Michael Feldman was tormented by images: bulging biceps, a sizzling six-pack, every square inch of his body muscular and toned.
But his hunger for perfection would never be satisfied, and slowly his life was consumed by the hunt.
Feldman says he has since recovered, and is bringing awareness to the body-image disorder he suffered through. His presentation, the multi-media solo performance MuscleBound that was performed in the LSC Theatre Wednesday, altered the point of view of body image as being only a woman’s issue.
The 90-minute performance used a mixture of video and live performance to promote awareness on the larger issue of male eating disorders, anorexia bulimia and muscle dysmorphia.
The main outcome of MuscleBound is to “open people’s eyes that it does affect men and if they have a problem, to get help,” said Lindsey Martin, a senior health and exercise science major and vice president of Student Health Advisory Council (SHAC).
MuscleBound focuses on the lives of three men who, over the course of a year, each suffered from muscle dysmorphia: a 19-year-old gay college freshman, his trainer and a documentary filmmaker.
Each character becomes obsessed with becoming bigger. The characters sacrifice what they eat and increase how often, how long, and how hard they work out at the gym and soon, the gym takes over their lives.
Later in the show, each character starts taking drugs such as steroids and creatine — a common side effect of muscle dysmorphia, according to Anorexia Nervosa and Related Eating Disorders, Inc.
The documentary, incorporated into the MuscleBound performance, focuses on the lives of men that suffer from some kind of male eating disorder and how the disorder affects their lives.
The film begins with each man telling the story of how he developed the disorder — wrestling in high school, dancing, obsessing over cosmetics.
As the film continues, each man discusses how he became obsessed with going to the gym, eating smaller portions, or sometimes not eating at all, and taking steroids.
“You become so obsessed with the gym, it takes over your life,” Feldman said. “You start putting the gym ahead of everything else — your friends, wife, family.”
Men in the documentary said no matter what body type they took on, it was never good enough.
“When I was fat, skinny was beautiful,” said Josh, one of the characters in the performance. When I was skinny, being big was beautiful. It was like beauty is always running away. I am never satisfied.”
Following the performance, a panel of university health professionals told students the best solution for male eating disorders is to talk to the person in a non-judgmental tone.
“Be expected to be rejected by the victim,” said Danielle Oakley, associate director of the University Counseling Center. “But stay focused. Be a good role model by not doing the same behaviors as the victim.”
The most important thing women can do to help males with this disorder is not reinforce the behavior, said Christopher Leck, coordinator for the Men’s Project.
“There’s a difference between saying ‘You are a beautiful person’ and ‘You look beautiful’,” Feldman said. “When more men step forward, it’s an important leap not only for the individual, but also for the community.”
Staff writer Heidi Reitmeier can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org