Do You Have a Body Image Disorder

When I was 12-years-old, my dad brought home a set of 10-pound dumbbells from the local sporting goods store. I had no clue how to use them, but I remember grabbing them from his room one day, taking them into my bedroom, lying face-down on the edge of the bed, and attempting a teenage boy’s version of biceps curls until I couldn’t lift those weights anymore..


I had absolutely no clue what I was doing. But one thing I did know for certain: the next day my arms were very, very sore. And – perhaps a little bigger? Just like many boys, I flexed my muscles in the mirror, and it certainly did seem like my arms grew a bit. Not only did that mean these dumbbells might make me stronger or faster, but they might make me look better too – and at that time in my life, that meant two things: girls looking at me and guys being jealous of me.

Through high school I continued to lift weights and actually got what I (and others) would describe as a nice “bod.” And yes, I kept on flexing in the mirror to check out my muscles every now and again to make sure nothing seemed out of place. Abs toned? Check. Arms not looking too small? Check. Calves getting out of toothpick mode? Check.

 In college, while studying exercise science (no surprises there, right?) I learned about body fat testing, and added that tracking parameter into the mix – every week hopping on a scale to make sure I never saw any double digits (which somewhere in the back of my mind meant I could be risking not looking good in my swim trunks or increasingly tight t-shirts). I also began to fret endlessly over food – not in an anorexic, caloric-restriction kind of way – but more in a fat-phobic, extreme calorie counter, have complete control over every bit of food that goes in my mouth kind of way.

And finally, 8 years from that very first encounter as a skinny adolescent boy with a tiny set of dumbbells, and many, many hours of flexing in front of the mirror later, I stepped onto stage at my first bodybuilding show – at 210 pounds and 3% body fat. I had finally arrived at what I thought at the time was “the ultimate body.” And boy, was I proud of myself.

In fact, back then if you had taken one shred of muscle fiber off my body, or told me I couldn’t lift weights or exercise anymore, I would have immediately experienced a slight lowering of confidence, a hint of depression, and lots of plain ol’ grumpiness.

Of course, as a bodybuilder, I was constantly surrounded by hundreds of men and women just like me. Men and women who cared – cared a lot – about their bodies and how they looked. So was this bad? Is this unhealthy? In today’s episode, I have as my guest the newest Quick and Dirty Tips host, the Savvy Psychologist Dr. Ellen Hendriksen to fill us in on body image issues and give us some tips to feel great about our bodies no matter what.

Ellen, take it away…!

Thanks, Ben, I’m delighted to be on your show!

Somewhere out there are bodybuilders (or models, or Hollywood stars) who keep a healthy perspective about their bodies. But when body perfection pervades the culture, it’s really hard—and potentially even isolating—to stand apart.

Of course, preoccupation with body image isn’t limited to bodybuilders.  Many people believe that if only their bodies were different, perfect, or more like a Victoria’s Secret model’s or Hugh Jackman’s, they’d be happy.  What you courageously reveal, Ben, is that even when you’ve achieved “the ultimate body,” the pride and public recognition still didn’t banish that hint of depression, that grumpiness, or that chip in your confidence.  You backed away from the unhealthy side of the bodybuilding world and are happier—and, notably, healthier— for it.

Body Dysmorphic Disorder Explained

At its most extreme, obsession with appearance has a label: body dysmorphic disorder, or BDD.  Celebrities from Bruce Jenner to Hayden Panettiere, and of course, Michael Jackson, have been rumored to suffer from it.

BDD is an obsession with a perceived flaw—a supposed defect that appears minor or even non-existent to most observers.  It could be an obsession that one’s Adam’s apple is too big, feeling tortured over some minor acne scars, or an absolute certainly that one’s perfectly-normal-looking-to-others nose will draw ridicule and humiliation if anyone sees it.  The distress about the flaw is so strong that some sufferers only go out at night, cover the perceived flaw with clothing or oddly combed hairstyles, check a mirror hundreds of times a day, or undergo multiple surgeries (many of which are elective and paid out of pocket – again, Michael Jackson is the perfect example).  Sadly, surgery or dermatologic treatment doesn’t cure the problem. That’s why individuals with BDD often run from doctor to doctor, or throw their money away on sham miracle cures.


There is a specific subtype of BDD called muscle dysmorphia, nicknamed “bigorexia,” whose sufferers, usually men, have an irrational, obsessive belief that they are too skinny or not muscular enough.  This isn’t just a preoccupation with size, it’s a near-delusion, and it most often affects men whom most people would consider muscular.

