Is Bodybuilding A Gateway to Eating Disorders?
A look at the dangers of the body building obsession
DENVER–January 25, 2011—Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone and Ronnie Coleman are legendary bodybuilders. They have inspired many men and women to hit the weight room to bulk up and tone down. Inspired by regimented diets and workouts, bodybuilders may fall victim to eating disorders. In fact, male body dissatisfaction has increased to more than 25 percent according to the Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance (2006). One study posted on brainphysics.com found that almost 30 percent of competitive male body builders met the criteria for bulimia nervosa at some point in their lifetime. Bodybuilders with eating disorders are characterized by dissatisfaction with weight, shape preoccupation and adhering to rigid high-calorie, high-protein and low fat guidelines.
Bodybuilders suffering from eating disorders typically refuse to maintain body fat at a healthy level. They have an intense fear of gaining fat or losing muscle, have a strict adherence to a rigid diet, disturb natural body composition and give up social and career opportunities due to interference with their strict exercise and dietary regimens. Similar to anorexia nervosa and bulimia, these individuals often strategically hide symptoms and even deceive themselves into believing they are physically and emotionally healthy when in reality they are leading themselves into a life-threatening state.
Bodybuilders with eating disturbances sometimes also suffer from body image issues. This may lead to them wanting to increase body size, which in turn can result in what some have termed “reverse anorexia,” “bigorexia” or “muscle dymorphia.” Muscle dysmorphia commonly occurs within men. Several hundred thousand men in the U.S. are estimated to suffer from this disorder. The International Journal of Eating Disorders in 2010, states that muscle dysmorphia has a very strong correlation with eating disorders, up to 29 percent of men afflicted with this disorder have previously suffered from a clinical eating disorder, which is a rate far higher than that found in the general population or in individuals with other psychiatric conditions. This leaves researchers to believe that muscle dysmorphia may soon be comparable with the rate of anorexia nervosa found in women.
“Overcoming an eating disorder requires a healthy balance of nutrition and physical activity along with therapies to get to the root of the body image disturbance, said Tamara Pryor, PhD, clinical director at EDCD. “Bodybuilders who experience muscle dysmorphia may require professional assistance in order to return to a healthy lifestyle.”
For more information or to speak to a professional about concerns you may have, visit the Eating Disorder Center of Denver at www.edcdenver.com.
About Eating Disorder Center of Denver
Established in 2001, Eating Disorder Center of Denver (EDCD) is one of the nation's foremost centers for the diagnosis and treatment of the full range of eating disorders.
EDCD is committed to empowering individuals 18 years of age and older suffering with anorexia, bulimia, binge eating and related disorders to help them achieve and sustain recovery. A multidisciplinary team of psychiatrists, physicians, clinicians, family therapists and registered dietitians work together to create a specialized, evidence-based treatment plan for each patient. For additional information about EDCD, visit www.edcdenver.com, call 303-771-0861, follow us on Twitter @EDCDenver or Friend us on Facebook.
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