The struggles of having body dysmorphia within the fitness industry

Musclecoach founder Luke Beastall talks about his struggles with having body dysmorphia within the fitness industry.

Luke Beastall founder of MuscleCoach UK
Luke Beastall has had an on-going battle with body dysmorphia since his days at Rotherham United. Credit: MusclecoachUK

Body dysmorphia is common within the world of fitness as monitoring workouts, scales, calorie intake and appearance is a standard form of practice. For many, this can lead to having an unhealthy obsession with wanting to achieve that idealised body type.   

The fitness industry and social media are culprits in their own rights in promoting an image of perfect health with an unrealistic expectation of obtaining a gorgeous physique, not to say it is not achievable, but for the standard person wanting to lose weight or to bulk up. 

Reaching those desired goals requires strict accountability and resilience to stick to a dietary and workout plan, but to see no physical change in your own body can be severely disheartening.  

The effects social media has on people's mental health
The effects of social media.Credit: Image created using Canva with information from Mental Health Foundation.

A leading sports and exercise nutritionist from the University of Derby, Dr Corinna Chidley said: “The promotion of fitness is great, but if you’re just promoting physique without any acknowledgement of health benefits and side effects such as the use of steroids. 

 “And how women’s bodies react differently to men and the lasting impact of low energy availability which is when your body does not have enough energy left to support all physiological functions. That can be quite dangerous for someone who is ignorant of this from no fault of their own. 

 “Take for example, the MyFitnessPal calories track app which has shown to have increased the rates of people having an eating disorder, which is pretty detrimental.” 

 This has caused many to develop a body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), which makes people view their own bodies as imperfect, triggering an excessive need to perfect their own flaws through over-exerting and overworking themselves to unhealthy measures.  

That includes changes within their eating habits and mental state, and for Luke Beastall, 29, an experienced personal trainer and founder of Musclecoach UK, this condition hit quite close to home for him having experienced dealing with body dysmorphia from a young age as a professional footballer for Rotherham United.   

The reason for his own struggle with body image was with being in a professional sport as they would monitor his level of performance and his general body stats. 

The difficulty to hit a certain body fat metric caused him to develop an eating disorder and for his ‘mental health to spiral’.  

 “The pressure of not hitting a certain metric at the time was a trigger for me and it became a bit of an obsession to try to fit in and feel approved,” he said.  

“If I didn’t meet that requirement, I would play on my emotions and turn to food as a comfort tool after restricting myself of natural sugars and carbohydrates as I was told I had a fat back.” 

Despite that and being like many people with BDD who detach themselves from other parts of their lives due to the psychological distress and addiction of wanting to attain that perfect body which for Beastall was to look like Cristiano Ronaldo. 

He resorted to using supplements like many other people do to enhance his performance from the likes of fat burners, protein shakes, multivitamins, and many others in order to achieve some physical results. 

However, Dr Chidley said: “You cannot outrun a bad diet and you cannot outrun poor training, and supplements shouldn’t be the first thing people are going to. 

“As many supplements that people have been people been consuming haven’t been rigorously tested nor do they know how it impacts your body.  

 “Compared to the likes of whey protein and creatine, which has been tested making is quite concerning as some contain bad substances that may not be good for you.” 

 Whereas, Luke added, “I think when it comes to steroids. Just do it the proper way as it would humble you a lot more and if it is something you truly want, you’d give it time.  

 “If you’re someone who wants to make a change just know we have all been there in some way shape or form wanting to achieve that perfect body image and that it takes courage to start your own journey, and that failure is a part of the learning process.”