Although not ordinarily taken by paid advertorials, NH21 Weekly was somewhat impressed by a recent sponsored piece in the excellent News24 promoting a new range of ‘healthcare for women’ from the South African supplement company Zyora.
Zyora, it seems; “celebrates the many roles that women play in life and has a mission to empower them and help them discover that health brings beauty, strength and confidence.”, and used their promotional opportunity to highlight women’s tendency to, “overexert ourselves in our everyday lives, pushing our bodies and minds to the brink in the pursuit of perfection.” (1)
The article raised many genuine, real-life issues that have plagued society for decades, including;
- Trying too hard to live up to society’s expectations of beauty.
- Attempting to fit ourselves into a mould.
- Failing to foster a healthy connection with our bodies and minds.
No arguments there.
As a natural health practitioner who blends ancient wisdom with modern health science, NH21 is acutely aware of the insidious role commerce and social media play in presenting the unrealistic image of health and beauty that can tip certain personality types into a catastrophic spiral of despair and self-loathing.
As a gentleman however, one might simply add that such an unfortunate situation is not the sole preserve of womankind, and is rather more prevalent among our menfolk than we might like to admit.
Taken from the Greek dus- meaning ‘bad’ and morphe meaning ‘form’, the direct medical translation of Dysmorphia is used to describe anatomical ‘misshapenness’ when related to a functional malformation, or abnormality, in the shape or size of a body part.
However, as a newly classified psychological disorder, the word itself has morphed into Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) which presents as feelings of ugliness in a person’s observation of themselves.
Britain’s NHS defines the condition as “an anxiety disorder that causes a person to have a distorted view of how they look and to spend a lot of time worrying about their appearance.” (2), yet also notes that such a person is not merely being vain or self-obsessed; but rather occurs alongside depression, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), and common eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia.
BDD can seriously affect daily life, often affecting work, social life and relationships. For example, a person with BDD may;
- Spend a long time in front of a mirror, yet at other times avoid mirrors altogether.
- Spend a long time concealing what they believe is a defect, and become distressed by a particular area of their body.
- Feel anxious when around other people, and avoid social situations.
- Become secretive and reluctant to seek help.
- Seek unnecessary medical treatment; for example, they may have cosmetic surgery (which is unlikely to relieve their distress).
- Excessively diet and exercise.
In severe cases the condition can lead to self-harm and even suicide.
Technically the opposite of anorexia, yet ultimately a manifestation of the same issue; ‘Bigorexics’ believe they are underweight when in fact they are overweight. This disorder tends to affect body builders and typically presents in men more than women due to the constant pressure placed upon them to be muscular and well-built.
Further, there can be a tendency to focus more on the perceived aesthetic attributes of lean muscle mass and accentuated veins, than the actual strength that large muscles might be expected to offer.
Ironically, when a competitive body builder prepares to showcase their physique on stage, they can be at their weakest point physically due to extraordinary deprivation of dietary fat and massive sugar binges aimed at removing any trace of subcutaneous fat and maximizing the “road map” vascularity of extremely prominent blood vessels.
According to the TriFocus Fitness Academy, a normal body fat percentage for males would sit at roughly 18-25% of total weight, and drop to 14-17% with a regular fitness regime. Yet competitive body builders often strive for just 3-4% body fat; the bare minimum required for normal, healthy functioning of internal organs and the central nervous system.
It is not difficult to conceptualize the types of harm this could have on a person’s health; yet, alarmingly, statistics suggest such concerns have little baring on those who strive for the body of Adonis.
The International OCD Foundation suggest that Body Dysmorphic Disorder affects 1.7% to 2.4% of the general population; about 1 in 50 people. This figure is supported by the Body Dysmorphic Disorder Foundation who add that many sufferers leave it for 15 years before seeking appropriate help.
In the machismo world of sport, beer commercials, and the family braai, it can be difficult for males to admit to feelings of despondency, fear, doubt and concern. Many men still associate their role in the family as the ‘alpha male’, ‘bread winner’, ‘rock’ and ‘protector’.
Yet these labels are as antiquated as they are chauvinistic in the modern paradigm of gender-neutrality, as was exemplified earlier this week when Emma Watson was presented with MTV’s “Best Actor” gong in their first ever non-binary awards ceremony.
Which, with Miss Watson being a lady and all, brings us nicely back to Zyora, and their timely message that it is health that brings beauty, strength and confidence out in a person.
For those feel they may be suffering with BDD, or any of its affiliate disorders, it is important to seek help and guidance from an appropriate healthcare practitioner such as a psychologist, behavioural therapist, or even the family GP who may be able to refer you to the relevant support network.
One might also simply pause for a moment, take a breath, and question for themselves exactly what it is they are trying to achieve with their commitment to diet, exercise and supplemental regimes.
Is it health?, as illustrated by feelings of vitality and where an individual feels comfortable in their own skin; or beauty?, a concept so subjective as to be impossible to categorize and futile to seek through external validation.
NH21 thanks Zyora for their positive message on self-worth, and leaves you now with a final thought from this week’s health muse;
“You’re stunning; you just need to give yourself time to see it.”