The Broken Mirror by Dr. Katharine Phillips is the BDD treatment bible, and many people with BDD—who make up 1-2% of the U.S. population—report feeling more understood and hopeful after reading it.  Another book called The Adonis Complex by the same author addresses muscle dysmorphia and men and boys’ quest for physical perfection to the detriment of everything else.

BDD is often treated with a class of antidepressants called SSRIs and cognitive-behavioral therapy, a structured type of therapy that challenges the beliefs underlying BDD, like “I can’t go out because my abs aren’t chiseled enough,” plus the behaviors that go along with those beliefs.

Ben, you also mentioned fretting endlessly over food in your previous life.  While you’re certainly within healthy limits now, it sounds like back then you, as well as many others in the bodybuilding world, may have come close to a proposed new eating disorder: orthorexia.


Orthorexia, means, loosely, “correct diet.”  Unlike anorexia, where people want to be skinny to the extreme, orthorexics want to be healthy, pure, or all-natural, but to such an extreme that it actually interferes with their health and life.  Unlike other eating disorders, this one seems to be more common in men.

Orthorexics eat what they perceive to be a healthy diet and obsessively avoid foods they think are unhealthy, like fat, animal products, or additives. Ironically, their diet can end up so restrictive that it actually leads to malnutrition.  Inevitably, orthorexics experience hunger and cravings, but instead of expanding their diets, they feel guilty and ashamed, and react by becoming even more strict, thus creating a vicious circle.

Again, it’s not an official diagnosis yet, so there aren’t hard and fast diagnostic criteria, but here are some things to consider:  Is your diet isolating?  Many people with orthorexia lose friends or fight with a partner because they look down on others’ ways of eating.  They have a hard time being around people who don’t eat as “healthily” as they do and thus eat only alone at home.  Also, how much time does it take up?  Thinking about healthy eating more than 3 hours a day could signal a problem.  Control is also a big factor: orthorexics may feel in total control when they follow their diet, but guilty and self-hating when they slip, even by one bite.  And finally, as the diet of an individual with orthorexia gets “healthier,” his or her life actually gets worse.

Now, it’s totally fine to follow a comparatively strict diet, like veganism, Paleo, or a raw food diet, as long as it enhances your life and you choose to do it, rather than restricting your life and feeling like you’re compelled to do it.  Remember that most disorders are extreme versions of normal behavior.  Healthy eating, like most behavior, lies on a spectrum; the extreme end—where it causes distress and impairment—is where we start to worry.

6 Tips to Feel Great About Your Body

To feel great, here are 6 tips to help you be kinder to your hardworking body.  After all, where would you be without it?

  • Tip #1: Think about not only what your body looks like, but what it can do.  I know of a teacher who’s quite a bit overweight, but she’s a karate instructor and a sixth-degree black belt.  I guarantee she’s not thinking about her body shape in the middle of a flying kick.  Do the same and find an activity that makes you feel powerful, peaceful, or plain ol’ good in your body, whether it’s the weightlessness of swimming, the rhythm of Zumba, or the camaraderie of a walking group.
  • Tip #2: “Fat” and “soft” are not feelings.  Many women use “I feel fat,” and men use “I feel soft,” as shorthand for “I feel bad.”  Don’t conflate fat or softness with negative feelings.  If you feel demoralized, ashamed, vulnerable, or self-conscious, call it what it is.  It’s easier to deal with a feeling directly, rather than through the filters of “fat” and “soft.”

Many women use “I feel fat,” and men use “I feel soft,” as shorthand for “I feel bad.” Don’t conflate fat or softness with negative feelings.

