Re: more on bigorexia

From: Scott Chase (
Date: Tue 10 May 2005 - 23:59:49 GMT

  • Next message: Bill Spight: "Re: more on bigorexia"

    --- Derek Gatherer <> wrote:

    > At 12:24 09/05/2005, you wrote:
    > >Not sure autism is comparable to anorexia.
    > I think one basic difference is that a 'normal'
    > person can suddenly become
    > anorexic, whereas I don't know any examples of
    > somebody becoming
    > autistic. Generally, people are born autistic or
    > escape it. I think the
    > same is true for the milder Asperger's syndrome. If
    > I remember rightly,
    > Aaron Lynch used to try to make a case that drastic
    > dieting was a 'thought
    > contagion' (not got chapter and verse on where that
    > claim is made, but I'll
    > get it if required - it might just have been in a
    > list posting). I'm not
    > sure if that also implies that anorexia is therefore
    > also posited as being
    > a TC too - it might be possible to diet drastically
    > under social pressure
    > without suffering the defect in self-perception that
    > is more or less taken
    > to be necessary for anorexia.
    > Current genetic studies indicate a weak disposition:
    > so it might be that the predisposed can tumble over
    > into anorexia if the
    > social conditions are correct.
    Well I started into Pope, Phillips, and Olivardia's
    _The Adonis Complex_. They talk about the explosion of gyms and memberships as a recent phenomenon and how an industry has evolved to exploit male insecurities. In a memetic sense, perhaps women have developed an
    "immunity" to this targeting of messages preying upon perceived inadaquacies, where due to taboos against being open with such things men are highly susceptible...I dunno.

    At one point in the early part of the book they speculate about a genetic cause (ie- "almost certainly" they say) and refer to some of their own studies in the endnotes, but I can't tell if there's going to be more speculation in these studies about a genetic factor or if they actually present some compelling *evidence* that backs up this contention. They make a comparison to an obsessive compulsive disorder where those with a body image distortion obsess about their looks and engage in compulsive and repetitive behavior such as weight lifting. It's these "obsessive-compulsive symptoms" that might be where they trot out the genes...I dunno.

    They add other factors into the mix such as psychological development ("experiences growing up") and society with the transmission of the unattainable ubermensch ideal. They also briefly cover the Adonis myth so maybe the Jungians (Adonis myth as archetypal predisposition with its primordial Adonis image...urbild) and Freudians (Adonis complex rings close to Oedipus complex) won't feel left out in the cold. Or maybe memeticists can reduce it to a complex of memes having to do with male body image (an "Adonis memeplex").

    I do think that the social criticism angle is somewhat valid, given all the infomercials trying to sell us stuff for our abs and for convenient home workout equipment so we can look like the chiseled model they show working out on the machine. We also have blatant male penis growth commercials here in the US which exploit another inadequacy and complement the ads for erectile dysfunction quite well (make it bigger and keep it up). Crude but implicit and advertized on television.

    I have thought about some of this stuff over the years, but never at the formal level these authors use to present it. Is this media targeting of males like some of those buttons Brodie talks about in his book? I guess now that I'm thinking in terms of an "Adonis complex" and "bigorexia", the latter an extreme subset of the former, I'm going to be wearing new lenses on the world and start analyzing people and institutions
    (gyms, marketing agaencies and such) and artifacts
    (weights and supplements) in a different manner. Are these new found lenses themselves distorting the picture? That itself presents a problem in focus.

    I vaguely recall some nutritional supplement program that existed in the late 80's (the brand name escapes me) that had an array of supplements to take in a strictly regimented manner. The ads showed pictures of before and after models. The befores were typically pale and overweight with little muscular definition and the afters were typically tan with a significant change in muscular definition. I don't recall ever buying this program, but I did buy my fair share of carb and protein powder and spent some money on the monthly gym membership fees.

    The authors don't seem to be critical of gyms or working out in general, but are highlighting what they see to be a looming crisis where people's self-perceptions have gotten *way* out of kilter. On the other extreme is that docuentary "Supersize Me" that is critical of the fast food industry and makes one think of the prevalence of obesity in the US (and UK?). I wonder what societal relations one could explore between the 'fast food' and 'body image' industries.

    Not sure if they discuss the phenomenon of female bodybuilding in this book, which might be good for a comparison. What in the female psyche is there that would drive one's body image towards the ideal of being very muscular?...

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