Daniel Martin regularly puts his body through hell. For days at a time he restricts fluid intake so severely that the resulting dehydration causes headaches, haziness and overwhelming fatigue. Having trained for weeks like an Olympian with high-intensity circuits, running and weightlifting, he then cuts out exercise for 48 hours and opens a bottle of red wine to drink alone. A six-day carbohydrate-depletion diet, in which he eats little more than chicken and broccoli, leaves his muscles weak and his brain so starved of glycogen, its source of fuel, that he feels dizzy and disorientated when he stands up. He can barely walk, let alone hit the gym. And the reason for this torturous ritual of self-deprivation? Martin is preparing to bare his abs in a photoshoot for the cover of one of Britain’s top-selling men’s magazines. At 33, Martin is a veteran of the fitness model circuit, his finely etched torso having gleamed from the pages of Men’s Health, the market leader, more often than that of any other cover model. He has the body and looks that epitomise what men (and women) have come to perceive as the pinnacle of masculine attractiveness. Part of the allure is that this Adonis-like beauty is seen as somehow attainable through hard work and a sensible diet. While female models are criticised for fuelling the rise in eating disorders by looking underweight, their male counterparts have largely escaped such adverse scrutiny. By and large, we have collectively assumed that those rippling abs represent the result of the kind of gym-dedication and healthy living that can only be admired. Behind the abs, though, is a far from wholesome reality.
Last week the male fashion industry was criticised when one mannequin manufacturer brought out a super-skinny model with highly defined abs and a tiny 27in waist. According to Beat, the eating disorders charity, such unattainable images pile on the pressure that can cause low self-esteem, body-image issues and eating disorders in vulnerable young men.
Yet Martin’s modelling career depends on the pursuit of that ideal.
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