Bigorexia  --- The Quest for Ridiculously
Big Muscules

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Get Lean Diet for Men

March 16, 2013
By A. Turner, Contributing Columnist

He’s the guy in the gym who started out maybe a few years ago with a
pretty good physique, good pecs good biceps, strong abs.  Then, as
time went on, he just started to get super pumped up.   He works out 7
days a  week, hours and hours and hours each day.  Now, his arms
look more like logs.  He looks like a distortion, a "Bizarro" version of a
muscle builder and, the scary thing is, he doesn’t seem to notice it.  
Scientists have coined the term “bigorexia” to describe the condition of
relentless quest, almost always among men, to get larger and more

Bigorexia, as the name suggests, is being compared to anorexia, the
emotional disorder in which patients, mostly women, lose their desire
to eat in order to get thin. Bigorexia, which is also called vigorexia by
some scientists, is becoming recognized as a medical disorder.

Both bigorexia and anorexia are forms of body dysmorphia, meaning
sufferers lose the ability to accurately see how their bodies look. An
anorexic woman can be thin as a rail but when she looks in the mirror ,
she may still perceive her body as too fat. A man with bigorexia may
already have ridiculously large muscles but sees only a scrawny, weak
physique when he looks in the mirror.

Why Men Become Bigorexic

The reason that men are particularly susceptible to bigorexia rather
than anorexia is linked to how men express their masculinity in most
cultures. Men do not simply become men by growing older. In most
cultures,  a man “achieves”  this status of “manhood” by performing
what scientists call “manhood acts”.  Manhood acts include taking
excessive risks, such as fast driving, sexual acts, and aggression,
according to a 2013 study from the University of Granada in Spain.  
Building muscles is also an expression of manhood which can serve as a
manhood act, this study notes.  

Bigger muscle equal a bigger manhood act. And,  some men  invert the
old adage that “can never be too rich or too thin”,  to “you can never
be too muscular or too big”.

Symptoms of Bigorexia

Here, based on studies including a 2012 study from the School of
Psychology at the University of Sydney in Australia, are the symptoms
of bigorexia:

-disturbed body image ( are you constantly dissatisfied with how you
look even though friends and family say you look good)

-eating disorders (are you only drinking protein shakes and avoiding
balanced meals?)

-excessive exercise behavior (are you spending more than 5 days a
week at the gym; do you work out even when you are in pain or
injured; do you become depressed when you miss even one gym

Another study, this one from Western Kentucky University in 2009
identified 9 factors at play with body dysmorphia:

-body mass,

-media influences,

-ideal body internalization,

-low self-esteem,

-body dissatisfaction,

-health locus of control,

-negative affect (lacking enthusiasm, interest or optimism)

-perfectionism, and

-body distortion

Drilling down into the eating behaviors that accompany bigorexia,
scientists have found that men who are bigorexic (vigorexic) are also at
higher risk for bulimia. Bulimics seem to eat food but then induce
vomiting to avoid absorbing calories.

In a study of 88 male weight lifters and 84 medical students between
26 and 29 years old, scientists from the Departamento de Psiquiatría,
Universidad de Valparaíso, Valparaíso, Chile found that 13.6% of the
body builders had body dysmorphia (distorted body image).  They also
found that 42% of weightlifters with muscle dysmorphia abused
anabolic steroids.  Moreover, 67% of the weight lifters used other
performance-enhancing substances.

Men who compete in body building contests are more likely to suffer
from body dysmorphia than those who engage in weight lifting but
who do not compete, a 2012 study from the University of Sienna in
Italy has found.

Health Dangers of Bigorexia

The most important health danger identified so far is the use of
anabolic steroids to obtain super-muscularity.  

Anabolic androgenic steroids are only properly used to treat natural
steroid hormone deficiency that may occur with delayed puberty, AIDs
or cancer.  

Anabolic steroids don’t make you “high” but because they alter brain
chemicals (dopamine, serotonin and opioids), they can cause radical
changes in your behavior, sometime called “roid rage”. Abuse of
anabolic steroids has been linked to greater risk for depression,
paranoid jealousy, violence, extreme irritability and delusions. You may
also experience “Superman syndrome”, a feeling of being invincible
which may lead you take dangerous, perhaps even fatal risks.

Other health risks of bigorexia include increasing the workload on your
heart caused by
adding extreme amounts of muscle, causing high blood
pressure, arteriosclerosis and death.  Extreme protein loading used by
some men with bigorexia can also lead to kidney damage. (Read more
how extreme exercise harms your heart.)

Are There Any Natural Remedies for Bigorexia?

Because bigorexia is a medical and psychological disorder, fixing the
condition is not a “DIY” project. You will need intervention  by a
medical professional, in fact a team of medical professionals to safely
lead you back to health and normalcy.

The study of bigorexia is so new that doctors do not yet know which
strategies will prove most effective in treating it. But work with
anorexia may give us some good clues.

Anorexia is an extremely difficult condition to treat. As a last resort, to
save the person’s life, intervention may include forced feeding. In
addition or in lieu of that type of involuntary treatment, some cases of
anorexia have been treated with pharmaceuticals and psychiatric
therapy, according to a 2015 study from the University of Sydney.

We would expect bigorexia to be just as complex and difficult to treat.
The best tip is to try to avoid the trap of bigorexia. If you find that you
have become a perfectionist, skipping meals in favor of protein shakes,
spending money you can’t afford on supplements, it may be time to
halt, step back and try to gain some perspective on what you’re trying
to accomplish with your body building.  

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