Body image issues are classically considered to be a female issue, but this is a huge mistake., writes Ben Coomber…
Men are, in the modern world, under just as much societal pressure to appear a certain way as women. And while many men aren’t too concerned about it, a growing number are, especially when it comes to gym culture.
Muscle Dysmorphic Disorder (MDD) is popularly known as ‘bigorexia’ (a reference to it being a reversed anorexia) in the media and there may be a good reason for this. MDD is not an exercise in vanity where someone simply wants to look good and get compliments; those with MDD genuinely see themselves as small or weak and will therefore make what they view as the necessary steps to remedy the situation. Sufferers view themselves as weak and small despite what the mirror and what other people think – this is a relatively good example of a polar opposite to anorexia.
Why is this a problem? Working out is good for you, right?
Yes, to a degree, and this is where MDD and dedicated training differ. Someone who is simply dedicated to their training and eating and who is driven will have a stopping point, a point where they look in the mirror and think, “Yeah I’m happy with that, I look good”.
A sufferer of MDD will not, they will always want more, often an amount that will never end and, for some, be unachievable without the use of drugs/steroids.
People with MDD will train through injury, will sacrifice social situations regularly so that they can train and eat the meals they think are needed to reach a goal. They will find that their preoccupation with their image interferes with relationships, careers and education, and will often refuse to take holidays or other multiple day trips for fear that their gym regime will be interrupted. They will often take steroids when they realise that their natural capacity to reach their goal is limited to the vision or image they have for their body. It is also a fact that the vast majority of MDD sufferers also have depression.
Of course, there is a spectrum, and we must be very careful when handing out ‘diagnoses’ based on a snapshot of what we see. We must also bear in mind that someone with dedication and serious goals will have similar behaviours, so context is always key.
They may train around injury (something which is actually beneficial).
- They may train for multiple hours per week.
- They may sometimes choose to skip certain social situations (big nights out or pizza buffets).
- They may also look to find a gym while on holiday because they enjoy training.
None of these things are indicative of a problem per se, but if the person feels that they are impacting their life yet they feel compelled to continue, there is a good chance that this is a problem. Another thing to consider is that a bodybuilder or powerlifter who is simply dedicated will not have a distorted body image and, though they feel improvements could be made, they will be overall happy with their body.
- Some other symptoms to look for are:
- Excessive time exercising which impacts on day-to-day life;
- Genuine panic and distress at the thought of missing a
workout, rather than simply mild annoyance;
- Unplanned over-reaching or over-training, and training
through (rather than around) injury;
- Disordered eating habits (often very hard to define);
- Compulsive checking of one’s physique, and comparing to
others (possibly on social media);
- Prioritising training over everything else, all of the time;
- Typically, other concerns such as fat level, hair or penis size.
If you feel that you or someone you know may have issues, the best thing to do is to talk to a professional. cognitive behavioural therapy is an extremely effective method for dealing with MDD, but just like any other body image issue, the person must be ready to seek help, if they are not ready and accepting of an issue, unfortunately, forcing the issue may make it worse.
If a friend or loved one is being affected, my advice is to be supportive and understanding while informing them clearly of your concerns in a neutral and non-provocative place/manner.
A healthy meal full of benefits. Who needs a takaway, says Ben…
Flash cook green Thai curry
A super quick curry dish that can be made with most curry pastes. All you need is the curry paste itself, a coconut block or paste, milk, and your chosen meat and vegetables. A simple and quick dish that is both healthy and packed with flavour. Why get a takeaway when you can cook this in 10-15 minutes?
Coconut block, coconut paste or butter
(hard so you can just chip some off for the recipe)
Thai Green curry paste (or your chosen curry paste)
Mixed veg (stir fry veg, i.e. baby corn, onions,
snap peas and beansprouts)
You can add noodles or rice if you wish
For a portion I would recommend around 150g of chicken, 15g of coconut butter, 1 tbsp. of green curry paste and 200g of mixed stir fry vegetables (although I would say the veggies can be limitless, after all it’s the good stuff).
Benefits: High in protein, healthy mix of vegetables for maximum nutrition, convenient, easy to cook and adaptable, rich in antioxidants vitamins and minerals, broad nutrient profile.
Method for cooking:
To cook this dish simply heat up a little oil (I like coconut oil for this dish) in a pan, and when hot add the chicken, which you’ll want to cut into thin strips for quick and easy cooking. As soon as the chicken looks like it’s cooked, add your vegetables and cook for 3-4 minutes. Then add your curry paste, milk and coconut block, and cook the whole dish for another 3-4 minutes. Feel free to add more curry paste, milk or coconut block upon tasting if you think it needs more. If the curry sauce is looking a little thin you can add some corn flour (after mixing with a tiny bit of cold water) to thicken the dish. Serve on its own or with rice or noodles (rice would be best if you are considering one or the other).