Thursday, March 29, 2012

Body Image

We all know that eating disorders and exercise disorders are pretty common. These get a lot of attention because of their prevalence in society. A less well-known subject, however, is Body/Muscle Dysmorphic Disorder. Body Dysmorphia certainly plays a role in both eating and exercise disorders, but it can also be a stand-alone disorder.

Who has body dysmorphia? I'd suggest damn near everybody has it on some level (mostly mild). People seem to often think that it is something that only afflicts adolescent females, but I'd beg to differ. In fact, one of the biggest populations of body dysmorphia is the bodybuilding group. I know that I deal with some light dysmorphia on a nearly daily basis.

What is Body Dysmorphia? It's a mental illness that is caused by a combination of factors: biological, psychological and environmental. It generally manifests itself as an excessive preoccupation with ones appearance, especially focusing on one particular "defect" (whether real or perceived). On the extreme end you can get someone who, as a result, suffers from severe depression, social anxiety and even suicidal tendencies. On the mild end, you get guys like me. Someone who just tends to be unhappy with the way their body looks.

I used to just think that I was a "perfectionist", and that it was good that I was striving towards something. I've realized recently that it's probably something a little more than that. How does my issue manifest itself? It's a little complicated, really. I'll see myself sans clothing in the mirror, and be happy with myself, proud even. I'll see myself in a mirror in clothes, and be happy with what I see. In the mirror while I'm working out? Happy again. So far so good, right? The problem arises when I think about the way that people must see me. Suddenly I feel like this guy:

In my head, I have a fat gut, no chest and bird legs. Intellectually, I know this isn't true. I'm 6 feet tall, 200 pounds and about 13% body fat. I know I'm doing ok for myself. Why, then, do I constantly have a negative image about myself in my own head? What is it that I think I should look like? Who are the people that a fairly strong, educated personal trainer looks to as "ideals"?

Obviously, athletes and Alphas!

King Leonidas
The Rock
Todd Duffee
What do all these guys have in common? They are built for performance. Their bodies are built to work, they aren't dealing with the "All show, no go" syndrome. 

I know I'm on the right track, and I know I'm doing well. I'm not unhappy with my body, I just have a skewed view of it sometimes. I wrote this post specifically so that people would know that it's not just them, we all have some little obstacles in our way. Teenage girls who want to look like Posh Spice aren't the only ones dealing with this stuff.

Have a good day, and please go lift something heavy!

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