Chicken and Rice Obsessed “Gym Bros” are in Real Danger

Noa Weltsch


March 24, 2023

Everyone knows at least one man who is image-obsessed, never missing a day at the gym and constantly eating unseasoned chicken, rice, and broccoli. It’s time we question the effects of such a lifestyle, and realize that their eating disorders are just as valid as the disorders we associate with women.

So many of these “gym bros” who are obsessed with their bodies, calorie deficits, and clean eating should face the facts and realize that they have multi-faceted eating disorders and body dysmorphia. It must be clarified that this is not written out of wanting to shame others, but rather in order to help those afflicted get the help they deserve.

Many men are in denial of the idea that counting macros and abusing themselves in the gym is due to a combination of disordered eating and muscle dysmorphia, rather than personal health.

It is time for the self-afflicted torment to stop. As aware as society may be about eating disorders, our knowledge is limited when it comes to this subgroup of men. Making these men more aware of the dangers of their lifestyle, and finding other routes to personal health and wellness, is the ultimate goal.

“Cutting”, or eating at an extreme calorie deficit, is similar to the anorexia nervosa DSM-V diagnostic criteria of “restriction of energy intake”. While the two may not seem comparable, or some may not want to compare the two, they are essentially the same.

According to a study done by Amie J. Dirks and Christiaan Leeuwenburgh, caloric restriction (of any kind) can lead to many negative physical health outcomes, including but not limited to: hypotension, loss of libido, infertility, and osteoporosis.

When done obsessively and with guilt and shame, “clean eating” can be considered orthorexia, a disorder which falls under Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID). It’s great to eat healthy and be passionate about what you put into your body, but when an individual starts getting concerned about seasoning their food due to the extra caloric intake, it becomes a more concerning matter.

These individuals are oftentimes counting macros, an all-consuming activity. Tracking the macronutrients of every food and drink you consume can take up many hours of the day, and leads to obsessive thoughts and actions. With such insane calorie to macro ratios, it becomes impossible to stay within the set limits unless someone is consuming the same bland, boring meals everyday.

Wanting to improve one’s figure is not a crime, but when the want to improve turns into extreme dissatisfaction with body-image, the underlying issue may be mental illness. An individual experiencing muscle dysmorphia, a specifier within body dysmorphia, is identified according to the DSM-V as someone who “is preoccupied with the idea that his or her body build is too small or insufficiently muscular”. Men deal with this specific issue disproportionately in comparison to women.

In a study from the International Journal of Eating Disorders, there were significant findings that appearance intolerance (a characteristic of muscle dysmorphia) is correlated with suicidal ideation among men. And more, suicidal ideation can predict symptoms of muscle dysmorphia.

Muscle dysmorphia can attract someone to work out more often, which can result in an exercise addiction. This addiction is dangerous and can cause injury in the long term, especially when coinciding with calorie restriction. To combat this from happening, it’s important to promote healthy and regular exercise without applying so much pressure.

Many people believe that being committed to the gym and clean eating is a good thing, and makes someone healthy. And while that is true, an overconsumption of gym culture and general societal pressure can cause this commitment to the gym and healthy eating to spiral into something much more dangerous, physically and psychologically. Consumption of harmful media is an easy rabbit hole to fall into and can
consume anyone’s life, even the physically strongest.

Eating disorders exist on a wide spectrum, and can affect a wide variety of people. This variety includes men who appear to be in great shape. While looking great does make you feel confident, reaching great looks in a healthy manner should be admired more than unhealthy manners.

Noa Weltsch

I’m at third year psychology major and French minor at SDSU with an interest in marketing. Currently, I’m involved on campus with a student-led newspaper and magazine. I’m passionate about mental health and finding solutions that work for everyone. In my free time I love researching fashion and finding interesting vintage pieces.