There are many reasons why a person chooses to lead a fit and healthy lifestyle, some having been mentioned previously, but this post hopes to concentrate on perhaps the most common reason for a non-athlete to hit the gym…. body image. Whilst training has numerous benefits, from reducing the risk of disease to improved sporting performance, for the majority of gym goers its aesthetic effects are possibly the most desired result of all the hours spent sweating and grunting, moving great lumps of metal and running whilst going nowhere!
It is a fact that people like to look and feel good, and whilst in days gone by a fuller figure may have been in vogue, rightly or wrongly the modern day image of healthy and desirable generally tends to be lower body fat and toned/muscular, and the fitness industry thrives on helping people achieve this look. The supplement industry alone is worth £billions selling products promising those elusive six pack abs, reduced fat stores and the like (none of which actually work!) attempting to cash in on peoples’ insecurities about their bodies, and similarly some gyms and personal trainers promise results in unlikely timescales again in order to manipulate sales. We are constantly bombarded with images of ‘beautiful people’ from the movies, tv or in music, a world which we will never inhabit and one which the photographs from are 9 times out of 10 photoshopped, and so is it any wonder that we become fixated on our body image and try various methods to create our envisaged ‘perfect body’?
Often seen as a predominantly female issue due largely to the media, struggles with body image have now become commonplace with men too and in its extreme can lead to a condition known as body dysmorphia. Body dysmorphic disorder is a mental disorder characterised by an obsessive preoccupation that some aspect of one’s own appearance is severely flawed and warrants exceptional measures to hide or fix it. In BDD’s delusional variant, the flaw is imagined or if actual, then is severely exaggerated. Either way, one’s thoughts about it are pervasive and intrusive, occupying up to several hours a day (Wikipedia).
Aren’t we all guilty of looking in the mirror on occasion and feeling completely unsatisfied with the way we look? People in the gym never happy with their gains and complaining of feeling small, or obsessing over their weight and their perceived lack of progress, 9 times out of 10 imagined. These are body image issues we can all relate to, and whilst not as drastic as fully blown BDD, are all guilty of at some time. It has come to the stage now where somebody confident with their appearance is often considered vain and perhaps even a little conceited purely because they do not share the hang ups the majority of people have with their appearance.
So by all means train hard, build muscle, expose those abs, lose that belly, but do it for your health, your sanity, for the sense of achievement, the pride and enjoyment, not for some imagined flaw that only you seem to see; be happy in your body, we are all individuals and come in every size and shape!
Stay proud, fit And healthy!