Plain and simple, bigorexia is a real thing. Most commonly described as “reverse anorexia,” this pathology leads people, almost always men, to think they’re just too damn small, regardless of how Hulkish they are. Their muscle is inextricably tied up with their self-esteem.
Sure, it make sense. You’ve put in years of training to get big and strong, have impressive numbers in the gym, and look imposing when you walk down the street. The chances are pretty good that you’ve gotten yourself pretty steeped in the gym culture and have become notably protective of the numbers and muscles you’ve worked for.
But getting lost in the strength and size culture leaves you at risk of discounting other aspects of your health and fitness. That’s not good.
There must come a time when your training needs to harmonize with longevity and function. If you’re not a teenager or young adult, it’s worth reassessing your mental attitude and your approach to training.
It’s fine to be big and strong, but how big and strong is big and strong enough?
Too Big a Price to Pay
Over the last few years, we’ve been given example after example of noteworthy lifters and coaches who’ve paid the price – in the form of serious injuries to even death – for pushing the envelope with their size gains, drug abuse, or heavy lifting.
It’s time we learned from their mistakes and avoid following the same path. So, if you’re pushing 40 and tipping the scales at a dense 270 for no real reason, it’s worth asking why.
Moreover, I don’t care how lean you are. Your heart has to work harder to run a body that’s that large, regardless of body fat percentage. Your cardiovascular system is probably suffering. Your mobility is probably suffering. Your flexibility is probably suffering. Your joints are probably not as happy as they could be.
You can get defensive and deny all that, but in 14 years as a trainer (and having been around 270 pounds myself), I know that the preceding, to a certain degree, applies to everyone.
Look, the cost/benefit probably isn’t worth it in the long run, and your body will certainly thank you if you choose a lighter body weight, with attention given to those neglected aspects of fitness mentioned above.
A New Frame of Mind
The next time you go on your cut, it’s important to take on a new frame of mind. We act like having as much muscle as possible and keeping our precious PRs intact is the holy grail of anything gym related. This needs to stop.
Of course it’s important to preserve the muscular physique you worked so hard to build and the strength you worked so hard to develop. But if gaining a ton of much-needed mobility, heart health, flexibility, or fat loss comes along with maybe losing a few pounds of muscle in the process, is it really such a bad thing in the big picture?
Keep in mind that the ratio of what could be lost in comparison to what will be gained will be nominal. “Paying” 3 pounds of lean tissue for 40 pounds of necessary fat loss is something most seasoned and developed lifters should be ready to do when it serves the greater good of a healthier body and an extended lifespan.
If you’re already strong and trained, chances are very high that trimming down won’t have a positive effect on your PR numbers. In fact, your hallowed bench press, squat, and deadlift numbers will likely decrease. Learn to live with that. Get over it. Find new PRs in lifts you haven’t mastered yet. You’re too old to still be worried about how much you can lift.
Still Muscular, But Better
Yep, I said it. Some people reading this may actually benefit from losing a bit of muscle.
It’s fun to be jacked out of your mind, but as the years pass, you’ll notice that, beyond a certain point, it serves less and less of a purpose. It’s extremely important to be muscular, especially knowing what happens in older age, but there’s a difference between a muscular 225 pounds and a muscular 300 pounds. And there’s a good chance that that 300 pounder might not even make it to old age if he doesn’t make some changes.
I’m not telling every hulk-beast out there to go and drop 100 pounds and turn into a weakling in the process. Don’t miss the message here.
If an objective look at your gains and goals can’t tell you that dropping 30 pounds (for example) may benefit multiple aspects of your fitness, even if it means a little muscle loss in the process, that’s your business.
Still, I have to leave you with these words: Think big picture. You’ll still be strong. You’ll still be muscular. But you’ll also be better.