Anyone can go mad. But how you do depends on where you are.


Since you first started working out at 16, you haven’t stopped: the attention you get from girls, the admiration you get from boys, is addictive. You have stripped salt, sugar, dairy, fruit and flour from your diet; you count every calorie and pump muscle three times a day. But it’s not enough. No matter how many shakes you drink, or weights you lift, the mirror still throws back your puny 16-year-old self.

Bigorexia, or muscle dysmorphia, affects Western men: to everyone else their muscles may be bulging, their six packs well honed, but in their own eyes, they are never sufficiently ripped. Some sufferers become isolated, depressed and even suicidal. Others are on a permanent high from the success and attention their body size gives them. Yet the extreme strain, whether from waking up periodically for muscle boosting protein shakes or taking anabolic-androgenic steroids, affects the psychological and physical health of these reverse anorexics. 

22 year old Australian body-builder, student and wannabe model, Aziz 'Zyzz' Sergeyevich Shavershian, was an internet phenomenon with a huge Facebook following: his transformation from skinny kid to bulky hunk (at 6 ft 1 he weighed 100 kg) inspired many to get “aesthetic”.

Two days before dying of a heart attack, Aziz posted: "One year ago, and 10kgs lighter. 100kg now…this size is the sweet spot for girls...Arnold status here I come."

While countries like the US and Australia peddle heroes of might and muscle like Arnold Schwarzenegger, countries like Japan and China peddle as heroes Confucian thinkers or lithe martial artists who combine physical with spiritual development. They fight evil with their cunning and dexterity rather than their superhuman biceps. So men from these cultures don’t tend to suffer from bigorexia — why bother being an Arnold when there is Bruce Lee.


Illustration: Fanqiao Wang