The fitness industry has become increasingly popular with social media tools like Instagram. Anyone can now connect with like-minded people anywhere in the world. Creating a tight knit community. As competing and bodybuilding become more popular, so is the social acceptance of dieting.
Anyone who has competed, or has any education in nutrition, knows that a “prep-diet” is not healthy. Let’s even forget prep for hot minute. If we even look at the plethora of fit tummy teas and smoothie bowls on the internet. We have created a community in which people are praised for their will power. Their ability to strictly restrict calories, turn down reward, and only eat the “heathiest” and “best” foods that society has to offer. This creates an outlet for people already prone to food issues. Because what was once considered negative behavior is now praised and rewarded.
I can personally attest that I have struggled with disordered eating for most of my life. And while working out can definitely teach you to appreciate food as a tool, there comes a point where you start obsessing about macros. Fats, carbs, protein cals. How many hours has it been since your last meal? Did you hit all your macros? Or worst, did you go over? And if you overdid carbs do you now need to do extra cardio? A second lift? It can be an anxiety ridden thought process that become obsessive.
The phenomenon of orthorexia is relatively new. It is characterized by an excessive preoccupation with eating supposedly healthy food. The term was introduced in 1997 by
Dr. Bratman, (M.D). He suggested that some people’s dietary restrictions intended to promote healthy lifestyles paradoxically lead to unhealthy consequences. This can result in social isolation (can’t go out guys, I’m on prep…), anxiety (macro obsession) and even the loss of the ability to eat in a natural, intuitive manner, such as listening to your hunger. I can not tell you the amount of times I would lie awake at night unable to sleep because of hunger pain. Or when you’re light headed and foggy, from strict low carb/cal diets, and someone offered you some sugar to spike your insulin. And of course, you protest. Severe cases or orthorexia result in malnutrition, or worst. I know a number of competitors or “fitness chicks” who have complained of hair loss, brittle nails, low iron, hormone issues…
It is not uncommon to come across women who share their stories of eating disorder turned fitness lover/bodybuilder. But is this a 180 lifestyle change, or just displaced anxiety in a socially acceptable manner? Do not get me wrong, I am by no means bashing dieting for a show. No one ever claimed body building is healthy (and if they are, they’re in denial). I have done it many times, and it was no walk in the part. A lot of sacrifice goes into competing. But it is also short term. Any coach who has you eating and living this way for extended periods of time does not have your best interest in mind.
The intent of this post is geared towards the average girl (or guy) who is an innocent bystander on social media, admiring these physiques and thinking that this is how they should be eating and living. Instagram is also a highlight reel. You are only seeing what people want you to see, and not what goes on behind closed doors. It is also my duty to society, or due diligence per say, to anyone out there who may find themselves in this trap. Even having distanced myself from the bodybuilding community (or at least competitively), I still find myself obsessing over everything I put into my body. The thought of going out for a meal or having a few drinks still gives me anxiety. Because I have no clue what I am putting into my body. The thought of eating something “bad” and not having some kind of guilt after is still something I am working on. And I continuously hold myself the standard or physique I know I’m capable of. As you also assume everyone else holds you to that standard as well. We all hear stories of how a woman “let herself go” after a show… or had a “sloppy” offseason. Which is far more common to hear about women than it is about men sadly. Not because men don’t also put on weight. But because, for some reason, men increase in value with the addition of size (see how much size he’s put on? Dude, you’re huge), while women are expected to forever have a small waist, but still be thick in the right places? This is why I believe it is important to be able to self-identify our own issues, and motives. You do you, for you.