Bigorexia is a disorder, similar to anorexia, where people see a distorted image of themselves. They never feel like they’re good enough, thin enough, or in the case of bigorexia, muscular enough. They’re always working harder, putting in more time and more effort chasing a carrot on a stick.
Recently I was at the gym having a conversation with a friend of a friend who I randomly bump into there occasionally. When I first started seeing him at the gym, about two years ago, he made it glaringly apparent how dissatisfied he was with his own figure. He was scrawny. Not to a point where it made him look bad, but his image of the ideal man was someone with veiny pecs and bulging biceps. I helped him out, taught him a few things, I was much bigger than him at the time and he looked up to me. He’s been extremely dedicated since then, and it shows. He’s in better shape now than I’ve ever been.
When I saw him the other day I complimented him on the progress he had made, and he seemed to disagree. The way he acted, it was as if he was still that scrawny kid, I watched as he looked at himself in the mirror and had that same dissatisfied look on his face that he did before he’d put on thirty pounds of muscle. Nothing I said could change his mind. Even though he had made so much progress, and in my opinion surpassed any expectations he had originally had for himself, he wasn’t at all satisfied. He was still waiting for that day when he’d be “big enough”. Big enough for what? To feel good about himself? To feel like he’s getting respect? That’s what was on my mind. What is it that everyone at the gym is looking for? For what reason are they changing themselves?
I know this doesn’t cover everyone, not by a long shot, the answer I settled with was that this friend of mine is trying to solve an INTERNAL problem by EXTERNAL means. The internal problem is that he doesn’t accept who he is. He sets self acceptance as a goal, rather than something he can embrace in the moment. “I’ll accept myself for who I am when I’m this muscular”. But because of the way muscle gain or fat loss happens over a slow period of time, the gradual increase or decrease in size keeps people from really feeling like they’re making enough progress. So even when, to everyone else, they look great, to themselves they feel like they haven’t really changed, and so the goal is still just as far away.
I feel this issue in part is what causes some people to pursue anorexia, because being “too fat” is just lack of accepting yourself from the other side of the spectrum. Those people use the external means of weight loss, rather than weight gain, to fix the internal problem of being unable to accept themselves, and they too are incapable of reaching their goal, because it’s always just out of arms reach. (Now, I know that for some people anorexia is more about control than anything, so don’t assume I’m saying that any of these ideas cover everyone, or even anyone, with any issue involving an incapability to accept themselves. People are too complex to have their issues summed up with a single blog post.)
In my own way I’m trying to figure out a different way to go about this. The motivation for going to the gym, or dieting, or whatever a person does to change their body should not be a negative one. It should not spawn from self hatred. It should spawn from self love. People should do it because they love themselves and want to improve who they are, for their sake. Not for the sake of others who might judge them. Next time you decide that you need to change who you look, think twice and wonder if you’re really doing it for you. Is there really an attainable goal, or are you just going to be the next person to fall into an anorexic/bigorexic cycle?