Recently, I read an article in The Wall Street Journal discussing the rise of BDD (body dysmorphic disorder) in men as a result of the pandemic. In short, men who may have had body image issues before the pandemic and had committed to workout regimes to try to get into the shape they wanted to be, had their routines disrupted by pandemic shutdowns and wound up putting on weight and getting out of shape. Now, emerging from COVID-induced isolation they are struggling with BDD.
The article frames this primarily as a mental health issue. I believe BDD is real and that it’s great that men are seeing the issue as less of a stigma and can talk more freely about it. Where my disappointment in the article begins is the point at which the article suggests therapy and medication as the solutions to the issue, along with fostering a culture of body-positivity and acceptance among men.
Medication and therapy can certainly help if there are underlying mental health issues for an individual suffering from BDD which feeds into the problem. Body-positivity also has value if it leads to people treating each other with respect and kindness. The problem lies where body-positivity and a focus on mental health becomes a “Get Out of Jail Free” card that someone can use as an excuse to abandon exercise. For numerous reasons beyond just body image, incorporating exercise into daily/weekly routines is a positive lifestyle choice that shouldn’t be abandoned. A person’s acceptance of their current state of fitness should not act as a barrier to attempts at self-improvement and positive change. This goes hand-in-hand with a person’s intellectual and moral development; one should always strive to become a better version of themselves. What that looks like is different for every person, they don’t have to measure themselves against anyone else’s progress. The competition is within, and if you know you’re engaged in the struggle to be better, the reward is greater than just better physical fitness.
For anyone who was working out before COVID and found that the disruptions to their routines started leading them down the path to BDD, or exacerbated problems that were already there, the answer is simple: get back out there! Anyone who was already trying to be the best version of themself should be encouraged to start again, and anyone who wasn’t should know that there’s no time like the present.
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