On April 3, Michael Feldman, a playwright and performer, presented his powerful one-man show and documentary, entitled “Musclebound,” which tackled the issues of men and body image.”Guys are in the position that girls were in 20 to 30 years ago,” Feldman said. Back then, females suffered in silence, but now there is open recognition of eating disorders and female body image issues. “For guys, that recognition is just not in place at all,” Feldman said. “Everything is still hush- hush and there is a female stigma attached to it.”
The presentation was, in part, a theatrical performance which featured three characters all performed by Feldman himself. All of the characters were men who were not comfortable with their bodies: Nicholas, a filmmaker, decided to do a documentary on gym culture and fell victim to many of the body issues of those he was filming
Josh, an awkward, homosexual, college-bound teenager became an exercise bulimic, which is a condition in which one binges and then purges through exercise rather than vomiting. Jim, a personal trainer who is obsessed with working out and gaining muscle mass, abuses steroids.
Interspersed throughout the performance, clips were shown from Feldman’s documentary featuring men of all different ages and backgrounds who struggle with their body image on a daily basis. “It is so powerful to hear guys talk about this stuff because most guys never talk about these issues,” Feldman said. In fact, “most of the guys I interviewed thought they were the only ones who felt the way they felt.” Feldman found, however, that many men felt the same way on issues concerning their body image.
The men featured in the documentary, along with millions of other men who remain silent about their body issues, deal with eating and exercise disorders. Some of these disorders include: anorexia, bulimia and exercise bulimia. There is also another disorder which is rarely talked about called Muscle Dysmorphia, or reverse anorexia. In these cases, men become obsessed with getting bigger and having more muscle mass. “I want to get as big as I possibly can before I start looking like a mutant,” one man who suffers from this disorder said.
Some of the men featured in the documentary spoke openly about their constant need to work out. “I hate going to the gym, but I go anyway,” one man said. “I didn’t like the way my body looked, I wanted more muscle mass,” another said. One man defined going to the gym as “a repetitive process of exerting force until it hurts.”
They also discussed their eating habits and extreme dieting.
“No more McDonalds, no more Wendy’s,” one man said, whose name was not noted. “I began to slowly take things out of my diet,”
Another man said, “I can’t put something in my mouth without the nutritional facts in my head.”
“After wrestling season, I gained 20 pounds in two days. I ate an outrageous amount of food,” a young wrestler whose weight constantly fluctuated said.
One exercise bulimic said he would eat certain foods and then instantly know he had to run for a particular amount of miles to burn it off.
“Nothing tastes as good as being thin,” another man in the documentary said.
Another problem addressed was the use of Creatine, a muscle building agent, and steroids. Almost all of the men interviewed admitted to taking Creatine although no one knows exactly what it does to your body in the long run. “Without drugs, it is basically impossible,” one man who admitted to taking steroids said. ” I felt like you had to be big in order to be accepted.”
Typically, most men who suffer from any eating or exercise disorder do not really believe that they have a problem.
“It wasn’t anorexia, it wasn’t that bad,” one man in the film said.
“I go to the gym at least five days a week. That’s not obsessive. Is it?” asked another.
At the conclusion of Feldman’s performance, Robin Spragins, the assistant director of the health center spoke about the resources we have here on campus to help with eating and exercise disorders, or any problems with body image weather male or female. These issues can be very serious and in acute cases, life-threatening. According to Feldman, “When it [your body image/need to exercise] becomes the top priority in your life and you are putting it ahead of everything else, that’s when you’ve crossed the line.”
To find out more about these issues you can contact the Student Health and Wellness Center which is located on the second floor of Wayne Hall.