Gym Bros


Rajasi Laddha

During quarantine, many men sought to improve their physiques and achieve their dream body through diet and exercise. For many, this goal manifested into an obsessive need to become larger and more muscular, regardless of their physique. The compulsory need of becoming “big” paired with unhealthy weight training techniques became a body dysmorphic disorder: bigorexia. 

The compulsory need of becoming “big” paired with unhealthy weight training techniques became a body dysmorphic disorder: bigorexia. 

According to the Journal of Athletic Training, the primary focus of bigorexia is how large and muscular a person can get; the perceived malformation is viewed as a lack of size or strength. Despite growing media attention, in comparison with anorexia and bulimia, few interventional strategies for bigorexia have been explored. The prevalence of bigorexia in society is due to how normalized the mindset is, especially in mainstream media through bulking and cutting techniques. Although there are no formal definitions, bulking and cutting are techniques used to build their ideal physique over time. Bulking involves eating more calories than one needs to put on weight and then building muscle through rigorous training. The extra weight gained during bulking allows them to lift heavier weights and this increases their muscle mass. 

On the other hand, cutting involves eating fewer calories than burned to lose the fat gained during bulking. By rapidly losing their extra body fat, bodybuilders keep the muscle gained during bulking and achieve a more muscular physique. Because both bulking and cutting heavily depend on calorie counting, people are likely to fall into a toxic pattern of pushing their bodies to an unhealthy extent. The hallmark of the bulking phase is its rigid rules surrounding protein consumption and the bodybuilder’s ability to maximize their calorie intake. The constant mindset of thinking that bigger is better forces men to force-feed themselves until they achieve their ideal body shape, regardless of the harmful effects… 

Cutting phases severely restrict all high-calorie foods to reduce fat and enhance the look of their physique. The satisfaction of achieving a more muscular state than they could have naturally achieved leaves bodybuilders craving and pushing for a more ideal physique. If bigger is better, could they not have achieved an even leaner and bigger physique if they bulked or cut even more than they did? This cyclical dieting pattern is difficult to escape as men are not able to recognize that their restrictive and obsessive need to achieve their desired physique is a form of body dysmorphia and often leads to illness. Currently, the only treatments available for bigorexia include antidepressants or cognitive behavior therapy. Compared to the options available for other commonly known eating and body dysmorphic disorders, bigorexia is significantly undercovered in the medical industry. 

Throughout mainstream media and the medical industry, bigorexia must be acknowledged more often as bulking and cutting culture grows among men. Eating disorders in men generally go undiagnosed, and with the growing prevalence of bigorexia in gym bros, it is more crucial than ever to stop the cycle.