Eating disorders affect approximately seven hundred and twenty five thousand people in the UK, according to recent statistics published by PricewaterhouseCoopers. Approximately ninety percent of those that are affected by an eating disorder are women (b-eat.co.uk).
Common eating disorders include anorexia nervosa, bulimia and binge eating. There have been many celebrities and notable public figures that have suffered from such eating disorders, including pop sensation turned fashionista Victoria Beckham, actress Jane Fonda and singer Diana Ross. Eating disorders can have a debilitating effect on an individual and the problems often stem from something far deeper than just body dysmorphia.
Eating disorders among males are far less publicised, perhaps due to the negative stigma associated with having such a disorder. Many men could perhaps feel demasculinised by having an eating disorder stereotypically associated with women and therefore don’t go public with their problems. Celebrities including Russell Brand and Elton John have however stated they have had eating disorders, with both having suffered from bulimia nervosa in the past.
Anorexia nervosa is characterised by extreme periods of under eating or fasting in an attempt to lose weight. Bulimia nervosa is characterised by intense periods of over eating often combined with intermittent periods of fasting, where an individual may only be eating certain types of foods, often junk foods, binge eat and force themselves to vomit in an attempt to lose weight. Many of these commonly heard about disorders are emotional disorders that have surfaced due to body image problems and a desire to lose weight. In such disorders, the sufferer can deem themselves to be overweight, when in actual fact they are most probably skinnier than the average person. They therefore go to extreme lengths to lose weight, which in some cases may involve binge eating, vomiting or extreme periods of under eating. In recent weeks it has become apparent that many people have now resorted to taking diet pills, which in some cases has proven to be fatal.
Much is known about these eating disorders in which weight loss is the ultimate goal. Bigorexia on the other hand, also known as muscle dysmorphia is characterised by an obsessive desire to get bigger and bigger and gain more size and muscle mass. Bigorexia is much more than just an eating disorder. Much like anorexia and bulimia, it’s an emotional body dysmorphia disorder. Bigorexics consider themselves to be too skinny when in actual fact they are far more muscular than the average, non weightlifting person.
In the world of weightlifting and bodybuilding, those suffering from bigorexia often become what is commonly known as in the health and fitness industry, as gym rats. They may abandon their jobs, sabotage their relationships and spend whatever money they have on gym memberships, food and even drugs in their quest to get bigger.
Television personality and qualified Doctor, Christian Jessen is one such person that has suffered with muscle dysmorphia. He has stated that he is gym obsessed and lifts weights due to body image insecurities; ‘‘I weigh fourteen stone but in my head I’m a seven stone weakling’’ (standard.co.uk). This feeling of inadequacy and self obsession regarding body image is on the rise amongst men, especially those living in western countries. One of the possible reasons for this is the way that men are portrayed in the media. Much like the women that appear in magazines and stare down on the public from billboards and adverts, images that have been airbrushed and the whole size zero phenomenon, many men are also made to feel inadequate when looking at celebrities on magazine covers. Men with six pack abs and rippling muscles do nothing to help the insecurities that many men have about their own body image. Many young men are impressionable and seeing these public figures causes them to strive to reach often unattainable goals of putting on a huge amount of size and muscle mass. In such cases many men do whatever it takes to put on muscle, including taking drugs such as anabolic steroids.
Anabolic steroids are potentially dangerous substances and if used incorrectly, can have fatal consequences. Side effects from steroid use are inevitable but are increased due improper use. Many men looking to put on muscle are not willing to put in the time, the effort and the many years of training required to build their ideal physique. They want quick fixes which is why they may turn to drugs. These men may take steroids with little or no knowledge about how to take them, the correct doses to take, the period of time they should stay on a steroid cycle and hence problems occur.
Bigorexia is on the rise in western society, although it is still a little bit of a taboo subject. Those with bigorexia see weightlifting as an addiction. It’s an all consuming lifestyle and weightlifting is just a means to an end.