Correlation Between Bodybuilding and Having an Eating Disorder

Contact Us

"*" indicates required fields

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Bodybuilders exhibit quite a collection of muscles they work hard to develop, and some even participate in competitions to see who has the buffest body. At first, it may seem like all it takes to achieve an overtly muscular body involves extensive workouts and healthy eating. A big secret that’s moving out into the open is the correlation between bodybuilding and having an eating disorder. Trellis Recovery Centers provides structured residential care for men and women who have eating disorders, regardless of how they initially developed. We can help bodybuilders reshape their minds and learn to recover from eating disorders that compromise both their physical and mental health.

Do All Bodybuilders Have an Eating Disorder? 

While not all bodybuilders have eating disorders, studies show that they do have a higher than average number of cases than usual. A study reported in 2018 looked at the relationship between eating disorders and body dissatisfaction in male bodybuilders. The study showed that about 67% of the bodybuilders showed symptoms of an eating disorder. As well, about 58% showed symptoms of having muscle dysmorphia. Even those men who did not have a diagnosable eating disorder engaged in disordered eating habits, which can quickly turn into a full-blown eating disorder. Another study showed that almost 30% of competitive male bodybuilders met the criteria to be diagnosed with bulimia at some point in their lives. This rate is much higher than that for any other type of male athletics.

A study from Rutgers University reported that competitive bodybuilders often engage in periods of binge eating after a competition. This is because of the extensive restriction of food or specific food groups done in preparation for competition. Once the event is over, many bodybuilders binge eat to make up for the restricting they did. In what can become a vicious cycle, they then return to anorexic eating patterns to prepare for the next competition.  

This correlation between bodybuilding and eating disorders shows just how prevalent the situation is, and how important it is for those affected to seek professional help.

Eating Disorder Risk Factors With Bodybuilding 

Someone may enter the world of bodybuilding purely to improve their physical health and develop a more athletic or muscular body. For many, it stops there, but for a host of people, it becomes a trigger. They move from simply enjoying bodybuilding to having an eating disorder over time. One risk factor involves the diets that bodybuilders follow. Prior to competitions, or even if the individual just works on their muscle-building as a hobby, highly restrictive diets come into play. For example, the person may eat a very low number of calories and eliminate food groups like carbohydrates for several days per week, then allow themselves one or two “cheat days”. This is also a common behavior for people with eating disorders. 

Bodybuilders often move from one diet to another, often choosing unhealthy fad diets, and trying to find the one that gives them the best results. People with eating disorders also engage in this behavior. Bodybuilders have goals related to achieving a certain weight or body mass index and will use ill-advised methods of achieving and maintaining them. This is also something people with anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder do. The individual can transition from merely working on their body to developing a mental health disorder without even realizing it.

How to Prevent an Eating Disorder While Bodybuilding 

If a person wants to keep their joy of bodybuilding from turning into an eating disorder, there are steps they can take. 

Eat a Healthy Diet: Do not rely on starvation or diets passed around by other bodybuilders who do not have their health as a top priority. Talk to a licensed nutritionist to find out how best to eat for the person’s body type, nutritional needs, and workout goals.

Have a Positive Body Image: Many bodybuilders suffer from the same poor body image that people with eating disorders have. It can help to use affirmations or see a therapist who can help the person not tie his or her image in the mirror to how much they like themselves.

Hang Out With Positive People: Just like in life, within the bodybuilding community, there are positive and negative influences. Avoid those who use disordered eating behaviors or are clearly sick. Stick with peers who want to enjoy bodybuilding without compromising their health.

Know When To Say No: If it becomes apparent that bodybuilding is costing a person their good physical and mental health, it’s time to call it a day. They can still work out without it becoming obsessive or tied to competitions.

Contact Our Eating Disorder Treatment Program for Men and Women in Los Angeles, CA

Did you enter the world of bodybuilding to meet personal physical goals or perhaps in preparation for the thrill of entering competitions? Regardless of why someone becomes a bodybuilder, they may end up developing an eating disorder. When the worlds of bodybuilding and eating disorders collide, it causes damage to a person’s physical and mental health. Trellis Recovery Centers created a residential program to help men and women heal from their eating disorders. Our therapists help each person reframe how they think about their bodies and learn what the limits are when it comes to exercise and dietary habits.

Contact us now to find out how our program helps bodybuilders regain their health without using disordered eating behaviors. Our staff can answer your questions and provide a free insurance check.