Andrea Spendolini-Sirieix is breaking down the stigmas surrounding body image in sport

Andrea Spendolini-Sirieix wants you to know that you are not alone. 

The 19-year-old diver recently opened up on her experiences surrounding issues with body image as part of Team GB’s Sporty AF (And Female) series. 

Here, she shares her story to continue to break down the stigma surrounding the topic.

Opening up about these things is quite easy for me now. 

I don't hold back when it comes to topics that I'm very passionate about and that I want to see some change.

Being part of Sporty AF was really empowering, it was lovely to have that open forum where we could express our emotions, our feelings and our experiences without feeling judged, or without feeling alone. 

We all had very similar experiences, and it was enlightening because sometimes we feel a little bit selfish because we think that we're going through it alone, or I'm the only one that thinks this. 

But to know that other women are going through it as well makes me feel very safe and very supported and loved. 

I want to speak about struggling with body image because I too have struggled with it, and I sometimes presently still struggle with it.  

It's something that I do want to shed light on, because it's very important. We're talking about human beings, we're not talking about robots, we're not talking about athletes, we're not talking about people that have jobs, we're talking about human beings.  

I want to humanise these athletes that are seen as superheroes, when in reality, we have the same emotions as quote unquote ‘normal people’. It was really nice to talk about it, and, and learn about other sports as well and it was so nice to not feel alone. 

Being in an aesthetic sport there's almost this stereotype that we have to look a certain way and that stereotype is: small, very thin frame, very, very thin stomach. 

And it was something that I aligned myself with, and I pressured myself to want to look like that, to need to look like that because I thought that that was what was correct.  

I put all bodies and all women in one box, and I really shouldn't have, but it's something that a lot of us in sports struggle with because the women that look like that are praised and they're seen as more beautiful.  

I actually focused my EPQ [Extended Project Qualification] on how body image and struggling with body image affects other areas of life, like eating, how you look at yourself, and I wrote that because I struggled with eating. 

I struggled with understanding that I was beautiful the way that I was, and that I didn't need to be super thin, or I didn't need to eat less. 

I thought that I deserved to eat less because I didn't look like that and it was something that I could never go through again, that pressure of ‘I need to look like this, so I'm going to try and control it with what I eat’. 

I was so tired, I was sad, even though I lost weight or even though I looked smaller, which sometimes I didn't, because I then indulged in more food, it's just an ongoing cycle of destruction.  

And I want to highlight how that destruction can be stopped, it doesn't need to continue, that cycle doesn't need to continue.  

We don't need to feel like we deserve food. We need food to survive, we need food to feel strong to fuel our bodies and it shouldn't be a means by which we control the way we look.  

So, it's something that I'm really passionate about, because I know exactly how others are feeling. I know exactly what they're telling themselves, what thoughts are going through their heads, and they're so painful.  

I hated them when they came on me and I'd hate them even more if someone who I thought was beautiful had them. People are beautiful however they are, they don't need to look a certain way for you to say that they're beautiful, they are beautiful full stop. 

It's something that I really, really value now, the fact that you can, you can look at yourself in the mirror and say, ‘Ok, I'm beautiful today’, instead of nitpicking things that other people don't nitpick. 

You're nitpicking things for no reason, no one's looking at you saying ‘Oh, you've got a little bit of fat on your arms’, or ‘Oh, you got little bit of fat on your stomach’. No one's doing that to you so why are you doing it to yourself? 

It's something that I was just like, it's not that I'd had enough, but I also have. We're allowing these things to continue, and it's normalised, it shouldn't be normal, it really shouldn't be normal and it's painful to see. 

Comparison is a killer because you're comparing yourself to someone that you don't know fully. You could you know them, but you don't know them like they know themselves. 

You should never compare yourself to other people, compare yourself to who you were yesterday.  

Not negative comparison, not ‘Oh, I looked skinnier in this photo, or ‘Oh, I looked better in this photo’, because growing up and aging and maturing and just going through life is such a beautiful experience.  

And through comparison, you're killing that experience, you're not enjoying it, you're not going through life, and we take life for granted.  

It's something that is so special.  

Sportsbeat 2023