by Matt Weik
Doing something you love should be fun and bring joy to your life, right? For example, if you watch sports, you should have a certain amount of enjoyment every time you pick up a ball, racket, or bat. In general, when you stop enjoying or enjoying something, you quit, don’t you? However, when you look at bodybuilding, it seems that things are not always what they seem.
What exactly am I talking about and what do I want with it? It’s bodybuilding and depression. Could “sport” cause bodybuilders to sink deeper and deeper into a dark place that many of them may never get out of alive? I think it’s worth opening the discussion and talking about it.
What does it take to be a bodybuilder?
Bodybuilding is no different from other sports when it comes to exercising and becoming the best. The split goes into effect with what it takes to be a successful bodybuilder. While baseball and basketball players can live it up and get away with a lifestyle of partying, drinking, eating, whatever, and having fun, this is not exactly the case for bodybuilders.
Because of the strict lifestyle required to become a successful bodybuilder, it is easy to understand why many of them have some dark days and even suffer from depression. And this article is not intended to be a blow to bodybuilding or any bodybuilder, but rather a wake-up call that this may be a topic worth exploring.
You might read this saying, “Matt, you’re not a professional bodybuilder or even an amateur bodybuilder … What the hell do you know?” Well, from my time in the dietary supplement industry, I’ve dated sponsored athletes for a good portion of my career and spent days with them hung out with them, ate with them, exercised with them and really ate quite a bit, having deep conversations with them. Personally, I could never be a professional bodybuilder based on what it takes to get my way – I respect your dedication to becoming the best.
Many bodybuilders become recluses. Almost prisoners in their own homes. When they say their life is about eating, sleeping, and exercising, they are 100% honest.
So let’s think about it for a minute. Could you do the year after year and part with anything and everything in order to become the best? Check out the guys like Brandon Curry who has been traveling to Kuwait for months to prepare for the Mr. Olympia competition. He is separated from his family and children for months. He misses family events, holidays, and memories. Don’t you think that’s bothering him, even though he’s trying to make history by winning a Sandow? He is forced to put on the blinkers and all his concentration and energy is put into his training and recovery.
Bodybuilders pack their own meals when they go anywhere, consisting mostly of simple foods, while everyone else around them enjoys delicious but unhealthy foods (burgers, pizza, dessert, etc.).
Because bodybuilders need to prioritize their rest, they may go to bed early or nap all day. This leaves little time to go out with friends or family. Some bodybuilders skip the vacation because they are in the middle of a prep and don’t want to be distracted by food they can’t eat and tempted to screw up their diet with something that is not on their schedule.
As a result, many bodybuilders sit at home in isolation. People are maddened with COVID the way it is and hate the fact that they have to stay home – yet this is the lifestyle of many bodybuilders out there, except when venturing to the grocery store or the gym.
Take It All In – Does Bodybuilding Cause Depression?
In the past few years, many bodybuilders have come out and mentioned that they have some demons to sort out and that they are suffering from some mental health issues. Some bodybuilders never made it out of this dark place and committed suicide, which is incredibly tragic that they did not get the help they needed so badly.
The lifestyle of the bodybuilding athlete (in my opinion) can very well push bodybuilders into depression. Although some of the bodybuilders have come out expressing their problems and feelings (again in my opinion) I believe there are many more who fight their own demons in their heads and don’t want to do it all for fear of what people think of them. This can take people to a very dark place and cause them to have alarming thoughts.
How can we fix this potential problem?
There is no real “solution” to this problem when it comes to bodybuilding and depression. I want people to understand that they are not alone. There are many bodybuilders out there who have these feelings. Everyone needs to be more open about it and get the help they need when they see signs of depression.
We cannot afford to lose any more life to depression – and not only in our sport, but also in our society. While many people see bodybuilders that way, they’re just as part of our community as you and me. All lives are important and we must take them seriously. When YOU see something, speak up. Take it. Ask someone how they are feeling. Ask them how they are doing about everything. Just being an ear that listens could mean the world to someone.
As a bodybuilding fan, community, competitor, we all owe the sport to support our bodybuilding competitors and help them stay in a good mood. Far too many find themselves in a dark place believing the need to become a great bodybuilder. For many, it is worth the sacrifice, while for others, it consumes them completely. I absolutely see a connection between bodybuilding and depression. And I just hope the message gets across and more people can put their arms around the topic and bring it up to save lives.