Hi everyone! It’s been a while since I’ve written on here, so let me re-introduce myself. My name is Marv, I just turned 31 years old, and my sobriety/clean date is June 22, 2013. I am also someone who battled major body dysmorphia issues over the years, which led me to have a very unhealthy and complicated relationship with exercise and food.
Yes, you heard right. I'm a male who is extremely open about discussing the fact that I battled with body image issues, which led me to make some very destructive choices over the years; choices that I am still dealing with the long-term ramifications from. Hell, even today, if my spiritual condition is lacking, body image issues can start to re-surface.
When it came to my body, I never felt muscular enough while simultaneously feeling fat since I didn’t have a ripped 6 pack or even 8 pack. Even though I was way, way, above average in terms of muscularity and leanness due to heavy steroid use; in my mind I looked terrible and would have a hard time taking my shirt off in public. I would beat myself up for always falling short in those two areas, because let’s face it, it’s hard to stick to your diet when you are drinking and using recreational drugs daily.
Where did those issues stem from? I have my theories...
For one, I was extremely small and unathletic compared to my peers growing up. Yet, I attempted to hang out with the jock crowd. I was able to make the basketball team each year from the 6th grade all the way up to varsity high school. But, I was never good enough to be more than a bench warmer. You know? The guy who wears break-away pants but rarely has a reason to “break them away.”
So I was a pretty easy target who got picked on and made fun of a lot by the larger, more athletic guys in my high school. I would fantasize about how one day I would be big, buff, good at sports, and ultimately accepted by my peers. It wasn’t until I was about 19-20 years old that I finally “grew into my body” and gained the coordination and athleticism that I'd lacked up to that point.
Secondly, after being introduced to the gym and weight training at the age of 19, I quickly decided I wanted to be a certain style of ripped; “muscle magazine cover model ripped.”
Why would I want to be like someone on the cover of a muscle magazine? Well, though I didn’t know it at the time, I'd been lacking an internal identity my entire life. I used something, or worse, someone to define myself by. Whenever that external source of identity was taken away from me I would freak out and dive deeper and deeper into my addiction to drugs and alcohol. At that age my identity that I derived from a relationship ended–not by my doing–so I needed something to replace it with. And that’s when I decided my outsides would define my insides.
For a good eight-year stretch I battled with body dysmorphia in silence. I never took joy in seeing my progress. I never felt good enough. It even sounds silly, but even when I was at 10-12% body fat I would feel fat and disgusting because I couldn’t replicate what I saw in the magazines. I truly didn’t understand why I couldn’t look like them. And hell, I was taking most of the drugs they were taking!
When I would do my daily private flex sessions in my mirror, my eyes would zone in on my “trouble spots”; the muscles I had a hard time developing. I always was wanting to be bigger and leaner at the same time which is VERY hard to do, even with athletic drugs. Anytime I would receive a complement (which I got many), I would deflect them and start a conversation in my head about why I wasn’t good enough.
Yet here's how my mind would play tricks on me: “You think I’m big now, wait till drug “X” kicks in, THEN I’ll be big….”
“Oh man I ain’t ripped I only have a 4 pack not a 6 pack, I’m not even close to where I want to be….”
You know, stuff like that?
I used my body and all its perceived inadequacies to mercilessly beat myself up. I would assign my morality to how I thought I should look. And since I was a perfectionist at comparing myself to the very best in the world, I would always fall short. I would feel disgusted with myself. I was never big enough, I was never lean enough. I was too small and fat; how the hell could anyone find me attractive?! I told myself that I was hideous, dammit!
It was self-inflicted misery and mental abuse. I thrived on playing the victim in my own head, so I used my body dysmorphia as a way to justify and rationalize my behaviors when it came to my unhealthy weight training sessions and athletic drug use, on top of my drinking and recreational use.
I still have these issues arise today. In fact, they are one of my first tell-tale signs my recovery is lacking and that I’ve grown stagnant in it.
It will always be a balancing act for myself, and there will be times when for the interest of work that it’s best that I look “special.” But, I have to be careful that I don’t let my outsides return to defining my insides.
Today when people ask and I tell them I’m dieting, they look at me in shock like, “Why the hell do you need to diet?!”
And that will forever be my dilemma...
Sure, sometimes vanity wins and I think that people will take me and my work more seriously if I have 6 pack abs. But, then I can start to get obsessive again.
There have been multiple times in my recovery I had to abandon a “fat loss goal” halfway through because I found myself starting to feel my body image issues come back, that I wasn’t good enough, and that I “have to be ripped” since I already put pictures out there when I had such great conditioning and muscle definition so they will expect it from me and lose interest if I don’t replicate that!
Thankfully, the more and more my recovery grows, the less and less often my body dysmorphia attempts to control me again. It will be an issue that I will always have to deal with, but I’ve learned tools and warning signs to prevent it from it getting out of hand once again.So again... My name is Marv. I’m a recovering drug addict/alcoholic who’s also recovering from feeling too small and fat. And today, just for today, I feel comfortable in my own skin. So, for that I am eternally grateful.