Lifting weights is a great way to stay in shape, but bodybuilding can also become a dangerous obsession. (Source: CBS4)
MIAMI (CBSMiami) - Mesmerized by magazine covers, fixated on diets and addicted to working out, many men are focused on getting that hot beach body. However, more men who started out muscle training are now obsessed with bulking up.
Alfonso Moretti, a successful personal trainer who helps his clients stay on track through healthy routines, had to stop early in his career after he became obsessed with muscle building.
"It takes over your life, so every decision you make becomes about the workout and how your body looks. I used to track and weigh every single ounce of food that went in my body," said Moretti. "I used to wake up at 3 o'clock in the morning to drink protein shakes. I never missed a workout, ever, ever, ever."
Moretti's desire to bulk up is known as muscle dysmorphia, or "bigorexia," and the number of men susceptible to this disorder has grown over the years.
Dr. Michele Kerulis said about 45 percent of men claim to be dissatisfied with their body image.
"One in ten people who are diagnosed with an eating disorder is a man," said Dr. Kerulis.
She added that men of all ages have fallen victim to muscle dysmorphia and the emotional effects can be severe.
"This obsession can start quickly or it can begin over a period of time. We see psychological abnormalities including irritability, angry outbursts, which sometimes people would call a "roid rage," said Dr. Kerulis. "We see depression sometimes mania."
For Moretti, the desire to be big started at a young age.
"I can remember as young as 13, 14 looking at some of these muscle magazines and I was conditioned to think that's what a man looked like, so big shoulders, big legs, just big muscles with veins everywhere," said Moretti.
His routine wasn't just emotionally debilitating, his extreme workouts caused physical damage which was a wakeup call for Moretti.
"I finally came to a revelation only after 11 or 12 years because I had neck surgery. I had major neck surgery," said Moretti. "I had ruptured a disc in my neck and it basically paralyzed me on the right side of my body."
Dr. Selene Parekh said that physical injuries caused by "bigorexia" can range from muscle strains and stress fractures to organ failure.
"So individuals who have bigorexia, a lot of them tend to use supplements and if you overdose on these supplements, without having a balanced diet, you can develop kidney and liver failure," said Dr. Parekh. "As that happens you may need a liver or kidney transplant or you could eventually die."
Moretti still encourages a healthy body image and a realistic workout, but he urges other men not to go down the same path that he did.
"I look back now and I see pictures and I'm like, 'wow,' like I would never want to look like that guy," said Moretti.
Dr. Kerulis said that with the help of a medical doctor, nutritionist and psychologist, it is possible to combat the disorder through therapy and a healthy exercise regimen.