‘ I feel good about myself sitting on the beach now with my puppy, even if I’m a bit fat’ … Tom Ward. Photograph: Graeme Robertson for the Guardian
Why is it that we denounce women’s publications for including weight-loss tips, but men’s publications escape our censure? Both say: you are not OK as you are. You should alter. Both perpetuate body ideals that, despite what they may claim, are not practicably achievable by everyone.
” There’s no defined manual that every man can use to get the same outcomes ,” says Thomas.” Not every man can get the desired result within six weeks. You can do the same workout as other men and you won’t get the same result .” Some may feel cheated and go to extreme lengths to get the result they were ” promised “. These measures can be harmless: protein bars or creatine shakes. But not always.
As it is very difficult to have an abnormally pumped, low-body-fat physique without chemical help, experts link today’s cosmetic muscularity to substance abuse.
” I was definitely tempted by steroids ,” says Sikdar. He is not alone. Steroid abuse is on the rise, with an estimated 1 million users in the UK. In 2015, reality starring Spencer Matthews admitted to a secret steroid craving fuelled by ” vanity “. Matthews is one of the lucky ones: many do not survive steroid addiction. Dean Wharmby, a bodybuilder from Rochdale, died of liver cancer induced by his misuse of anabolic steroids in 2015. Cult Australian bodybuilder Aziz Shavershian, known as Zyzz, was the poster son for a muscularity-oriented lifestyle, posting his workouts online of millions of adherents. In 2011, he died in a sauna in Thailand at the age of 22. After his death, it emerged that Shavershian had been taking clenbuterol, which can induce cardiac arrhythmia.
What stimulates men die pursuing a cosmetic objective?” Being big was what everyone knew Dean for ,” Wharmby’s partner Charlotte Rigby said after his death.
Murray says:” You make this wonderful physique and get lots of compliments and then the fear of not maintaining this physique becomes powerful. It becomes your primary identity. That leads to some of the extreme durations these guys going to see .”
Of course , not everyone who tries to get shredded becomes unhealthy. Most will get in shape for a while, then slip back. Gym memberships run unused. Magazine subscriptions expire. Perhaps it will not all be for nothing: they will eat more healthily or exert more often.
After his covering shoot, Ward went on holiday with his girlfriend. It was nice being on the beach and not feeling self-conscious about his body. But life get in the way of training. He is unaffected by the loss of his former physique.” I feel good about myself sitting on the beach now with my puppy, even if I’m a bit fat .”
Sansom has put on a” fair bit of weight” since his cover shoot. Like Ward, he is relaxed about it. Browsing WH Smith recently, Sansom was confronted by his former glory: Men’s Health had reused his body on the encompas of a transformation manual.” I seemed down and thought: I’ve kind of let myself go ,” he chuckles.” But I’m only two or three months away from getting back into good nick .”