  • Tip #3: Argue back to your thoughts.  Think of your thoughts as little monsters that keep whispering rude, insensitive things to you: “Your stomach is gross!”  “You shouldn’t have eaten that, you cow.”  “You’re disgusting.”  Would you say these things to someone else?  Would you say such damaging things to a child?  Of course not.  Then why the double standard?   Stand up for yourself like you’re worth standing up for, because you are.
  • Tip #4: Stop comparing yourself to others.  Shame is a terrible motivator.  Limit your exposure to situations that make you feel bad about your body until your body image gets stronger (notice I said your body image—you don’t have to change your body at all, just your perception of it).  Walk out of snooty studios or gyms where you feel judged or no one talks to you.   Stop buying fashion or fitness magazines that make you feel inadequate.  And for heaven’s sake, stay away from those “best” and “worst” beach bodies features at the checkout stand!  You’ll breathe a sigh of relief.
  • Tip #5: Likewise, stop commenting on others’ appearance or eating.  It perpetuates a culture of judgment where everyone loses.   Say something positive.  For example, if you see a large person struggling to jog, just say “Good for her.”
  • Tip #6: For inspiration, read Anne Lamott’s “The Aunties,” a hilarious essay on accepting jiggly thighs, or Wendy Shanker’s The Fat Girl’s Guide to Life, which is self-explanatory (and also hilarious).  For men and women, Mark Sisson’s The Primal Connection explores, among other topics, meaningful exercise—thoughtful alternatives to exercising just to look good or get a training high.

Body image issues lie at the core of eating disorders and BDD.  It’s not easy to push back against a culture where Kelly Ripa’s arms make headlines.  But look around you.  Look at everyone, not just the Jolie-Pitts.  Chances are, when you broaden your view to see all shapes and sizes of real people, you and your body fit right in.

Thanks Ellen. I wish I had your podcast when I was teetering on the edge of BDD.

If you have questions about body image issues, or want to talk more about body dysmorphic disorder or feeling great about your body, then join the discussion over at And if you know someone who has or is headed for BDD, make sure to email them a link to the Savvy Psychologist podcast so that they could stop that train before it gets into dangerous territory.

30 Days to Melt Your Winter Waistline

 Despite what you’ve probably been led to believe, churning away like a rat on a treadmill during the holiday season (or any other time of year for that matter) is really not the best way to burn fat. In fact, it can actually backfire and lead to the common cortisol and catabolic hormone release that accompanies excessive aerobic exercise – which winds up making you fatter!.
 This can result in hormonal imbalances, fluid retention, overtraining, and injury. It’s why the folks who approach New Year’s fat loss by simply trying to stay on a mind-numbingly boring cardio machine for as long as possible are usually the folks who fail (and the ones you probably stop seeing at the gym by mid February).

But the good news is that you can embark on a 30-day rapid fat loss journey without sacrificing your health, body, or performance for the rest of the holiday season. And with the safe, healthy, and effective guide in this episode, you can melt your holiday belly in a fraction of the time it takes your over-exercising friends. Feel free to start this workout now, or save it for your official New Year’s routine!

30 Days to Rapid Fat Loss

The 30-day rapid fat loss guide below is split into three separate 10-day cycles – the first 10 days involve easy fasted fat burning sessions; the next 10 days will add slightly more difficult body weight training; and the final 10 days will round out the routine by adding high intensity intervals and weight training.

Ready? Roll up your sleeves, tighten your belt, and let’s jump right in:

Days 1-10: Burn

For the first 10 days, exercise is simple. There will be no hard or long exercise sessions. For many, this will be a practice in self-control and moderation, since most holiday exercisers are notorious for eating whatever they want, then trying to burn it off with excessive exercise. But days 1-10 of this plan are the exact opposite: limited exercise combined with sane, responsible, calorie control. The side benefit of this approach is that it will also give your body and gut a chance to rest, recover, and reboot.

For each of these 10 days, you will simply do a morning fasted fat burning session of 20-60 minutes. There’s no need to exceed an hour, but if you can get a little longer than 20 minutes, you’ll definitely get an added benefit. You get to choose the activity: light jogging, cycling, elliptical trainer, brisk walking or hiking, or any other type of easy exercise will suffice.

For intensity, you’ll want to be in your fat-burning zone, which occurs at 45-65% of your maximum heart rate, or about 20 beats below your lactate threshold heart rate. If you’ve had anaerobic or lactic acid threshold testing done in a lab or field, simply take that heart rate, subtract 20 beats, and you’re set. If not, simply do the following:

  • Warm up on a bike for 10 minutes.
  • Pedal at your maximum sustainable pace for 20 minutes. You should be breathing hard and your legs should be burning, but you should be able to maintain the same intensity for the full 20 minutes.
  • Record your average heart rate during those 20 minutes.
  • Subtract 20 beats from that heart rate. Add and subtract 3 beats from the resulting number to get a range, and that is your peak fat burning zone.

For example, if your average heart rate was 160, 160-20 is 140, 140+3 is 143, 140-3 is 147, and so your peak fat burning zone is when you have a heart rate of 137-143 beats per minute.

