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Jock and Jill

FOOD FOR THOUGHT A veteran bodybuilder, Linda Cusmano says she has never met a female competitor who developed an eating disorder after joining the circuit.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

A veteran bodybuilder, Linda Cusmano says she has never met a female competitor who developed an eating disorder after joining the circuit. But it's more than common to meet women who come to bodybuilding and fitness pageantry having already lived with disordered eating, she said.

It's true in her case. Cusmano was anorexic. "I practised starvation," she said. "I didn't purge-I just didn't eat."

Such habits and control are rewarded in an industry that obsesses over weight and micro-manages food consumption. It's true, as Cusmano says, "No one will ever starve on chicken and asparagus." For some women I can't help but imagine the constant, vigilant regimentation before competition is a symptom of a related complex. Counting calories, measuring grams and exercising restraint strikes me as a manifestation of the mania that can inspire body dysmorphia and eating disorders.

When she dedicated a year to researching the stage life of a bodybuilder for an autoethnographic study, Alberta academic Lianne McTavish wrote on her fantastic blog feministfiguregirl.com, "My eating is incredibly orderly these days. Everything is weighed, measured, and consumed at appropriate intervals."

Food became fuel, food also became one of the essential tools for success; the right amount of the right stuff at the right time has consequences for all those hours at the gym.

"Practising control in relation to food does not constitute an eating disorder, though it might indeed classify me as abnormal."

But then she fantasized she was a brownie. "I must be careful not to develop an eating disorder or a bizarre relationship with food." What really stunned McTavish is the beauty and power of the body in its most extreme natural form. "I do not look in the mirror and feel hatred when I see my body; I feel pride and a certain de-