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USWNT and Body Image: Thoughts for Eating Disorder Awareness Week

A reflection on the USWNT and female body image for Eating Disorder Awareness Week.

Mark J. Rebilas-US PRESSWIRE

There isn't a soccer fan in the US that can deny the exponential growth of the US Women's Soccer team in recent years. The US ladies have been massively successful on the pitch and across the airwaves. Their 2011 World Cup final against Japan was watched by 13.5 million people (on a Sunday), and their rematch with Japan the following year in the Olympic gold medal match drew 4.35 million viewers on a Thursday afternoon. Their current place atop the FIFA Women's World Rankings and 13-0-3 record in 2013 cements their position as masters of their sport. But for this team, sporting success could translate to something much bigger. These women could be victorious where others have faltered. This team of personality and true beauty could be a turning point for the future of women’s body image.

We've all watched the YouTube video of the model being photoshopped from the girl next door to a Barbie-esque version of her former self. (If you haven't, it's here) This is our country's definition of beauty, and this is the idea populated by our media every single day. The "final product" woman in the video is closer to being an illustration than a photograph, but she is presented as our ideal image; an impossible and extremely unattainable ideal. Now what if that definition of "ideal" was less like the photoshopped girl from the advertisement and more like the strong, fierce women of the US Soccer? Ladies, how might your world change if, each time you step into the gym, you think of Hope Solo making a spectacular diving save, or Abby Wambach heading in another brilliant goal- if you thought of being healthy, fit and able to take on the world- and never ever that number on the scale? How would your self-confidence, demeanor and outlook be altered if you strive to be healthy rather than endlessly struggling for a particular pant size?

And gentlemen, this is not just a problem for the ladies- nothing can ever change without you. The women of your life need your support; your girlfriends, wives, sisters, and most importantly your daughters. They need you to step up and say that it’s okay to be strong. That it is okay to be the girl who can lift the heavy box or carry a bag (even if you always do it for her). That running marathons, doing push-ups and showing some grit only makes her more beautiful. Drag her along for that workout and watch all those women’s sports. And let her give you a hard time when you check out Alex Morgan in that SI Swimsuit issue- you’re doing a good thing.

This year’s theme is "I had no idea." Maybe you don’t have an idea this is the problem. Maybe you’ve never thought about any of this. Maybe you think you don’t know anyone with an eating disorder, or a body image issue. Chances are, you do. And I hope you’ll think about it today and this week. And next time you cheer on the US Women- cheer for a stronger, healthier tomorrow.