Mar
24

MMA Diet: Disorder

Originally published March 12, 2012 on Sherdog.com.

As I stated back in the introduction, the MMA Diet is not a “diet” the way our society typically thinks of a diet. We here are viewing “diet” in terms of a holistic and sustainable practice of eating and drinking. So it’s fitting that this is a series of sound nutritional information backed by some of the latest research rather than a prescription.

I often hear athletes and friends say things like, “You won’t believe how great this diet is” or “INSERT CELEBRITY NAME lost 20lbs on this diet.” I have no doubt that some diets do in fact work. But it’s not often by the mechanism most people think – some secret combination of what’s ingested or not ingested. Instead, the diet works because it increases awareness about what we are putting in our bodies. It takes a person nutritionally unaware regarding what they regularly take in and it makes them think about it. This can automatically reduce portion sizes and improve a diet’s quality. This awareness can increase dietetic discipline, but it’s usually temporary. And that kind of temporary yo-yoing is helping to fuel a major trend going on right now that I feel must be addressed.

The rise of eating disorders. While eating disorders were once primarily thought to impact women, it’s becoming increasingly clear that men and even elite male athletes are struggling badly. While many of us have heard of anorexia (an eating disorder characterized by an obsessive fear of gaining weight) few of us have heard about bigorexia. You guessed it – it’s an obsession with gaining weight. Primarily muscle. I know I’ve experienced it and I know most of my gym-rat type friends have as well. “I’d just like to put on twenty more pounds of muscle.” And we want to do it without adding a shred of fat. Who hasn’t heard or thought such a statement?

Where’s the Line?

Like most things in life there often isn’t a definitive line. However, several studies highlighted by the International Association of Eating Disorders Professionals show staggering figures that make this a topic worth speaking about. One study found that 1 in 3 men would sacrifice their life span for the “ideal” body. Often this idea of “ideal” is entirely unrealistic. Another study claims a possible 250% increase in male eating disorders over the past 10 years. Can some of this percentage be contributed to awareness? Of course. But it’s troubling nonetheless. Likewise, women continue to be swayed by media and more into increasingly dangerous situations. There are actually “pro anorexia” blogs where women encourage each other to be…anorexic.

Awareness

The first step to take is to realize it can happen to you. This isn’t something that just happens to everyone else. The next step is to begin learning about it. What are the signs and symptoms? How do people who are struggling with it typically think and act? I’ve listed a few resources below. Some are videos while others are readings worth your time. Please check them out and if you have any questions or want to talk about anything please contact me. Sometimes just opening up to talk about the problem can be themajor step in solving it.

As MMA grows, so too does the percentage of male eating disorders. This is a complex problem that involves not only the physical but also the psychological. MMA is a sport with weight classes, and when coupled with the fact that it’s often marketed with hardcore training and “getting ripped,” it’s easy to see how it is likely contributing to male eating disorders and a host of other body image issues.

Resources

Bigorexia Video from Discovery Health

Men’s Health article on Bigorexia

Huffington Post: The Hunger Blogs

National Eating Disorders Association

Rehabilitation-Center.org – Eating Disorders

National Institute of Mental Health: From Booklet

Cameron Conaway is the author of “Caged: Memoirs of a Cage-Fighting Poet.” He’s an NSCA-Certified Personal Trainer, an MMA Conditioning Coach and a NESTA Sports Nutrition Specialist.

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