Professional wrestling offers a unique combination of athleticism and the art of storytelling. Through the use of larger-than-life characters and sometimes relatable storylines, the audience is met with events they can connect with. For months, professional wrestler Adam Page has offered a storyline of his journey through pressures of looking perfect for a big matchup. His friends make comments that he needs to be “full gear ready” (skinnier and bulkier) for this match. With a mix of these comments and comparing his body to his opponents, he struggles with his body image, and this takes over his life. We see that he becomes obsessed with training and how he eats. Eventually, he does accept his body and regains self confidence. At the end of this storyline, he tweeted out that he recognizes that the journey to self confidence may not be as easy for those struggling and has decided to auction off his ring gear donating proceeds to benefit NEDA.
The storyline and the character struggling offers a raw and honest perspective on who can deal with body image issues. Showing an adult male having issues with body dissatisfaction, internalizing the male body ideal, and the effect it can have on exercise and food shows that these issues can happen to anyone—regardless of their gender and age.
Athletes are at increased risk for developing body image issues and eating disorders as they face multiple stressors, such as the importance of winning, pressures to look a certain way, and weight goals. Specifically, when it comes to professional wrestling, the athletes put their bodies on display for thousands to see. Focusing on having their bodies look “perfect” and meeting a specific weight class can influence wrestlers to take extreme measures to live up to those expectations—especially when met with a strict deadline.
Though many correlate eating disorders and body image issues with women, men struggle with these issues also. Male athletes and men in sometimes focus more on how muscular their bodies are, compared to women tending to focus more often on the thin ideal. Relating back to Adam’s story, his friends send him contradictory messages that he should be both trim and bulky. Both the male body ideal and the thin ideal women sometimes strive to meet are equally dangerous and lead to men and women turning to dangerous behaviors meet unrealistic expectations and, most importantly, adversely affect their health. This is why it’s important for trainers to create a supportive environment for athletes (one which doesn’t place value on weight and appearance).
I want to thank Adam for putting together this storyline and using his platform to spread awareness about body image issues and eating disorders. As a fan, it came as such a delightful surprise to see his tweet about the auction. As someone whose friends have made contradictory comments about how my body looked and my weight which led to disordered eating, I could personally relate to his story. It was so nice to see it shown through a different perspective and from someone I follow on a regular basis.
I want to encourage those who support NEDA to participate in the auction of Adam’s ring gear here. The funds raised through this auction will support NEDA’s programs and resources such as our: online screening tool, legislative advocacy efforts, research grants, and more!
Once again, I want to say: Thank you so much, Adam Page, for using your platform to help spread awareness of body image issues and eating disorders. NEDA as an organization strives to support individuals affected by eating disorders—regardless of their age, gender, and background. The story you told helped bust some serious myths surrounding body image. Using your unique platform, we hope that a different audience has gained an understanding of body image issues and eating disorders.
Shivani is currently a Helpline Associate at NEDA. Her dream job is one that supports the wellbeing of others in the world of sports.