DEAR ABBY: I'm a 21-year-old man who has been a successful swimmer in high school and now in college. Over the past few months, I have become obsessed with developing six-pack abs. I have never had much success with women, and I thought that looking like a movie star might finally get me noticed and make me feel good about myself.
As a result, I have become obsessive about my diet. I have dropped 10 pounds, mostly muscle, and my performance in the pool has suffered. If I don't see perfect definition between every ab and don't exercise for at least 2 1/2 hours a day, I feel fat and guilty whenever I eat. I have awakened in the middle of the night worrying about what I'll eat the next day. I'm concerned for the future when my metabolism will inevitably slow down.
I have begun to think that death is a better scenario than being fat, or feeling that way. I want to be able to enjoy eating again and get my life back. I don't want to tell my parents or friends for fear of seeming weak-minded. Where can I go for help?
- Feeling Lost in New Mexico
DEAR FEELING LOST: Physical perfection is no guarantee that you'll find love. Liking yourself and accepting yourself for who you are attracts others.
Although "looking like a movie star" can be an asset - depending upon who the movie star is - unless you are secure about who you are and what you have to offer, you can't maintain a healthy relationship. (If you don't believe me, start counting how many movie star romances resemble a game of musical chairs.)
If you truly think that death might be preferable to being fat, then you are in trouble. You may have a serious eating disorder, one that could shorten your life.