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Healthy Is Hot, The ‘Liver King’ Is Not

The ‘Liver King’ presented a mirage of health and fitness to his millions of followers across social media.


Whether it’s the “Tiger King” or the “Liver King,” anybody prancing around as the “king” of a miracle product or enterprise is almost certainly a con man exploiting gullible consumers who almost deserve to be conned.

On Monday, the throne of Brian Johnson, the man who coronated himself the “Liver King” with a fitness franchise that brought fame and fortune, finally collapsed under the weight of his own insecurity. Underneath his primitive persona, which sold a nature-based lifestyle with organic supplements to his millions of online followers, he was reportedly just some guy on steroids all along.

According to emails published on the “More Dates More Plates” podcast, Johnson, who claimed to have found the secret to longevity through ancestral living, had been pumping himself with a cocktail of performance-enhancing steroids to the tune of $11,000 a month.

Derek, the body-builder podcast host who broke the story in an hour-long episode, explained just how much the “Liver King” was actually exploiting his liver to live out a fantasy brought by manufactured products.

With 5.8 milligram vials of pharmacy-grade human growth hormone (GDH) injected 16 times a month, Derek said, that “is like a f-cking really, really high, super expensive dosage.”

“To be honest,” Derek added, “I know bodybuilders who compete at the open Mr. Olympia who’d use less form of grade GDH than that.”

Johnson’s leaked emails outline a veritable pharmacy of steroids he used to forge a fictional superhero who for 18 months sought to be a mascot for holistic natural living, a model man for the wannabe “man.”

[READ: If Conservatives Want To Defend Manliness, They Better Know What It Means]

Careful to protect his ego, his persona, and his $100 million salary, Johnson denied his use of synthetic steroids on seemingly every major fitness podcast. A montage presented in the exposé by “More Dates More Plates” shows Johnson going on program after program to denounce any accusation that he was maybe, probably, almost definitely using steroids to build his Instagram physique in his mid-40s.

“For the record, I’ve never taken steroids,” Johnson said on the “No Jumper” show just a month ago.

“The short answer is no, I don’t touch this stuff,” Johnson said again on the CarnivoreMD podcast.

Johnson would even go on to attack those who assumed drug use as people who just “hate their lives,” while labeling those who did exploit steroids as “sub-primal.”

“Hate always comes from below, and hate always comes from within,” Johnson said of his critics with the hosts of the “H3 Podcast.” “When people really hate their lives, because most people do, they go to jobs they hate, they go to jobs they don’t love, they sedate themselves with enough [BS], right, and so they hate themselves so much that they project that hate above them.”

Johnson seems to think a lot of people hate their lives, “80 percent,” to be exact, as he said on “Impaulsive.” These people’s “lives f-cking suck already,” he claimed.

Considering his testimony, it’s hard to imagine Johnson lived without self-hatred prior to his journey to steroids. Perhaps his internal strife is what led him to begin doping himself into a multimillion-dollar phenomenon. His businesses relied on a cocktail of pharmaceuticals as an elixir for physical and financial validation, his health and integrity be damned.

The tragedy of the “Liver King” is a consequence of when the pendulum on fitness swings too far. Combine the intense need for validation with an influencer culture that incentivizes a curated lifestyle for an online audience, and it’s not hard for con artists to capitalize on the insecurities of their followers. Whether it be the “Liver King” high on steroids pretending to be something he’s not, or the morbidly obese activists disguising the pro-fat movement as “body positivity,” the pendulum often swings in both directions.

Johnson became a caricature of what too many Americans fear fitness spaces to be: an alpha-dominated industry obsessed with looks and saturated in arrogance. That said, it’s not a bad thing that people want to work out at least in part because they want to enhance their own physical attraction. In fact, the natural desire to boost one’s own sex life can work as an organic safeguard against the trap Americans are falling into now, which is raising the white flag on baseline health and fitness while accepting a majority overweight population as the new norm. When at least 67 percent of adults are considered, at minimum, overweight, and nearly 42 percent obese, more Americans desperately need to hit the gym, or we’ll all continue to pay for it.

On the other hand, pumping an otherwise healthy individual’s veins with synthetic steroids couldn’t be more antithetical to the ideal. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, steroid misuse by men may lead to high blood pressure, blood clots, heart attacks, stroke, artery damage, decreased sperm production, enlarged breasts, shrinking testicles, baldness, testicular cancer, hepatitis, tumors, tendon injury, severe acne, jaundice, oily scalp, oily skin, aggression, mania, and delusions. None of that is healthy, and none of it is hot.

This article has been updated to reflect CDC statistics show 67 percent, not 77 percent, of Americans are overweight based on the Body Mass Index (BMI).

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