While we are used to speaking and denouncing the enormous damage that the concept of the “ideal body” generates for women, it is also true that -this same situation but with men- it is not widely spread. With some points in common (“being skinny”, as the ideal), they have certain particularities such as the ideal size of the back, the volume of the muscles, or even the diameter of the legs.
Far from the idea of training and a healthy lifestyle, the alarms start to sound when the person is ‘obsessed’ with achieving that ideal body. Defined as vigorexia, it is -effectively- an eating disorder and the main characteristic of this disease is characterized by the cult of the perfect body; leading unbalanced eating habits and a lifestyle focused on exaggerated physical activity.
It seems odd that vigorexia is a disorder that appears particularly in young men; today, it is most seen in ages between 20 and 45 years old. It consists of addiction to going to the gym. They have food restriction behaviors or consume a lot of protein, creatinine or foods that make them get bigger; this gives them a feeling of pleasure. They can also consume tin, a very powerful drug for horses; all this generates a feeling of vigor. And it is not that they have strength, but excessive muscle.
Its relationship with anorexia and bulumia
On the other hand, vigorexia is treated as an eating disorder. “In my case, this disorder could be identified in the patient’s interview in the office where one detects with certain questions the patient’s obsession with his aesthetics and with the obsessive attendance at the gym, on many occasions, several times a day. Visually, one detects prominent muscular development and a concern of the patient to maintain that physical work no matter how”, says Lic. Mariana Páez, a specialist in nutrition.
The eating plan that people who suffer from this disorder generally follow is very rarely made by a health professional. “They usually put together their own plan, their physical trainer or a gym buddy. This causes them to be influenced by what they believe is the right thing to do and they carry out a very restrictive eating plan in fats, high in proteins and carbohydrates”, explains the nutritionist.
Young people with vigorexia usually turn to the consumption of hormones and anabolic steroids to help increase muscle mass. “Since the plan is so restrictive and demanding, they do not achieve an increase in their muscle mass. It is not the eating plan that could lead them to develop long-term health problems, but the consumption of these substances and demanding physical activity”, she highlights.
The impact of social media on it
Society and “wanting to belong to” are the main causes of this disorder. “Society leads us day by day that the synonym of beauty is perfection, thinness in women, muscle in men, a feeling of well-being, being better than. The relationship of vigorexia with networks is direct. It is the biggest problem of these times. These young people show in their networks how they train, their muscles, what they eat, they explain to others what to consume to be better. They show their followers an idea that, in order to belong, they have to have the body they have”, explains Lic. Cynthia Zaiatz.
How to treat vigorexia
As with patients with other eating disorders, this condition requires multidisciplinary treatment. First of all, always consult with a health professional to perform a complete medical check-up. “Give the patient a space of trust so that he can express what is happening to him, his disagreement with his physique and be the ones to help him with psychological referrals and with teamwork to help this patient get out of this obsessive behavior”, points out Lic. Mariana Páez.
The most important thing is to accompany the person to improve their self-esteem, reducing the load of daily physical activity and instructing them to gradually abandon the intake of substances that are harmful to the body.