I witnessed this scenario at a nightclub recently. It’s remained in my thoughts for some time. Being “hot” is an undeniably appealing prospect, and, let’s face it, a ripped, gym body can raise your “hot factor,” especially in the gay scene. For many, a great body can create a sense of self-confidence that even a house on Fire Island, the perfect job or a great boyfriend can’t match. It's not necessarily a good thing — and it’s undeniably shallow — but sex sells, and this is a reality gay men face every day.
As a result, the pursuit of the body beautiful continues at a fever pitch. Do you consider spending hours upon hours working out at the gym healthy? It can be healthy but it might also be a sign of a problem. It might even be an addiction, says Shaun Bourget, a marriage and family therapist in private practice in Los Angeles. In fact, the obsessive need to hit the gym can be tremendously unhealthy, he says. About 70 percent of his clients are gay men. “For many gay men, [gym obsession] is definitely an issue, and for some it is a serious problem,” says Bourget.
But how do you know if you are a healthy gym goer or an addict? “If you’re not getting your work done or neglecting your relationships because you have to go to the gym, or if fitness interferes with other things in your life, you may be a gym addict,” says Bourget. “A lot of guys are so fixated on their bodies that they can take it to an extreme, and become obsessive with weight lifting, taking supplements or even taking steroids that could potentially be very dangerous.”
Are you becoming too concerned about your gym routine? Consider these questions before your next workout.
- Do you feel like you never work out hard enough, instead of feeling a sense of achievement after your workout?
- Do you set unrealistic fitness goals?
- Do you always feel like you’re not big enough and that your body is not well defined? “You can have the biggest bicep in the world and still not feel good about yourself,” says Bourget. “If you’re not feeling a sense of satisfaction, enjoyment or accomplishment from your workouts, you may be trying to obtain self worth at the gym. You can’t find it there.”
- Do you find it difficult to accept a compliment about your body?
- Are your eating patterns based on how you think you look instead of based on a proper diet? “Excessive dieting, overusing (or abusing) supplements and protein powders, and using steroids, are all serious problems” says Bourget.
- Do you workout because you feel you need to and not because you enjoy it? “I hear a lot of the talk at the gym,” says Bourget, “like guys saying ‘Oh, I hate this. I hate doing legs,’ and the chances are if you’re saying things like that, you’re measuring your worth against your appearance.”
Does any of this sound familiar?
If you answer yes to some of these questions, you might want to take a closer look at the reasons why you’re working out, says Bourget. “The preoccupation to work on your body, is no different from being an obsessive shopper or abusing drugs and alcohol,” says Bourget. “It’s still used to compensate for something missing on the inside. Obviously, fitness addiction might be healthier than abusing drugs and alcohol, but a preoccupation with working out can interfere with the rest of your life.”
If you find yourself facing any of these issues, the first step is to slow down and take a look within yourself, says Bourget. “A preoccupation with your body is really not about looking perfect, it’s about trying to compensate for a lack of self esteem and self worth,” says Bourget. “That needs to be acknowledged first. Then, you need to view your physical regimen or gym routine as a source or recreation, fun and socialization, and as a source of feeling good about being healthy and in shape,” he says. “Ultimately, it’s about acknowledging your qualities as a person — your accomplishments, good intentions and good heart,” says Bourget. “You can’t find that in a gym.”
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