An Inside Look: Bodybuilding And Body Dysmorphia

An Inside Look: Bodybuilding And Body Dysmorphia

The dark side of physique competition prep.
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There's not much regarding competitive bodybuilding that isn't extreme. You spend 12-20 weeks dieting to ridiculously low body-fat levels, seclude yourself from tempting social outings, and spend hours in the gym analyzing your every move. Every week, you send progress pictures to your coach for them to assess whether you keep going, or you modify your plan moving forward. As athletes who compete in a sport solely based around our outward appearance, we can't help but have our own thoughts and opinions on our physique as we progress closer to a contest. Sometimes these thoughts are positive, but usually they're more detrimental and negative than anything.

When you're preparing for a bodybuilding contest, you pick yourself apart. You find every flaw in your appearance and notice things that only a trained eye could ever pick up. You're not big enough. You're not lean enough. Your legs won't lean out. You're holding water. You're not vascular enough. You're too vascular. The idea of being "ready" for a show is ingrained so deeply in your mind and you're consistently aspiring to get closer and closer to the Holy Grail of "ready" as each day passes. You do everything in your power to reach it. Even when you've nailed your diet and training every day for weeks on end, you're still going to wish you had more this and less that. Even when your body fat is at it's lowest, you'll still think you need to be tighter and more conditioned. Even when you've spent years molding and crafting your physique, you'll still think it's never enough.

Your vision is skewed and you view yourself through tinted glass. Your self-assessment isn't trustworthy and your perspective is off. Clarity is blurred by a standard that keeps moving higher and higher. Every day is a struggle to love your body. You stop appreciating what it does for you (things like keeping you alive, pushing you through grueling sessions, and every day life) and start obsessing over what it looks like. You suffer from body dysmorphia.

But any seasoned athlete knows all too well you don't even realize you suffer from body dysmorphia until afterwards. The show day "high" wears off, the spray tan fades, and you put on a healthy amount of body fat. It's not until you enter a more normal and sustainable way of living (AKA off-season) that you really see how off your mind was all along.

Eventually, you feel an itch to pull yourself out of your off-season and jump into another dieting phase to prepare for a show. You love the grind of prep. You love the commitment, energy, and effort it requires. You find yourself reminiscing and looking back through your Camera Roll at old check-in photos and posing footage from your last prep. And then in your head you're thinking, "Holy wow, I looked so good. I was so conditioned. I was so ready. How was I ever unhappy with this package? How could I ever find the justification to cry over how 'awful' I looked in these photos?" You sit there in awe of how you could have ever doubted yourself.

Body dysmorphia is real and it's common--don't ever think you're the only person experiencing it. Find comfort in knowing that every time you compete and transition into an off-season, you become more aware of your bias. You hold a better perspective each time you push through the preparations for your next contest.

Cover Image Credit: Pexels

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8 Reasons Why My Dad Is the Most Important Man In My Life

Forever my number one guy.
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Growing up, there's been one consistent man I can always count on, my father. In any aspect of my life, my dad has always been there, showing me unconditional love and respect every day. No matter what, I know that my dad will always be the most important man in my life for many reasons.

1. He has always been there.

Literally. From the day I was born until today, I have never not been able to count on my dad to be there for me, uplift me and be the best dad he can be.

2. He learned to adapt and suffer through girly trends to make me happy.

I'm sure when my dad was younger and pictured his future, he didn't think about the Barbie pretend pageants, dressing up as a princess, perfecting my pigtails and enduring other countless girly events. My dad never turned me down when I wanted to play a game, no matter what and was always willing to help me pick out cute outfits and do my hair before preschool.

3. He sends the cutest texts.

Random text messages since I have gotten my own cell phone have always come my way from my dad. Those randoms "I love you so much" and "I am so proud of you" never fail to make me smile, and I can always count on my dad for an adorable text message when I'm feeling down.

4. He taught me how to be brave.

When I needed to learn how to swim, he threw me in the pool. When I needed to learn how to ride a bike, he went alongside me and made sure I didn't fall too badly. When I needed to learn how to drive, he was there next to me, making sure I didn't crash.

5. He encourages me to best the best I can be.

My dad sees the best in me, no matter how much I fail. He's always there to support me and turn my failures into successes. He can sit on the phone with me for hours, talking future career stuff and listening to me lay out my future plans and goals. He wants the absolute best for me, and no is never an option, he is always willing to do whatever it takes to get me where I need to be.

6. He gets sentimental way too often, but it's cute.

Whether you're sitting down at the kitchen table, reminiscing about your childhood, or that one song comes on that your dad insists you will dance to together on your wedding day, your dad's emotions often come out in the cutest possible way, forever reminding you how loved you are.


7. He supports you, emotionally and financially.

Need to vent about a guy in your life that isn't treating you well? My dad is there. Need some extra cash to help fund spring break? He's there for that, too.

8. He shows me how I should be treated.

Yes, my dad treats me like a princess, and I don't expect every guy I meet to wait on me hand and foot, but I do expect respect, and that's exactly what my dad showed I deserve. From the way he loves, admires, and respects me, he shows me that there are guys out there who will one day come along and treat me like that. My dad always advises me to not put up with less than I deserve and assures me that the right guy will come along one day.

For these reasons and more, my dad will forever be my No. 1 man. I love you!

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Part 1: Necessary Changes

One of my favorite movies is "Fried Green Tomatoes" with Kathy Bates. In the movie Bates' character Evelyn Couch says, "Someone helped put a mirror up in front of my face, and I didn't like what I saw one bit. And you know what I did? I changed." I know the feeling.

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I looked in the mirror over the weekend and didn't like what I saw.

The person I saw looking back at me is petty, selfish, manipulative, and unattractive. It wasn't that I hated what I saw, but I definitely didn't like what I saw either. It's a surreal feeling, looking at yourself through a critical lens, and it doesn't make you feel good in any way shape or form.

The image that I see of myself is not how I want others to perceive me. I want to be someone that people look at and see kindness, compassion, strength, and confidence.

I have enough general life experience to know that these types of changes aren't going to happen overnight, and not all of them will be physical; most of these will have to happen from the inside, from within myself.

When you find out you are all broken and damaged, it's hard to know where to start putting the pieces back together. I figured the best place to start would be the most literal: my actual insides; so, I decided to embark on a deep-cleansing journey to get all of the toxins out of my body, from the inside out.

I found this book on 10-day green smoothie detox stashed away in the dark corner of my bookshelf. The science behind it seems accurate and legitimate. By eliminating certain foods, your body is able to detox itself off of chemicals and foods that are slowing down your metabolism; the smoothies are specifically designed with combinations of foods that help restart your metabolism. Part of the detox process is getting rid of all dependencies on caffeine, alcohol, and sugar.

Every day you are given the recipe for a specific smoothie; you make the smoothie (about 40 ounces) and sip on it throughout the day whenever you get hungry. Every smoothie is a combination of leafy greens, water, fruit, and flax seeds. If you do happen to get hungry throughout the day, you are encouraged to eat raw nuts, hard boiled eggs, and a wide variety of crunchy green vegetables. There is also a detox tea that you have first thing in the morning, but other than that no other beverages are allowed except water.

I know that this is only the beginning of a very long, emotional, and draining journey. But I think I'm at the point in my life where I have to make these changes. I have to put my pieces together, I have to become a normal functioning adult, I have to find out who I am. I think that this is the perfect way to start.

For the next 10 days I am going to be documenting my experiences, how I'm feeling, what my emotions are doing, and any results that I see.

Stay tuned!

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