Men's Health

Mirror, mirror, on the gym wall

Chris Marvin had a secret morning ritual that he practiced in college. Sunlight creeping through drawn shades, he’d roll out of bed around 7 a.m. with a pounding head. After making sure his door was locked, he’d rummage through drawers and the depths of his mini fridge. Then, on a white marble desk that would have been pristine if not for the Thrasher and Mayhem stickers, he’d line up everything he needed to get through the day

First he’d pop a caffeine pill to feel alive; then he’d chase it with a couple of painkillers—a preemptive strike against the grind of training two hours a day, seven days a week. (“There is no rest muscle,” he’d tell himself.) A hit from his bong would help calm his racing heart. Instead of water, he’d pour a glass of whiskey to wash down his preworkout supplements. Then he’d inject himself in either his glutes or deltoids with black market anabolic steroids. After putting his supplies back in their hiding places, he’d ride his bike a half mile from the off-campus house he shared with frat brothers to Sonoma State University in Northern California, where he studied—wait for it—exercise science.

“A kinesiology major doing all that shit? I was a walking oxymoron,” says Marvin, now 32. Nothing could keep him out of the gym, not even injuries that would eventually require surgery. “I’d have my training partner hold my shoulder in its socket so I could do heavy preacher curls. In my mind I was indestructible.”

By the time he was 25 and working odd jobs back home in San Diego, Marvin weighed 210 pounds, and his back rippled like the Hulk’s. When he eventually cycled off the steroids and ramped up his use of synthetic marijuana, ecstasy, sleeping pills, and Valium—on top of the booze and painkillers—he dropped down to 141 and fell into a deep depression. After one wild bender, he spent more than a week locked down in a psych ward.

“I had done so many drugs that I didn’t sleep for eight days coming down off them,” he says. “From there, I went to a cognitive behavioral therapy program, and that’s where they pointed out that I had muscle dysmorphia. I’d never heard of it before. I was like, ‘What the fuck is that?’”

in Marvin. From a young age, men

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