 Ideally, you should do these sessions in a fasted state. This means that you do not eat within 2 hours of bedtime the night before, and you do these exercises sometime before breakfast in the morning. It is fine to drink a cup of coffee or green tea 15-30 minutes before this session (as the caffeine and green tea catechins may actually help accelerate fat loss).

You’ll see better results if you can stay as active as possible the rest of the day after the fasted fat burning session. This can include standing, walking as much as possible, stretching or yoga and light physical activity. But no extra workouts.

Days 11-20: Build

For this next phase, you’ll continue with the morning fasted fat burning sessions exactly as you have done for days 1-10, but every other day, you’re going to include a second afternoon or early evening exercise session consisting of body weight exercises and calisthenics. You should do this second routine as a circuit, consisting of:

  • Push-up variations: 15-20 reps
  • 30-60 seconds calisthenics (jumping jacks, jump rope, running in place, side-to-side hops, etc.)
  • Squat variations: 15-20 reps
  • Repeat 30-60-second calisthenics effort
  • Pull-up or row variations: 15-20 reps
  • Repeat 30-60-second calisthenics effort
  • Lunge variations: 15-20 reps per leg
  • Repeat 30-60-second calisthenics effort

Complete this circuit 4-6 times through with minimal rest. A circuit like this should take you about 20-40 minutes.

Days 21-30: Ultimate Burn 

In the final 10 days, you’ll begin to add higher intensity cardio intervals (HIIT). You’re going to continue with the morning fasted fat burning sessions (trust me, they work like a charm – you can make it just 10 more days!), but now you’re going to replace those afternoon or evening body weight sessions you were doing on days 11-20 with a full body, functional weight training session combined high intensity cardiovascular intervals.

For the weight training, choose four, full body weight training exercises (which will elicit a higher hormonal fat-burning response than single joint exercises such as bicep curls or leg extensions), and perform them back-to-back as a circuit, combined with 2 minutes of high intensity cardio at the end of each circuit. For example:

  • Exercise 1: Woodchopper – 10 reps per side
  • Exercise 2: Turkish Get-Up –  5 reps per side
  • Exercise 3: Single Leg Deadlift – 10 reps per side
  • Exercise 4: Cleans – 10 reps
  • Cardio: 2 minutes maximum bicycling effort

You can view videos of any of these exercises at

If you combine the program above with the type of nutritional protocol I describe in Mighty Mommy’s Belly Burn Project, you can expect an initial weight loss of 4-8 pounds of fat in the first 10 days, followed by 2-4 pounds of fat in each of the next two phases – along with the addition of tight, toned, lean muscle.

If you have questions about how to implement this system into your life, I’d be happy to help. Just post a comment below or on the Get-Fit Guy Facebook page.

And that’s it! Within 30 days, you’ll begin to see your winter weight melt away – and you can simply repeat this 30-day cycle throughout the year if you’d like to continue to get good results without overtraining.

5 New Fat Burning Exercises

In the episode Top 10 Reasons You’re Not Losing Weight, I describe the SAID principle of exercise. SAID stands for Specific Adaptations to Imposed Demands – and this means that our bodies eventually adapt to the demands we place upon them.

So if you’re doing the same workout routine or the same exercises week after week, or month after month, your body becomes very efficient at those exercises or that routine, and you no longer burn as many calories or get as good a fitness response from your efforts..

This is why I personally change up my routine every week and I recommend you introduce new fitness moves or change up your workouts at least once a month to get the biggest bang for your workout buck.

In today’s episode, you’ll get 5 brand new exercises that will burn fat fast, challenge your metabolism, and keep your workouts exciting.

You can view most of these exercises in my 5 New Fat Burning Exercises video. Let’s jump right in!

New Fat Burning Exercise #1: ManMaker

The ManMaker (sorry ladies, I didn’t invent the title) is the only exercise in this episode that actually requires equipment – in this case a set of dumbbells. To do this exercise, get into a push-up position with one hand on either dumbbell, then do a push-up. Next, row with one dumbbell, then row with the other dumbbell. Stand quickly (also called a “clean”) and place both dumbbells on your shoulders, then do a front squat followed by an overhead press.

Return the dumbbells back to their starting position to complete that repetition and get ready for the next repetition. To maximize your results, choose a weight that makes it difficult for you to complete 10 repetitions of the ManMaker. Just 10 repetitions of this potent move can be used for a fast, 5 minute, full body, fat-burning workout!

