Bigorexic Boys: ‘Healthy’ or ‘Unhealthy’ Body Image?

weight lifting

Have you ever wondered if your little boy will become bigorexic someday? I didn’t know that possibility existed, but a new Pediatrics study says that “boys are obsessing over unattainable bodies, just as girls have long been known to do. And while girls’ struggles with weight loss are well known, researchers said boys too eager to bulk up – a phenomenon often called ‘bigorexia’ – are prone to risky behavior … we should be a little concerned.”

So, how health-conscious can a child become before it’s no longer healthy? And how do you, as a parent, prevent your child from going overboard?

Josh Vogel, 17 years old, is a competitive bodybuilder who wakes at 4 a.m. to work out and measures his food in ounces and cups – every day. When he was a high school freshman, he weighed 105 pounds. Now, he weighs about 180 pounds and offers health and exercise advice on his Facebook page.

Josh’s body fat ranges from about 4.5 to 8 percent, comparable to male Olympic sprinters, but doctors have said that, for teenagers, a body fat percentage below 5 is “concerning,” and can indicate “excessive exercise,” as well as body image issues and possible steroid usage. Doctors also say that competitive weight lifting should be avoided if one hasn’t reached “physical and skeletal maturity.”

(Image Below: From left, Josh Vogel at 15, 16, and 17 years old)

If you are diagnosed with “bigorexia,” you never think you’re big enough. You always want to be bigger and more muscular. You look in the mirror and see a skinny person.

While this sounds appealing – there have been times in my life I would’ve appreciated seeing a skinnier version of myself in every mirror! – it’s just as unhealthy as anorexia and bulimia. Josh’s parents don’t see the relationship between “boys like Josh, who are trying to pack on muscle, [and] those obsessed with shrinking.” But how can they not see that it’s the same thing?

It’s a body image issue … isn’t it?

Or is it ambition? Desire to attain a reasonable goal? A solid career choice at a young age? If it is a healthy ambition, why does it include half a dozen supplements, which are not tested for effect on children and can be harmful in excessive quantities?  I’m all for children actively working toward healthy goals, but at what point does it become an unhealthy obsession?

What do you think? Comment below!

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Photos courtesy of Tampa Bay Times and Josh Vogel

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Bigorexic Boys: ‘Healthy’ or ‘Unhealthy’ Body Image?

Kimberly Shannon is a wife, a mother, an editor, a writer ... She is always working to find the perfect balance¹! After Kimberly received her bachelor’s degree in Journalism, she worked on two master’s degree programs (Creative Writing, and Marriage and Family Therapy). At various times in her life she has signed up to study Naturopathy, only to back out at the last minute, and humored the idea of returning full-time to the world of dance. Kimberly has also started 10 different children ... More

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1 comment

  1. Grace says:

    its unhealthy- there is such thing as having too much muscles just like being too skinny

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