It happens in every gym, every CrossFit box, and every place of competitive sport. It doesn’t matter if it’s a Male or a Female. It doesn’t matter how tall you are, what your body shape looks like, or what your lifestyle is like. No matter what difference we have, we all tend to do the same thing mentally. So what am I talking about exactly? I’m talking about comparing ourselves with others. But, exactly how far is too far?
I’m just going to jump and talk about the elephant in the room now, body dysmorphia is a damaging disorder that plagues more people than you imagined. If this is your first time hearing of it, body dysmorphia is characterized as one’s obsession over their body or particular aspect of their body that they see as a flaw, and the measures they take to correct these “flaws” they see in themselves. In my opinion, corrections can be seen in things as simple as waist trainers. Let’s digress for a moment, remember when you were sitting in History class and you were learning about the fashions from each era, and corsets kept coming up? Corsets, know to kill women at times, were used to create a figure every female thought she should have. A cinched in waist with a fuller hip. That sounds oddly familiar doesn’t it? Except now women are wearing these magical waist trainers to the gym. Dear Lord, NO! First of all, that’s dangerous. And second of all, THAT’S DANGEROUS. However, body dysmorphia can be as damaging as going under the knife to correct the flaws you see in yourself. I personally have seen the horrors of corrective surgeries gone wrong in people who are very close to me.
So, here you are, reading, thinking, well body dysmorphia doesn’t affect me. I work out, I look better than I did, so I’m good to go. Sadly, this is incorrect. In fact, I hear it more times in the box than I do in everyday life of people comparing themselves to others, wishing they could be just like them, have a faster time like them, etc. And guess what, you’re reading one of the culprit’s story. Being pregnant was hard. Gaining 80 pounds was harder. Thinking about how I should lose the weight and seeing every other fit girl in the gym was gruesome. My very first day back at the box I was 5 week postpartum and the WOD involved 5 rounds of a 400m run and thrusters. By the 5th round, when the coach ran the last 400 with me (ok really she walked next to me while I tried not to crawl back into the gym) I was in tears, and mentally I was beating myself up. Over the course of the past 12 months I have constantly struggled with the progression my body has taken. And as I lose weight, it gets worse. Why can’t I have arms like Sia, or legs like Lauren, abs like Laura, or do yoga poses and hold like Sandra? The answer is because I am just me. I am exactly right where I need to be for my progress. But it’s a mental struggle to realize that every single day.
Don’t be fooled though, men tend to suffer from body dysmorphia more than women. In fact men who body build sometimes have it the worst. It’s known as muscle dysmorphia. Every muscle, every flex, every pose has to be perfect in order to get the score you need to more on to the next round. Can you imagine what the competitors feel when competing for Mr. Olympia? In body building the men tend to be more insecure and have a high dissatisfaction with their physique. Have a high drive for thinness and are at an increased risk for eating disorders like anorexia or bulimia.
I can only imagine what you’re thinking now, how does this affect the CrossFit world? As an increasingly popular sport, with lots of TV time, our athletes are becoming more and more prone to eating disorders, muscle envy, and over all dysmorphia because of what they see on their televisions. We are a sport that is supposed to be marketed to the general public. Anyone at any age can do CrossFit. So why doesn’t everyone look like Katrin or Rich? Mostly because they don’t know about the work they put in day in and day out for the results they want. Their eating habits are pristine and seasonal. They have an “off season” or 2-3 weeks of indulgence right after the games, but once their vacation is over, it’s back to work to prepare for the open. I cannot stress to you enough that eating properly is and should be a top priority for your athletic performance. When you fuel your body with the nutrition in needs to function properly, then that’s when you see your body working for you and not against you.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, not everyone who compares themselves to others sees it as debilitating. In fact, they use it to their advantage and competitive drive. I personally think this is how it should be. When you are in the gym, give yourself a goal. Work on that goal until you hit it, and then move on to the next goal. Progress pictures are also great. You can see how far you’ve come and where you are in your goals. I’ll refer to my previous post’s progress pictures. On the days I’m feeling awful, like I don’t want to work out, I look at those pictures. I’ve seen how far I’ve come and where I am in my goals. It’s also great to keep a journal. Do you know how encouraging it is to hit a benchmark workout and a month later shave off a minute in your time? It’s the best feeling you could ever imagine. Well for me at least. But, I know that in order to reach those athletic goals, and PR’s, my nutrition as to be on point and pristine. Otherwise, I’m putting in 100% hard work, for on 30% of the results.