New Fat Burning Exercise #2: Breakdance Push-up

This exercise will not only improve your core and upper body strength like a regular push-up, but also will also increase your agility and flexibility – and it doesn’t actually require you to be a professional breakdancer.

Start in a bridge position with your bellybutton facing the ceiling and your weight supported on your hands and feet. Then “flip” to one side or the other, keeping one leg off the ground, and do a push-up. Then “flip” again back to the bridge position. Here’s a great example of a breakdance push-up. Try 5 breakdance push-ups for each side.

New Fat Burning Exercise #3: Sox Squat

The Sox Squat is excellent for forcing your body to attain proper posture, open up shoulder and chest muscles that get notoriously tight when you’re sitting at a computer, and also work nearly every muscle in your body.

Start in a standing position with your shoulder blades squeezed back and your arms overhead and bent at a 90o angle. Then drop down into a seated, squatting position. Next stand and slowly straighten your arms as you stand. The most important thing to do during a Sox Squat is to keep your shoulder blades squeezed back and your butt back behind you. Try 10 Sox Squats, and to make them even more difficult, stand facing the wall with your toes up against the wall as you do the exercise, which will force you to keep your weight behind you.

New Fat Burning Exercise #4: Skater Squat

Unlike the Sox Squat, the Skater Squat introduces balance, coordination, and agility into the mix. You can see an image of the starting and ending position here.

Start by standing upright and shifting your weight onto your left foot. Then bend your right knee 900 so your right foot is behind you and off the floor. Keeping your left knee tracking over your standing foot, bend your left knee, hip and ankle while slowly lowering your right knee – and your entire body weight – toward the floor. When done correctly, you’ll look just like a speed skater in the final position. When you’ve lowered yourself as far as you can, reverse the movement and return to the starting position.

For starters, try 5 repetitions for the left leg and 5 repetitions for the right leg. You can also check out my article Get Better Legs With 13 Squat Variations for even more awesome squat exercises!

New Fat Burning Exercise #5: Hip Hinge

I actually do my hip hinges while I’m taking a cold shower to maximize the fat-burning effect.

Simply cross both hands across your chest, then hinge forward at the hips while looking forward and keeping your back straight. You’ll reach a point at which your hamstrings feel very tight and you can’t hinge forward anymore without bending your back. Once you reach that point, “squeeze” your butt cheeks and use your butt to pull you back into your starting standing position. This exercise is also known as the folded dollar bill or the shadow deadlift exercise. Here’s a great video that contains a ton of similar exercises that are fantastic for your lower back and your glute muscles.

If you have questions about these 5 new fat burning exercises, or your own exercises to add to the list, post your comments below or at

And if you’re looking for a great gift this holiday season, check out my book Get-Fit Guy’s Guide to Achieving Your Ideal Body. It will show you how to get the best possible body for your unique shape – without spending hours at the gym or buying expensive exercise equipment.

Dumbbell push-up, squat, and hip hinge images courtesy of Shutterstock.

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How to Get Rid of Muscle Soreness Fast

Just a few days ago, I participated in the Ironman Triathlon World Championships in Kona, Hawaii…

…and boy, am I ever sore!

So what does a fitness guru do to bounce back as fast as possible from soreness (especially when he wants to enjoy a few good days on the Hawaiian beaches)? Here are the most effective methods I’ve been using lately (and here’s how to know whether you should actually feel sore after your workout):

  1. Hot-Cold Contrast Showers: These increase blood flow and help to shuttle inflammation out of muscle. Just take a 5 minute shower, and alternate between 20 seconds cold and 10 second hot. See also How to Use Cold Weather to Lose Weight.
  2. Curcumin: In high doses, this tasty ancient Indian spice is actually a potent anti-inflammatory. I take over a gram a day for several days after a really hard workout. I use a capsule, since using that much curry on food would be a bit much! And I definitely avoid ibuprofen – here’s why.
  3. Massage: Since it can be time consuming and expensive, I rarely go out of my way to hunt down a long sports massage. But after a very hard workout or race, I make an exception. Just one good massage can make an enormous difference, and is far more effective than a foam roller if you really, truly are beat up – (since a foam roller takes quite a bit of energy to use properly).

If you liked this information, check out these other 6 sore muscle remedies.

Do you have questions about how to get rid of soreness fast? What about your own soreness beating tips to contribute? Then leave a comment over at

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