“When you stop striving for perfection, you might as well be dead.”
This haunting line is spoken by plastic surgeon Christian Troy after showing the beautiful Kimber Henry her “flaws” with a tube of red lipstick on the FX drama “Nip/Tuck.”
When it comes to the perfect physique, some people will stop at nothing in pursuit of their goals.
Earlier this year, NPC Physique Competitor Joanna Wilson died suddenly in Las Vegas. Many have speculated her death to be caused by heart failure due to taking diuretics.
Trainers are using her untimely passing as an opportunity to talk about avoiding dangerous habits while preparing for a bodybuilding contest. Adam Atkinson, owner of SeeYouLaterLeaner, warned his Instagram followers against cutting out water and sodium during the final week of prep—saying when coupled with rising potassium levels, the result is a dangerous cocktail similar to the lethal injection process.
Although most people are aware extreme levels of leanness can not be maintained, it’s important to recognize the difference between training for aesthetics and training to be healthy. Healthy females typically carry around about 25 to 30 percent body fat, and males typically carry around about 12 to 17 percent body fat.
“So, attaining the body fat levels of a bikini model (12 to 15 percent) or a bodybuilder (five percent) means struggling against millions of years of evolution. And the high volumes of training, coupled with the low quantities of food necessary to attain this level of leanness, are very stressful,” lean eating coach Krista Schaus said.
Schaus specializes in prepping for the stage the right way. She says some of the most significant physical and personal growth by both herself and her clients has come from pushing beyond comfort levels.
She recommends everyone prepares, pushes and peaks at some point in their life—whether in the form of a bodybuilding competition or another athletic event such as a triathlon.
Harsher critics such as YouTuber Jason Blaha have spoken out against contest prep altogether, calling the process out for being unhealthy, if not downright dangerous to achieve this level of leanness under the guise of fitness and health.
Read on to see why Blaha doesn’t agree with the standards of the bodybuilding industry.
“This is just absurd,” Blaha said. “It kills people. It destroys health to get that lean. It’s just as bad for you as being morbidly obese.”
Blaha sites the results of extreme leanness to include depression, sexual dysfunction, rage, anger, and in many cases, hormonal shut down and organ damage.
He says he believes diuretics killed Joanna Wilson, and people should be angry about that.
“If people want to pursue physique goals that’s fine—if that’s what they want to do, and that’s their dreams, that’s okay, but the standards are being set to a point where it’s killing people,” he said.
Blaha doesn’t believe the idea of needing to be shredded should be pushed into the fitness world, and that even drug-tested shows push the limits to the point where it destroys competitors’ health.
“Why in the hell is this being called fitness? Why is this being accepted in the fitness world? Do we want to see people keep dropping dead in the fitness world?” he asked. “When are we going to stop this insanity?”
On the other hand, “The Diet Guy” and bodybuilding advocates argue it was Wilson’s decision to push things; she assumed the risks and she knew what she was doing. One of those advocates is Jerry Ward, known by his YouTube handle, bios3training:
“She didn’t want to be the average woman,” he said. “They literally will take it to the end to be what they want to be.”
Many people question whether it’s smart to take bodybuilding to these extremes.
“It’s all a matter of opinion and what their reality is and what your reality is,” he said. “This girl died doing what she wanted to do. Why is that such a tragedy?”