned. But there’s like over 140 research studies around Intuitive Eating would love to see more research around Intuitive Eating specifically in the athlete population. So, there’s any listeners that are doing research, would love to see intuitive eating with the athlete population. But in my clinical practice, and we can kind of incorporate you know, the science of sports nutrition with the intuitive eating framework, learning how to eat for self-care, I think that’s just where the magic happens. So, thanks for asking me about intuitive eating. I could talk about that forever.
Lenecia Nickell 28:13
Yeah, I love the idea of it in terms of cultural foods, and working cultures across the globe, and how those concepts have worked in other cultures, and then bringing them in or incorporating an individual’s a student athletes, cultural background, into intuitive eating and understanding that there are those concepts, those parts of it that kind of already exist. And so, we can listen to those parts, and kind of value those and learn what those so I really love the idea on a variety of
Rachel Manor 28:51
aspects. Yeah, oftentimes, diet culture is demonizing people’s favorite cultural foods. And so that again, it’s really depressing. And, and so with intuitive eating, it’s, yeah, very much encompassing of people’s preferences and traditions and understanding that food is more than fuel. Food is connection. It’s tradition. It’s so many things. You know, athletes are more than bodies like they’re there. They’re not robots, they’re not machines. They are very complex beings. And so, we want to make sure that they feel supported to get their needs met with their cultural boots. That’s really, really important.
Emma Ostermann 29:28
Absolutely, I heard a lot of great tidbits of information in there. And one I want to, I want to focus on real quick. You mentioned falling your peers whether you have a captain or an upperclassman, say within the collegiate setting that someone can look up to. Now in the collegiate environment, you may go to either a dining hall, or maybe you have a feeling station, you have a gymnast, and you have a football player all going to the same location. Those are two very completely different sports, two completely different bodies. How do you navigate those types of conversations where you see the football players You know, they might be saying like, I’m like, I need to bulk I need to lose. But then you have, maybe you have another sport who’s saying, hey, I need to cut, and I need to do this. How do you navigate those types of conversations, especially when you know, there are sports that are, I hate to say like the quote unquote, body image sports based off, you know, what they were and everything like that.
Rachel Manor 30:23
Nutrition is very individualized. And so hopefully, the football player has connected with his support team and his feeling competent and power to get his needs met. Hopefully, the gymnast is also connected with her support system, and is feeling confident empowered to get her needs met. And I think both of those athletes, I hope are optimizing their energy availability, getting enough carbohydrates, fats, and proteins to be able to perform, and they’re not engaging in any kind of restrictive, restrained or limited way of eating, regardless of the sport that they’re playing.
Emma Ostermann 31:05
Absolutely. Taylor, did you have anything to add onto that?
Taylor Lipinsky 31:09
No, thanks, she covered a great. I was gonna say I don’t, I don’t specifically have much of a role in terms of like the fuel station, or any kind of diet, a dining hall thing, that’s where I push them to the resource that is hopefully the best resource for them.
Emma Ostermann 31:26
Absolutely, absolutely. You know, and this next question, Taylor, I’m actually going to come to you first with it is, do you think the growing use of data and analytics and human performance has helped promote healthy body image in sports? Or has done the opposite? Taylor?
Taylor Lipinsky 31:41
Yeah, um, I think it can go both ways. If you use things like Bob pods and other measurements like that, I think it’s who gets that information and like, what your protocol is for that, and how you educate the student athletes on the information that you’re getting and why you’re using that information. And then I think we use a lot of different data systems, that can be very important. But from my perspective, it’s super important to be very open with the student athletes on how you’re using it and why you’re doing those things. Like if we’re tracking your sleep, why are we tracking your sleep, how they actually prefecture actually impacts your performance instead of, we’re just doing it, because they’re going to get on and start trying to read things, if you don’t inform them. And like we’ve talked about earlier, you they might go down a trail where you’re finding information that might not be 100% accurate. So if you are going to use the data in human performance, I think it’s important to educate student athletes on what you’re doing. But I think it goes both ways. I think some have made things positive, and others continue to make things negative. Because if you’re doing body comp on maybe a cross country athlete, and they find out their body fat percentage is something, they think it should be less than that, then that’s going to affect them negatively where a football player might do the opposite. So, think it’s very important just to continue to educate student athletes while you’re using these tools.
Emma Ostermann 33:20
Absolutely. Is there any metrics? So, say, you know, you are doing body comp, maybe you’re taking body weight? And you know, right now you have like, hey, we want to make this athlete facing data, we want to be able to provide them like a quick snapshot of where this athlete sits, like within the whole performance realm, maybe it’s like weight room data, all their testing data. Is there anything that you would say, be cautious to showing the athlete? Or is it Hey, Nope, it’s their data, they should have access to it. How do you how do you navigate those types of questions?
