Muscle Dysmorphia, Bigorexia, Anorexia Athletica

Author: Kris Robillard B.A.
Oh the infamous gym. It teems with people strutting around wearing their spandex, when perhaps they shouldn’t be, or it can be filled with those guys just there to scope out chicks. Gym-goers come in virtually all ages, shapes and sizes but among them are the fanatical ones. Yes, I am one of them.

Surfing the net, looking for anything new in the body building world, I came across an article about muscle dysmorphia, a.k.a. bigorexia. Apparently, it is a new “disease” that causes its victims to become obsessed with putting on muscle, even though they are much larger than the average joe.

Muscle Dysmorphia“If having muscle dysmorphia means you are obsessed with improving your physique, dieting and dissatisfaction, then I have a bad case of Bigorexia,” said Derek Charlebois, owner of “But, this ‘disease’ is what pushes me to go to the gym day in and day out. This ‘disease’ is what causes me to follow my structured diet. This ‘disease’ is what doesn’t allow me to slow down because I am satisfied with what I have accomplished.”

I was blown away after reading Derek’s testament because it dawned on me that I too have this disease. Training twice a day during my university career was not an uncommon practice and reflecting back now, it surely factored into my below average grades.

Thinking “holy crap I have a disease,” I quickly began to flush out the facts from fiction. Research showed me that I was not alone. There are groups and discussion boards where men discuss their feelings and opinions on the issue.

The first study of muscle dysmorphia was only published in the August 2000 American Journal of Psychiatry but has since spurred other research.

So great this disease is new, but how did I get it? ANRED (Anorexia Nervosa and Related Eating Disorders, Inc.) kindly identifies three main categories which foster body perception disorders. They group them into three tidy categories; cultural influences, social influences and the villainous media influences.

Having this knowledge in hand and having read until my eyes were stinging I built up the courage to head out and discuss the issue with others.

I spoke wit

an Algonquin gym user, Amanda Crowder, 24, who captured it so eloquently.

“The media, men’s magazines and even advertising prey on men’s insecurities,” she said. “The broad shoulders, slim waist and washboard abs are only a few areas media and ads today are focusing on. I even find that men today are becoming even more preoccupied with their looks than women and I think it has direct correlation to the media.”

As I was listening to her speak, the hairs on the back of neck began to stand as it dawned on me that it wasn’t my fault, it’s the damn media’s fault. I was saved, my obsessive and compulsive behaviour actually turns out to be the fault of the media. But would this be the end?

The fabrication of the so called perfect body will still be dangled in front of guys like me. And companies like GNC, a nutrition company making millions off of poor saps like myself will continue pumping out their slogans like, "Obsession is a word the lazy use to describe the dedicated.” And of course this will only continue to encourage this fanatical lifestyle amongst their target audience.

After my interview Crowder I called some of her male friends who she felt would be open to discussing the issue. I gave them a ring and low and behold did they want to talk. After the initial uneasiness of introducing the issue the guys quickly opened up and admitted that things were getting out of hand.

I even called an old girlfriend. She was the one that made me realize the true severity of the disease.

“Well to be honest with you, Kris, I felt pretty uncomfortable eating around you because I felt you were always judging me and that goes for the gym as well. I don’t really like to work out but because you structured you life around it, that made me feel even more uncomfortable.”

Having this knowledge, that my fanaticism with the gym to become more muscular has impacts on the ones closest to me kind of terrifies me, but will I stop? I doubt it. I can’t seem to explain why I won’t stop but looking at myself honestly, it won’t stop, not yet anyways.

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