'Prove haters wrong': Dubai-based fitness content creator on body dysmorphia, self-discovery

Zack Chug, a fitness enthusiast and prominent social media figure, on how to combat body dysmorphia and negativity on social media


Husain Rizvi

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Photo by Shihab
Photo by Shihab

Published: Thu 16 May 2024, 6:26 PM

Last updated: Thu 16 May 2024, 11:03 PM

Transformation journeys are inspiring. It is quite commendable when a person overcomes the several hurdles to completely transform oneself and change their lives completely.

Among the countless people who have wandered this path, Zack Chug is one of them. The 24-year-old recently moved to Dubai from the UK and documents his entire journey on social media, another modern-world phenomenon. His journey started six years ago when he decided to shed excess weight gained during his school years. He was bullied and made to feel isolated which got him to embark on a journey of self-improvement.

"I used to be very overweight in school, got bullied, and did not have a lot of friends and that sort of motivated me to lose weight," Zack said in a conversation with City Times. "And once I lost weight, I went to university and that's when I started my social media journey."

Transitioning from a state of overweight and insecurity to a confident and fit individual, Zack's transformation didn't go unnoticed. As he chronicled his progress on social media, his following burgeoned, eventually reaching a million followers.

It was quite a journey for Zack who was balancing social media with dental studies. "It got so hard and it came to a point where I couldn't do both at an optimal level so I had to make a decision to leave dentistry which is probably the biggest risk of my life because I am throwing away a stable career with a guaranteed income for basically my dreams," he said. "If there's one thing I've learned so far from my social media is to char your dreams because if there's no risk, there's no reward."

But Zack wouldn't call himself an influencer; he's just a "normal guy trying to post as much value and content," which he knows is going to help people. "I am still the same as everybody else, I am still learning every single day. "All I try and do is motivate and inspire people," he says. "And the content I put out is the same I know I'd want to see when I was younger."

Body dysmorphia

One of the recurring themes in Zack's narratives on social media is his struggle with body dysmorphia, a condition characterised by an obsession with perceived flaws in physical appearance. Despite his enviable physique and social media success, Zack candidly admits to experiencing moments of self-doubt and dissatisfaction.

"My body's been through so many fluctuations that I've got to a point where I realise I do experience body dysmorphia but now it's just about taking the steps to overcome it," he admits.

The constant exposure to idealised images on social media adds to these feelings, creating a vicious cycle of comparison and discontent.

"When you are making progress, your mind is sort of telling you that you're not," he said. "It is an unhealthy cycle which has a massive negative effect and social media has accelerated that a lot in the recent few months because there's so much comparison on it. All people see are highlight reels of the perfect life."

That's one reason why Zack has moved to create content that showcases the real picture. Earlier, he used to share a lot of healthy recipes but that never gave him a chance to be vocal and show people the real side of social media, he says, "because I got to a point where the body dysmorphia was so high that even I edited my own pictures. I was looking at these pictures and thinking that these are not good enough, I need to be better."

Zack shares healthy recipes on Instagram
Zack shares healthy recipes on Instagram

So how does one combat it? Through his own journey of self-discovery, Zack encourages others to confront and address these challenges head-on, advocating for a holistic approach to mental and physical well-being. "It's just taking steps to live a healthier lifestyle," he said. "It is easier said than done but it is just minor tweaks."

Navigating negativity, authenticity on social media

As a prominent figure on social media, Zack is no stranger to negativity and criticism. Despite the overwhelming support from his 1.2 million followers on Instagram, Zack acknowledges the impact that even a single negative comment can have on one's psyche.

Although initially, the negativity came as a shock to Zack, who didn't receive an ounce of hate from any user when he shared healthy recipes. Now, however, rather than succumbing to negativity, Zack chooses to channel it into motivation, fuelling his determination to defy expectations and pursue his dreams. "You don't want to let the haters win," he said. "The love definitely overwhelms the negativity but sometimes it just takes one negative comment to change your outlook, and I try not to let it happen. I am just using it as fuel and motivation to prove the haters wrong."

Zack Chug is a prominent social media figure with over a million followers on Instagram
Zack Chug is a prominent social media figure with over a million followers on Instagram

The 'Dubai Stone' and wellness

Transitioning to life in Dubai brought its own set of challenges for Zack, including the phenomenon known as the "Dubai stone," where individuals experience weight gain upon relocating to the city. Zack candidly shares his own experiences of succumbing to stress eating and unhealthy habits upon his arrival in Dubai. "It was many factors," he said. "I was very stressed and anxious with all this social media stuff that led to me stress eating and the thing about Dubai is that it is very convenient. There's so much food around so I'd get in this cycle of stress eating away my problems."

But the availability of things in Dubai is not necessarily a bad thing. "That's also an amazing thing about Dubai," he said. "It is so convenient and there's a lot of healthy food options available too which helped me in my 'comeback phase' which I have documented on social media."

Despite his achievements, Zack remains grounded and focused on his mission to inspire and empower others through his innovative "superhero concept."

"It is basically me and my journey to becoming the person I aspire to be, and motivating and inspiring everyone to be the best versions of themselves," he said. "Because right now, I am not that superhero at all, but one day I'd like to be that figure which can help spread positivity and hope. I feel the world needs that right now as there's so much ongoing negativity. Ultimately, I am just being authentic and trying to help people."


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