Taylor Lipinsky 33:55
I think it’s something that we struggle with strength coaches weigh student athletes in the weight room all the time. And they don’t always know if a student athlete has an eating disorder has body image issues, or something like that. And it’s like, okay, do you force everyone to be blind to do a blind way or you can’t really single that one personnel? So, I think it’s something that we definitely have a challenge with all the time. And it’s something that’s a constant discussion for us, with our strength coaches, and yeah, I don’t I don’t exactly know how to give you a fantastic answer for that, because I think it, they do have the right to know because it is their information. But again, it’s educating them with the proper resources, if you are going to give the data to them and putting together a team that if they are worried about their body, fat percentage or something like ratios kind of talked about earlier, like validating those things, making sure that they’re safe and secure and those conversations and we completely understand like why they kind of want to know those things.
Emma Ostermann 35:05
Absolutely. Rachel Lenecia, you should you guys have anything to add?
Rachel Manor 35:10
I think body composition testing is a hot topic. I think more research needs to be done on it. I’ve been talking about this. For a long, long time, one of my former dietician fellows at UNC Chapel Hill, she actually recently did her thesis on athletes opinions and perceptions of behaviors around and experiences with body composition testing, I’m so proud of her. So hopefully, it will be published soon. But it was kind of what we’d expected. There’s certainly athletes are negatively impacted by that experience of completing a body composition test. And I think when we do a body composition test, it’s not without risk. And I think something if, if an institution is going to do body composition testing, I think there needs to be a lot of things considered things like how we’re educating the athletes, how we’re educating coaches, how that information is gonna be communicated to the athletes, coaches, support staff, if at all. And, you know, I’m also a huge fan of informed consent. I’m also a huge fan of making sure that if body composition has things that we offered, that it’s optional, and it’s actually optional, none of this optional asterisk business, and that the athletes are aware of the error rates, the limitations of the testing and the risks associated with it, I think only then, can an athlete make the informed decision if they would like to engage with this body composition test. So, I’m glad that we’re talking about this on this podcast, I hope more performance professionals across the board can talk about this and talk about what they’ve seen and heard and really assess the risks associated with this, I think, as a healthcare provider, first do no harm. And so, I think that needs to kind of be front and center. Also, when we’re having our conversations around these data and analytics and doing body composition testing. So, more research needs to be done, more conversations need to be had. So, thanks for providing a platform for it.
Lenecia Nickell 37:19
Just said from a from a mental health perspective, right? Sometimes we don’t have the time to, but I think an important piece is to consider your individual, right? You need to know who you are measuring, and what they can take in at that moment, right, you will have some people who can take that information and do very well with it. And then you have those people who may have been struggling with issues around that for a very long time. And so, you can’t just treat it kind of like a blanket, okay, whole team, right? You can’t just go okay, I’m going to I’m going to single you out, especially if you don’t have a team around it to really focus on the Care and Keeping of that individual. When they are given that information. I’d also say it’s very important the language that we use, right, you can’t go into these things, assuming that you’re 18- to 23-year-old population is going to take, you know, in information on body composition, if you’re using very clinical language, and they’re gonna go, oh, yeah, okay. I got sounds good, right, where, you know, setting, having goals or giving numbers or things like that, and using very plain language with easily definable things like it’s, it’s for any assessment, right? You want to keep in mind, the person that the assessment is for not the greater audience, not for yourself. But when you are giving details about an any sort of assessment, it’s about the person who the information is about. So how are you conveying that? What language are you using? How do you know that they really understand what you’ve said? Or Okay, Coach? Yeah, thanks, Coach, I got it. Like, really, really doing them? Because then that can give you an even better indicator of how are they going to take it? How have they taken? What are they going to do with this information? So, I think two things like considering the individual but also making sure that we’re not using overly clinical language, you know, for folks who might not be there yet. So, keeping in mind who you’re working with, when you’re giving this information. That’s not to say don’t give the information. But make sure they’re understanding what in the world you’re doing is very important, because like I said, Is there information that? I don’t know, it’s one of those things that I encourage people with any sort of medical visit any provider that you’ve got, advocate for yourself? Right, ask those questions. If you don’t get it. I don’t get it. If they explain it, you still don’t get it. I still don’t get it. Make this make sense. Why did you need to do this to me? Why do we need to know these numbers? And really big on empowerment in that way? Oh, I’m so really encouraging that speaking up for yourself. And it’s
Emma Ostermann 40:04
So wonderful. And there’s been, there’s been a lot of great information that’s been shared here today. And you know anything, especially as data and analytics, it’s becoming increasingly popular. And you just basically said, what, what I want to reiterate is, there’s always a person behind the numbers that you’re collecting. And as long as we put the person first, you know, educate, do no harm, you know, we’re heading in the right direction. And, you know, I want to, I want to keep talking, but I know we’re gonna be coming up short on time here. But Rich, I’m gonna come to you first. But I do want to hear from each and every one of you on this. What advice would you give performance professionals, such as strength conditioning coaches, and athletic trainers to help promote healthy body images?
