Do You Have an Eating Disorder? If You Are a Dedicated Bodybuilder, Some Shrinks Think You Do!

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IFBB Pro Bodybuilders at the gym

When you think of eating disorders you may typically think of anorexia (Def: Refusal to eat anything until you are extremely thin and malnourished) or bulimia (Def: Eat all you want then go in the bathroom and make yourself throw up until you are thin and malnourished). Recently some Harvard docs have decided its time to define yet another eating disorder, a disorder specifically seen in one particular population, bodybuilders. You may have been aware that we bodybuilders have qualified on several criteria (DSM-IV) for eating disorders like anorexia or even bulimia. Certainly our preoccupation with food has led some researchers/therapists to think of us as having “issues” with food. Now they are sure we have a problem and want to help us by clearly defining it. They call this new type of eating disorder, “Eating Disorder, Bodybuilder-Type” or simply ED, BT.

According to the proposal by the Department of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, ED, BT is characterized by “rigid adherence to a high-calorie, high-protein, low-fat diet that is consumed in the form of pre-prepared meals and supplements eaten at regularly scheduled intervals. Women with this disorder frequently refused to eat out at restaurants or at friends’ houses because of their need to be certain that they were ingesting the precise amounts of calories, protein, fat and carbohydrates that they believed necessary to maintain their physique.”

These Harvard docs said that individuals with this disorder are known to routinely prepare all of their meals for the day in advance, packaging precisely measured quantities of specific foods (lean chicken or fish with steamed vegetables) in small containers to be consumed at prescribed hours throughout the day. They go further to report that if their eating routine was disrupted, individuals with ED, BT typically experience “intense anxiety”, and often engage in compensatory behaviors such as eating a protein bar to substitute for a missed meal.

Your probably thinking I made this up but I assure you, these people are dead serious about defining this new eating disorder. Here are the specific criteria used to identify an individual with ED, BT:

(1) Refusal to maintain body fat at a healthy level (defined in women as the level necessary for normal menstrual cycles to take place) accompanied by a desire to maximize muscle mass.

(2) Intense fear of gaining fat or losing muscle, even though body fat is below normal, as defined above, and degree of muscularity is far above average.

(3) Strict adherence to a rigid diet with at least 2 of the following features:

(a) At least 5 meals per day, consumed on a regular schedule, for example every 3 hours.

(b) Meals all consist of high-calorie, high-protein, low-fat foods or food supplements.

(c) A significant amount of time and money is spent acquiring, preparing and eating these specialized meals.

(4) Disturbance in the way in which one’s body composition is experienced or undue influence of body appearance on self-evaluation.

(5) Social and occupational opportunities are frequently given up because they interfere with the composition or timing of meals.

There you have it, the definition of this bizarre bodybuilding eating disorder. You would think that they would classify the eating habits the average sedentary overweight person as a disorder. After all, their eating habits lead to chronic disease and premature death. I don’t know about you but I am proud to have this new eating disorder, bodybuilder type that is!

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About Bryan Haycock

Bryan Haycock+ is an exercise physiologist and NPC judge. Bryan has been bodybuilding for over 20 years and holds certifications with the NSCA, ACE, and is a member of the American College of Sports Medicine. Bryan is currently the Editor in Chief of and is the founder and CEO of Bryan is a highly sought after authority on the physiology of muscle growth and fat loss. Bryan also specializes in the management of type-II diabetes through diet and exercise.