This topic is incredibly close to my heart. I can only speak through my experience as a girlfriend of someone who suffers with muscle dysmorphia (other wise known as bigorexia). Dan inspired me and even suggested I write this post and I for one would like to applaud his bravery for allowing me to write this. This is such a HUGE part of his life, and it’s become a rather large part of mine now too. I’m both really excited yet incredibly nervous to publicise this post. Excited because I’m so passionate about it, yet nervous because I’m plunging headfirst into unknown territory. In this post I will be explaining exactly what muscle dysmorphia means, its place in today’s society, and how it has effected Dan, both physically and mentally.
What is Muscle Dysmorphia?
You probably encounter many a person who suffers with muscle dysmorphia on a daily basis, but you have perhaps never heard of the actual term. That is because of the society we live in. So many men are encouraged to “get big”, whether it be through celebrity endorsement, body shaming in the media, or simply through “banter”. Society turns a blind eye to this because… well… that’s what a man should look like. Isn’t it?
Its place in society
When I met Dan of course I noticed that he was massive. He’s six foot and five inches tall, and he has been muscly for years. We got closer and I learned about his addiction to the gym, but I saw it as a positive thing. It’s inspiring! I wish I had that kind of will power and motivation. What I didn’t see at first however was the consequences of such an addiction…
Roughly a year ago I saw an interesting article on BBC Newsbeat entitled “BIGOREXIA”. I’ve attached the video I watched below:
This article literally brought me to tears when I watched it back then, and again watching it now. Yes, yes, I’m one big wet flannel. But in all seriousness, the reason it upsets me so much is that these guys are clearly so unhappy with their physiques – and the words coming out of their mouths, well I’ve heard it all countless times before from Dan himself.
It made me realise, Wow, Dan isn’t alone in this. According to the Newsbeat article 1 in 10 men at the gym suffer from muscle dysmorphia. That is a RIDICULOUS figure! Why aren’t more people discussing this? This is an issue involving the men of today and no one is addressing it.
I have one potential answer to this… masculinity. Men in our society are taught to not have emotions lest they be labelled “wusses” and to not address their problems. Instead they are encouraged to “MAN UP” and get on with it. I could honestly rant about this ridiculous ideology all day.
THIS IS A PROBLEM. Men don’t feel comfortable talking about their insecurities or simply opening up, afraid that it might make them less manly somehow. Muscle dysmorphia isn’t being registered as an issue because society is willing to ignore it, or to simply put it down to standard “laddish behaviour”.
Q&A with Dan
What do you think when you look at yourself in the mirror?
I see myself as being exactly the same size as when I started. All I think is “I want to be bigger. I need to be bigger”.
Why is it so important for you to “be big”?
I don’t know… It helps at work (Dan is a lorry mechanic). It feels good to be strong, and to be relied on by other people.
Do you think that this has become a bigger issue amongst men within society recently?
Definitely. The instagram aesthetic doesn’t help at all. At the touch of a finger I can see incredibly unrealistic images of other men, which doesn’t make you feel good. You also have no idea how much of it is natural, you don’t know whether they are on steroids.
Have you ever considered taking steroids? Why?
Yes. It always has been and always will be in the back of my mind: how big can I get? One big thing stopping me is that steroids don’t make you any stronger. I’ve seen guys who admit to taking steroids, who are bigger than me but I can live two times more than they can.
Will you ever stop trying to be bigger?
No. I can’t. I feel miserable when I miss just one gym session. Missing one session is like missing two because muscle deteriorates so quickly. Every week I don’t go I feel like I’m getting smaller.
As you can see, for an individual suffering with muscle dysmorphia it is a complete addiction. These men are in constant competition with one another and with themselves as to who can be the biggest and the best: the ultimate man in their eyes.
My two main grievances with this illness are:
1. It is totally ignored by society and no one is doing anything to stop it.
2. Yet again, these unrealistic images of the human body are distorting our view of the world and causing many people severe distress.
I guess my take home message today is the famous phrase “never judge a book by its cover”. By looking at a person, there is no way on earth you could even begin to imagine the baggage that they carry every day.
If you hadn’t heard about muscle dysmorphia before this post, I really hope I’ve shed some light on what it’s all about and the enormous impacts it can have on a person. My ultimate dream outcome of this post would be to get people talking and to spread awareness really. The more people know, the less dangerous it becomes.
Do you know anything about muscle dysmorphia? Can you maybe share your experiences, or the experiences of someone you know? Please let me know what you think to this post in the comments below, and feel free to ask me any questions you may have!
DISCLAIMER: I am not a medical professional, nor do I profess to be one. If you have any concerns after reading this post, please seek the advice of your GP. Do not self diagnose.
Do you have room for more? Head over to my post about Polycystic Ovaries, a condition which I suffer from, whereby I can talk to you all about what it is and the impact it has on my day to day life.
Thank you so much for reading! Don’t forget to follow me on my other social media accounts, and feel free to comment below or message me for a chat – I’d love to talk to you.