Rachel Manor 40:47
I think that’s a good question for athletes to answer. And if I’m thinking about kind of the feedback that I’ve heard from athletes, about what performance professionals have done for them with their relationship with food and their body, I think it’s about embracing body diversity, not making assumptions about body weight, shape and size, not pressuring athletes to be a certain ways not pressuring them, not to eat certain foods, and not engaging in those like sort of normalized comments, that elimination I were talking about earlier, and being really careful about those. Those subtle sort of diet culture, um, phrases, and when we can kind of flag those normalized comments, you know, recognize that they’re not helpful, you know, because they perpetuate negative body image and can lead to disconnected eating. But instead of performance professionals can promote an all foods fit approach, they can understand that all bodies are good bodies, let’s give everybody a sticker. And just understand that elite athletes come in a variety of shapes and sizes, they can learn to support athletes and getting enough to eat just to support their athletic performance. And I think one other notes, if a performance professional, like a strength coach, or an athletic trainer, like holes, and anti-fat bias, which makes sense, we live in diet culture, right? I think it’s important for the performance professionals to kind of unpack that themselves and unpack that on their own time with their own support system, and to keep the athletes out of it. Because athletes deserve a sport culture that’s, that’s inclusive of all bodies. And I think every single one of us can contribute to a culture that makes sport culture safer, and a sport culture where athletes feel empowered to meet their needs.
Taylor Lipinsky 42:38
Yeah, I was, I was gonna say something similar to Rachel, I would encourage other professionals to understand their own biases and understand their own relationships with body image and food. Because even though you may not think you do, you could portray those things over to the student athletes. And you could use a term that may negatively impact someone else. And you may not understand why. But understanding your own biases, I think, is really important. And then I think for athletic trainers, a big thing is just being a safe space, allowing them to sit down and have a conversation with you. And get the things out that they need to be able to discuss body image, be able to discuss food, and maybe you’re not the most educated on those particular topics. But giving them the outlet to have the conversation and understand them in those moments, I think is very important. Because if they keep all those things bottled up, they could be doing all these things that may be harmful to them, and no one may know. So just if nothing else, as any kind of performance professional being a safe space to allow the conversation, I think would be a piece of advice I would give I
Lenecia Nickell 43:58
think I would just add to that, you know, getting a tiny bit of training, I’m learning how to truly be a safe space. Because to take it a step further, you know, in terms of, of diet, culture, talking about food, talking about body image, you know, you could still put for some things that you never know, could be something that that causes something else to jump off and somebody that that’s negatively impacting and so, you know, a personal crusade of mine is teaching, you know, some very basic therapeutic skills, some active listening, empathetic responses and those kinds of things so that you are able to be that sounding board that safe space that Taylor is talking about, in an effective way. Right and a Do No Harm sort of way. And just kind of taking on that, that personal professional growth, of being able to offer another level of support to the student athletes I think is really important thing would be great. If if whole departments could just adopt it. And everybody’s just amazing at listening and being supportive.
Emma Ostermann 45:12
Wow, this was such a great and powerful conversation today. And I can’t thank you guys enough for joining us. One last question. And before you know before we wrap up, but many of our listeners, listeners don’t want to connect with each of you, maybe just to ask a question or gain some more information. So, for those listening that would like to connect, what’s the best way for them to reach out, Rachel?
Rachel Manor 45:32
Sure, they are welcome to email me. My email address is fairly simple Rachel@lutzandalexander.com and you’re welcome to put in your show notes for your podcast but would love to connect with people on these topics.
Taylor Lipinsky 45:49
Yeah, I would say email as well. My email is Lipinstm@UCmail.uc.edu.
Emma Ostermann 46:02
Absolutely, and Lenecia.
Lenecia Nickell 46:05
I’ll send people to my LinkedIn. Which if you’ll just search me L as in lion. D as in David, my last name Nickell. It should come up when you search Nickell.
Emma Ostermann 46:17
Wonderful. Once again, Lenecia, Taylor. And Rachel, thank you so much for joining us today. And for our listeners if you found this conversation valuable. Please follow the Vanguard roundtable podcast on your favorite platform and share with your friends and colleagues. We’ll be back next month. Thank you. The Vanguard roundtable podcast is brought to you by fusion sport maker Smartabase. Smartabase is the premier human performance optimization platform for elite sport teams and military organizations. Smartabase is built on an infinitely configurable framework that allows you to create an adaptable solution to support your unique strategy, process and culture. With ultimate flexibility Smartabase helps data driven sport and military organizations continuously leverage the latest science and technology to improve athlete performance and service member combat readiness. To see how Smartabase can help you visit fusion sport.com