Bodybuilders, especially competitive bodybuilders live, eat, breathe and sleep the sport. It’s not a sport you can leave behind at the tennis court, or one judged my traditional sporting scoring. Bodybuilders are judged by their appearance. While the general population is concerned with appearance, we are obsessed with it. We plan our meals, time them, and tend not to eat for pleasure. To be lean and muscular, you have to be firm when it comes to your diet. Training provides size and strength and diet helps fuel this. One cannot exist without the other.
Muscle Dysmorphia & Bodybuilding
Muscle Dysmorphia (bigorexia) is otherwise known as Anorexia in reverse. Regardless of their physical stature people with this condition feel small. Some resort to wearing baggy clothes or the use of steroids. Despite their physical progress, many bodybuilders are not where they want to be with respect to their progress. Bodybuilders with this condition tend not to celebrate achievements, but to constantly edge the goals higher, thus making achievement more and more difficult. To overcome this, recognise achievements made at each stage and celebrate, rather than constantly edging the bar higher without recognition. Consider your childhood, maybe you were small and skinny, and suffered torment as a result. Look at the symptoms and address the cause of your feelings. Recognise that there is more to life than just bodybuilding. Try to experience the world beyond the gym and draw strength and inspiration from more than one source. In extreme cases, bodybuilders won’t have a social life outside the gym. They are even prepared to die in the pursuit of getting bigger. Other symptoms of muscle dysmorphia include working out excessively, continuing to train whilst injured, avoiding social occasions that interrupt training schedules, and steroid use.
Signs of Muscle Dysmorphia
People with 'bigorexia' often have self-esteem issues or a poor sense of self. They ay also experience anxiety disorders, display anxiety attack symptoms, or have some other kind of mood disorder. Despite all the mirror checking, 'bigorexia' sufferers are actually ashamed of their bodies and do not enjoy seeing their reflection in the mirror. Signs that a bodybuilder may be suffering from muscle dysmorphia include:
- Obessive behaviour towards exercise.
- Frequent mirror checking.
- Obesessing over the amount of protein in their diet.
- Becoming agitated if they miss a meal or snack.
- Missing out on time with family and friends in order to exercise.
Treatment For Muscle Dysmorphia
Treatment involves cognitive-behavioral therapy (cognitive reconstructuring) and involves the sufferer workig with a therapist to 're-program' the brain into thinking new and more healthy thoughts. This kind of therapy is usually a long process and is also used in the treatment of anorexia as well as other disorders.
Be honest with yourself. Enjoy your life rather than endure it. If the issues raised in this article ring true with you, seek appropriate advice or counselling. Ultimately, you may find that you can be a bodybuilder AND enjoy it too.