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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — It has often been perceived that women are constantly fixated on their diets. Now, a growing number of men have become obsessed with “bulking up.”
The new trend has been called “bigorexia” and it could come with some serious health consequences.
Early in his career, personal trainer Alfonso Moretti was obsessed with building his own muscles.
“It takes over your life. Every decision you make becomes the workout and how your body looks. I used to track and weigh every single ounce of food that went in my body. I used to wake up at 3 o’clock in the morning to drink protein shakes. I never missed a workout, ever, ever, ever,” he told CBS 2′s Maurice Dubois.
As many as 45-percent of men have fallen victim to bigorexia or muscle dysmorphia, according to Dr. Michele Kerulis the director of sports & health psychology at the Adler School of Professional Psychology.
“I can remember as young as 13 or 14, looking at some of these muscle magazines, and I was conditioned to think that’s what a man looked like. Big shoulders, big legs, just big muscles with veins everywhere,” Moretti said.
The emotional impact can be devastating.
“We see psychological abnormalities, including irritability, angry outbursts, which sometimes people would call ‘roid rage.’ We see depression sometimes, mania,” Dr. Kerulis said.
The excessive exercising could put men at a higher risk for physical injury, too.
“I had a ruptured disc in my neck and it basically paralyzed me on the right side of my body,” Moretti explained.
The injuries caused by bigorexia can range from muscle strains and stress factors to organ failure.
“Individuals who have bigorexia, a lot of them tend to use supplements and if you overdose on these supplements without having a balanced diet you can develop kidney and liver failure and as that happens you may need a liver or kidney transplant or you could eventually die,” explained Dr. Selene Parekh an associate professor at Duke University.
Moretti underwent surgery for his injury and said that it was a wake-up call. Now, he helps other men avoid bigorexia by training them with realistic workouts and goals for his body.
“I look back now and I see those pictures and I’m like ‘wow,’ like I would never want to look like that guy,” he said.
The disorder is treatable with behavior therapy and supervised exercise treatments, according to experts.