GYM. EAT. REPEAT.

The shocking rise of muscle dysmorphia

Men with muscle dysmorphia rarely seek treatment, so estimating its prevalence in the general population is hard
Men with muscle dysmorphia rarely seek treatment, so estimating its prevalence in the general population is hard. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

The idealised male body has become bigger, bulkier and harder to achieve. So what drives a generation of young men to the all-consuming, often dangerous pursuit of bodily perfection?

It is difficult for Miles to pinpoint the moment his muscle dysmorphia started. It was just always there, a background hum. "As far back as I can remember, I wanted a better-looking body," says the 35-year-old US soldier, now stationed in Mons, Belgium.

When he was 13, Miles spent a summer cutting grass to save up for a second-hand Soloflex exercise machine. The machine cost US$1,000, but as Miles was too young to join a gym, it was worth the expense.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 18, 2019, with the headline 'The shocking rise of muscle dysmorphia'. Print Edition | Subscribe