3 Steps to Overcoming Body Dysmorphic Disorder

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Day in and day out we put in work at the gym and in the kitchen. We pass up desserts at special events and social gatherings, as a sacrifice to achieve a certain goal or look, if you will.

Still, at the end of the day – whether you are counting macros, pre-making meals, spending 15 minutes or 2 hours in the gym – you find yourself in front of the mirror poking and prodding at all the imperfections. Many questions come to mind.

Am I not working hard enough? Does my diet need recalculating? Should I add or cut calories? Is this all even worth it?

We always seem to quickly forget how far we’ve come. Do you remember how hard you worked to get to where you are now? Or have you forgotten your original goal?

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At this point we may be asking ourselves: are we seeking improvement or perfection? At what point are we satisfied with ourselves, the goals we have set have been met and new ones have been outlined. When does the sick cycle of self-deprecation stop?

Most of us are never satisfied with ourselves. It seems to be a common characteristic among us “bodybuilders.” After all, the plan is to build and sculpt ourselves into something better than we are now.

I will admit, I am 100% guilty of poking and prodding at myself every evening before bed. Even though I have come a very long way from what I used to be as a person, and look very different now, I still struggle day in and day out with feeling less than perfect.

Body Dysmorphia

I am no longer over weight. I no longer have a drinking problem or poisoning my body with cigarettes or fast food. That alone should be reason enough to feel proud.

I came from a lifestyle where it was normal to eat fast food every day. I would also smoke and drink on a daily basis. This had become just as routine as brushing my teeth. I would stop by the liquor store every day after work and buy a pint of whiskey and drink myself to sleep.

Needless to say, it was no way to live. Out of the blue, I decided one day that I wanted to change. So I did just that.

Of course, my change was not done in one night. It was not easy; nothing in life is easy. But I never quit.

Related: 9 Benefits of Exercise That Help You Outside the Gym

Yes, I failed along the way. I fell off the bandwagon and had an occasional cigarette, but I also realized if I wanted to better myself physically and mentally this would take strength and determination.

Bodybuilder looking in mirrorI was 135 pounds of fluff. Never once did I have the goal to be a “bodybuilder”, a “powerlifter” or to be that girl on the front of Muscle & Fitness Hers Magazine. I just wanted to be able to walk two miles without getting winded.

So, I started walking and added a mile every day. Then I jogged for as long as I could until I could run a full mile without stopping. I eventually started doing workout videos in my house, and cleaned up my diet as best I knew how. This was before I decided to go to school for health and fitness.

I even fell foolishly into the “no carb and all cardio” nonsense and got to an unhealthy 98 pounds. This was before I realized that this method was the unhealthy version of exercise and dieting. However, I learned what calories and macros actually were and the important roll carbs and fats had on my energy level and everyday functions as a human being.

My brother started working as a sales person in a gym. He convinced me (after I semi-convinced myself) that my little 5 pound weights weren’t cutting it. I needed to step it up and take my goals to another level.

I felt uncomfortable with all the dudes in the gym, and had no clue what machines did necessarily what. The gym can be very intimidating for a beginner. But I always went in there with the attitude that I was doing this for me not them. It wasn’t long before I was pretty much hooked.

Lifting and eating clean became my new addiction. But unfortunately, so did striving for that “perfect” look. The person I saw in the mirror was not the same person everyone else saw.

I didn’t see the muscle definition I wanted. I could only focus on the cellulite I gained during my off-season. Ab definition and shoulder striations seemed to disappear in place of the unpleasant fluff-spilling over my yoga pants.

This was my new daily routine. As healthy as I tried to be each day through eating clean, taking vitamins, and spending almost every dime on health-conscious foods, body dysmorphia was by far the unhealthiest thing holding back my progress.

Body Dysmorphia

Never forget the moment you began to feel down and out about yourself, or your progress you made since.

3 Steps to Overcoming Body Dysmorphic Disorder

So how do we begin to solve this issue?

Step 1 – Appreciate How Far You’ve Come

Take your head out of your a$$. Realize how hard you’ve worked, the sacrifices you’ve made to get where you are, and reminded yourself about the reason you started all of this in the first place.

I am no longer over weight. I no longer have a drinking problem. I am no longer poisoning my body with cigarettes or fast food. That alone should be reason enough to feel proud of myself.

If you suffer from the same issues, I suggest taking a look at the decisions you’ve made that have led towards a more positive lifestyle. Lift yourself up instead of putting yourself down.

Step 2 – Understand That Some Goals Aren’t Reasonable

Remember that it is not healthy to be 7% body fat all year round, especially for women. If the true goal is to look better on stage next year (for those who compete such as myself), then a real off-season to gain muscle mass and strength is absolutely necessary.

Yes, it may come with a bit of fat, but that is part of the process. Especially if you want to look better than the year before.

Just because you see photos on Instagram and Facebook of women/men looking super lean doesn’t mean they stay that way year round. Nor does it mean this condition is healthy, if they do.

Step 3 – Train and Eat For Your Goals

If the goal is to maintain weight and just live a healthy lifestyle, then do just that. Keep a positive attitude about why you are doing it.

If the goal is to get on stage in a year and add 10 pounds of muscle, then put your heart and soul into achieving that goal. If the goal is to add strength to your squat you must eat to perform and train accordingly. Skipping a day at the gym to recover will not make you gain 10 pounds in body fat. However, it may help you gain 10 pounds in your squat so remember why you are doing it.

Regardless of the reason you or I chose to change your lifestyle for the better, this reason is exactly what you need to remember. Never forget the moment you began to feel down and out about yourself, or your progress you made since.

And never give up.

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Name: Tabitha Reynolds

Bio: Tabitha Reynolds is a Tiger Fitness Customer Service Representative (CSR), certified personal trainer, Women’s physique competitor and powerlifter. When she's not assisting customers, Tabitha can be seen making either protein pancakes or gains.