Flip Your Script

John J. Schessler, Wellness Coach/Personal Trainer

Distorted Body Images

This really is where everybody’s fitness story starts, I know mine did. Everyone starts working out for a multitude of reasons but one of the main reasons is they don’t like what they see when they look in the mirror. Isn’t that sad? We should be happier with ourselves than we are because, in actuality, it’s not as bad as you might think. After looking in the mirror, what usually follows is us grabbing loose skin and grimacing to ourselves in disgust. We do this song and dance many times in life because we’re constantly being bombarded and stigmatized by negative messages hidden in advertising, television shows and other media about what’s acceptable and what’s not concerning body image. We are constantly being reminded that we’re growing older by creaky joints, depleted oxygen intake and skin starting to wrinkle…we don’t need the media telling us about it to! We’ve learned this game of self-sabotage extremely well and judging by the amount of depression and anti-anxiety medications, cosmetic surgeries and endless selfies (gag.), there is a collect low self-esteem problem in this country and it’s getting worse. So, how did we get here? What can we do about these endless negative messages that we send ourselves almost on the reg?

Let’s get this out of the way right off the bat. It is perfectly natural to judge not only others but ourselves as well. People always are looking for ways to change their appearance, dye our hair, wear makeup and get plastic surgery. When things go beyond what are considered safe ways of improving yourself to more extreme measures, that’s when it becomes a serious issue. Body dysmorphia or BDD for short, is nothing new. As a matter of fact, in 1891, Italian physician Enrique Morselli first described BDD using the term ‘dysmorphphobia’ or the fear of having a deformity. Flash forward about 100 years to 1987 when the Diagnostic Statistical Manual (DSM-IV) officially recognized BDD as a mental health disorder.

“Okay….that’s the history of it but what actually is BDD John? How does it affect people and why is it so bad?”

In layman’s terms, BDD is a mental health disorder in which a person perseverates on one or many ‘deformities’ concerning how they look. BDD is more commonly seen in women than men, although numbers for men are rising with constant social pressure to conform to this character ideal of strength, commonly known as ‘Alpha Male Syndrome’. Since I’m a men’s life coach, most of my work is surrounded by helping men men to tap into those ‘soft skill areas’ of the human experience and assist them in being vulnerable with all of their physical and mental issues. However, just because I work primarily with men does not mean that women aren’t as important. On the contrary, they are probably the more important piece in most of, if not all of this. Women are men’s biggest supporters whether they care to admit it or not and when it comes to how we look, they usually let us know in one way or the other that they are supportive of our bodies and appearance, even when we don’t agree with them. The truth is we have insecurities as well. Huge pecs, tight abs, larger than average penises, etc. Body image issues affect everybody. For a lot of guys, getting big is the goal and when that doesn’t happen, it becomes an unhealthy obsession for some to do whatever it takes to reach the vision they have in their head of what they want to look like. Termed ‘Bigorexia’ by some, it is the exact opposite of anorexia nervosa, an unhealthy condition where people constantly think about losing weight. Bigorexia or muscle dysmorphia, is all about becoming HUGE, literally. Studies show this normally affects male bodybuilders/athletes but doesn’t discriminate among us ‘regular’ people too.

So who or what is to blame for all of this?

Well, that part isn’t so black and white because it’s not just due to one factor but instead many of them. Typically, people who have muscle dysmorphia have low self-esteem. The former teasing we all received on the playground as children comes back to haunt these individuals as adults, sending their mental images on hopes of becoming 3, 4 or 10 times their current size. Trying to ‘make good’ on the negative teasing give these individuals an axe to grind with others and it’s nonstop, 24/7/365 days a year. 29% of people with bigorexia often have a history of an anxiety disorder and 58% have presented other kinds of mood disorders.

The endless pressures from society to look certain ways, dress in expensive clothing, drive BMW’s and starve ourselves to the point of thinness takes it toll mentally on the general public and it’s worsening. For WHAT? Honestly…for money. Corporate America profits from your buying supplements, medical bills, therapy, detoxing, etc. You physically suffer so others make a profit…it’s absolutely horrifying. This is why mental health is so important and receiving the help you needs when you need it to ensure that everything is in good shape from top to bottom.

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