Do you squander hours away looking at your body in the mirror every day?
Do you spend more than 2 hours in the gym each day?
Are you always worried that your muscles look too small?
Well, if you answered "yes" to any of these questions, be careful because you could be suffering from what doctors call "muscle dysmorphia" (MD) or what bodybuilders refer to as "bigorexia" and "reverse anorexia."
Big worries about bodies
While anorexics starve themselves thinking they're too fat, men suffering from MD think they look too small. Suffering from MD isn't life threatening, but its symptoms could lead to problems, which could become life threatening. That's why it's critical to identify MD in its origination before it gets too serious and damage becomes permanent.
A healthy lifestyle should be a given for every man. Always keep an eye on your diet and exercise regularly — but the question remains: when do exercise and diet constrains become problematic?
Are you big enough?
Before you answer that question, ask yourself these:
Are you obsessed with building mass?
Do you check out your physique in the mirror more than twice a day?
Do you weigh yourself once or twice a day to see if you've gained weight?
Will you avoid going out to restaurants with friends because you're scared you'll cheat on your muscle-building diet or because you might lose muscle definition?
Do you dress in baggy clothes (at the gym or in public) because you're ashamed of your body and scared people will think you're too small?
Are you below average in body fat and still think your muscles could be more defined?
Do you experience mood swings and anxiety attacks because of your unhealthy diet?
Are you generally dissatisfied with your body?
What does it mean if you've answered "yes" to any of these questions?
What are you doing wrong?
All these questions suggest symptoms of MD. Again, if you answered "yes" to one or more of these questions, you should definitely consider reevaluating your approach to dieting and training. It's important that you try maintaining a proper balance of fun and discipline in your lifestyle.
Then again, don't overdramatize this goal because there's nothing pathological about being an avid bodybuilder. The only thing I'm saying is that it shouldn't take over your life.
MD can eventually lead to severe consequences that may become hazardous to your life and to your lifestyle. Here are a few severe outcomes that can result from MD:
- Increased levels of anxiety
- Eventual eating disorders
- Mood swings
- Isolation and avoidance of socializing
- The use of steroids and other dangerous bodybuilding drugs
- High-protein diets combined with bodybuilding drugs can eventually lead to kidney failure and various forms of cancer
Balance in life is key
This said, you should take precautions to avoid the risk of suffering from MD. Follow these simple tips to help moderate your hardcore bodybuilding regime.
- Take at least one or two days off from the gym every week.
- Don't cancel plans to go out because you're worried you'll cheat on your diet. Instead, have a salad with dressing on the side and stay away from carbohydrate rich foods. (Just remember that you can still have your protein shake once you get home from dinner.)
- Don't compare your physique with that of buff guys at the gym. They're probably on steroids.
- You should also get rid of your scale and avoid scrutinizing yourself in the mirror too much.
- Finally, just remember that many women don't necessarily prefer bigger guys, but guys with athletic bodies instead.
The severity of symptoms of MD will vary from one individual to another. If you think you're suffering from it, I strongly suggest you start working on it by following the aforementioned tips. And if your case evolves to a more serious one, then it might be a good idea to consult a psychiatrist. MD is receiving more attention these days, and psychiatrists are well aware of the problem, and can help you resume a normal life again.
Good luck and remember to train hard.