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“Bigger” Isn’t Always Better

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I just watched a documentary on body image and the lasting and often detrimental effect it has on the American populace. No surprise there --- We've all heard the stories about women suffering through eating disorders in their quest to achieve perfection. But this documentary wasn't about women; it focused on men, specifically three brothers from New York State.

Filmmaker Chris Bell turned the cameras on himself and his two brothers in a revealing, yet disturbing film called "Bigger, Stronger, Faster." In it, he speaks about their rampant steroid use and their obsession with years of media images ranging from Hulk Hogan to Arnold Schwarzeneggar, a former steroid user himself.

Bell vacilates between his brothers steroid and mass obsession to the fitness industry and professional sports. He revealed the media images crammed down the throats of young men that show ripped abs, broad shoulders and biceps that could crack walnuts. He spoke to a psychologist about the G.I. Joe action figures which changed over the course of 40 years to show a more sculpted physique. He interviewed fitness models, confessed steroid users themselves -- and former athletes like Ben Johnson, the infamous Canadian Olympic sprinter who was stripped of his gold medal because of steroid use. The film also pointed out key and not-so-well known facts that a) a number of professional athletes are on some kind of substance and b) Johnson' replacement Carl Lewis tested positive for a banned substance at that same olympics, but retained his title and his medal.

"Bigger" made me question everything I've seen in the fitness industry I followed for years. Were my childhood bodybuilding idols Lee Haney and Shawn Ray on the juice? Is the the fitness model on my health magazine naturally fit? What about my beloved football players, specifically the New York Giants? Sure, steroids are banned in the NFL and the commission strictly enforces it. But are some football players taking chemicals that technically don't fall under the definition of steroids, but provide the same anabolic effect?

Anybody with a slight curiosity about these questions would do well to check out the brilliant and thought-provoking documentary "Bigger, Stronger, Faster." It raises valid points and reveals that when it comes to fitness and body image, men and women aren't so different after all.

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