21 Mar

Obsession:  A persistent disturbing preoccupation with an often unreasonable idea or feeling

It’s 11am and I’m surrounded by “super freaks” as one of the people I’ve come here with dubs them. Perhaps that’s a tad judgemental. Let me pull back a bit. The people I speak of are the attendees of the IFBB British Grand Prix& Fitness Expo Weekend at the ExCel centre in London.

There are men and they are women. They range from normal-looking to super human, more closely resembling the action figures my brother used to play with, than real-life people.

A man thumps past me. His bald orange head shines from the oil he’s lathered on himself for the body builder competition. His one arm is three times the size of mine. His neck is no longer visible, as muscle joins his shoulders directly to his head.

As for the body builders on stage, they remind me of a scene from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, where the temporarily insane Willow casts a spell to rip off the skin of her captive, revealing all the muscles in his body.

Body building women dab on some pink lip gloss and force on dresses that accentuate their biceps, triceps, and quads, which have long replaced any more natural effeminate curves.

Most of the people milling about fit into one of two categories:

  1. They aspire to look like the guy below
  2. Or they already do, no doubt thanks to a little…ahem…chemical help.

Companies use body builder “athletes” or “success stories” to flog their merchandise–products such as vile-tasting protein supplements like bread that tastes more like a stale marshmallow than any kind of wheat-based product though one of my friends insists it “tastes so much like bread!”

The message is clear: you could look like me if you use this product. I try not to ask the obvious question. Why would anybody want to strut around with veins popping out and muscles at least three times thicker than the average Joe or Jane Schmoe? Is reverting to walking more like our hominid ancestors appealing?

Perhaps you’re wondering how I even ended up at this convention. My friends asked me if I wanted to go and I thought, ‘Why not?’ I’d obviously never been before and I was intrigued by this strange world and the strange people that inhabit it.

Darting glances at every third man or so who looks like a testosterone-charged gorilla, I can’t help but wonder how many of them suffer from serious conditions such as Orthorexia and Bigorexia (also known as Muscle Dysmorphia).

It was one of those occasions where I was bewildered by the sheer madness of it all and wished I was there to report on the whole event rather than simply to witness it. I wanted to pose questions to these people, to understand what drove them to this life that revolved pretty solely around the gym.

One personal trainer (who I must admit appears more reputable than the rest and chiselled in a more natural-looking way) flogs his book, which details various “I was fat and now my life is so much better now I’m not” experiences. People (including my companions) queue for an hour to receive his signed book for free, after hearing his “inspirational” talk. He writes in one person’s book: “Do what you fear. Don’t fear what you do.”

I choke back a laugh as he looks seriously into the eyes of this person.

And then I leave. I leave knowing little more of truck-pulling strongmen and body builder athletes and their fans than I did when I first walked through the ExCel centre doors.


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