Distressing News about Male Models

By Katie, 6:10 am

A few weeks ago I wrote a post claiming that our society holds men’s bodies up to an unrealistic standard the same way it does women’s. Turns out I was more right than I even realized.

I recently came across this article in Britian’s The Sunday Times exposing the horrendously unhealthy regimens used by male models in order to look as lean and muscular as possible. I cringed most of the way through it. Apparently the men completely dehydrate themselves for days – drinking nothing but alcohol – in order to draw water away from the skin, making it look more taut.

An excerpt:

Among models and many others in the industry, Martin says, there is an unspoken acknowledgement that the pre-shoot regimen is standard. “There is definitely a sense that magazines expect you to turn up dehydrated and dizzy,” he says. “I’ve been on castings for fitness magazines where there are six or seven models who are so groggy and out of it that they need to grab a chair to sit down and literally can’t speak.”

My jaw dropped when I read that last line. This is some seriously dangerous stuff. All to get that ab-defining look that has become the standard for the covers of magazines like Men’s Health. That look that supposedly anyone can get by eating healthy and doing crunches.

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.

Right now I’m feeling pretty powerless about the whole thing. Somehow I don’t think the editors of Men’s Health are going to read my blog and think, hmmmmmmm, maybe this isn’t such a good idea. As long as those images result in sales, they’re not going anywhere, and in the meantime the cover models are putting themselves in danger.

I truly believe, however, that our biggest weapon is our wallets. Putting our money where our mouths are. While I don’t personally purchase magazines like Men’s Health, I know some people who do, and I am going to e-mail them the article in the hopes that they will reconsider buying the next issue. Maybe some of them will even write letters expressing concern. And maybe if enough people do that, and the issue garners some more attention, the magazines will be forced to address it.

I realize this is probably wishful thinking. And yet we as consumers have a right to know what’s going on behind the scenes. So, if you’re so inclined, I encourage you to spread the word.

Were you previously aware of the dangerous stuff male models do to get that lean look?


How do you think we regular Joes and Janes can make a difference?

28 Responses to “Distressing News about Male Models”

  1. Becca says:

    Before reading the article, I wasn’t aware of the methods taken. I was, however, aware of the fact that not every man is designed/able/inclined to get his body to look like that, and to hold that up as the ideal is just as bad as the unattainable images we women are subject to.

    This is becoming a bit of a mantra for me, but the answer to inequality is not to make *everyone* feel crappy about themselves, but to empower everyone.

    I’m always a little scared of spreading the word about issues I feel strongly about, lest I a) do it too much and lessen the seriousness of an issue in people’s eyes, or b) just annoy people.

    I do, however, vote with my wallet a lot. I have almost completely boycotted Nestle, and I refuse to buy from our country’s biggest supermarket chain because of their hideous ethics.

    • Katie says:

      I truly believe there’s power in that. And I love your motto about empowering EVERYONE! :)

  2. PJ says:

    Very troubling – being a bit of a gym regular I thought had some insight into the lengths some guys go to during their workouts. But this far exceeds what I realised.

  3. Tamara says:

    I did know the lengths male models went to, because I saw a documentary once on body builders and male models. The interviewees didn’t dehydrate themselves with alcohol, but they literally ate nothing but heads of lettuce the week before a competition or shoot while working out for hours a day. The “coaches” said it would drain their body of any puff-inducing carbohydrates so the muscles would stick out. And they were paraded around like livestock for sale, every body part verbally criticized for proportions–the calves aren’t big enough, the hips aren’t small enough, the back isn’t ripped enough. It was ten times worse than a girls’ beauty pageant.

  4. This is true for female fitness models, too. I hate how it creates unrealistic expectations for what fit people “should” look like. These people look like that for maybe a week at a time – maybe! And they are hurting themselves so much for weeks beforehand.

    I definitely feel for guys who are exposed to these pictures. I’m sure it is painful for them, since it’s almost impossible to measure up.

    • Katie says:

      I totally agree – it’s like a giant fallacy. And a dangerous one at that. :(

  5. McKella says:

    I’ve heard of some crazy things models and stars to for the cover shoot, or the red carpet. Diets, extremely strenuous exercise right before, and I think I’ve heard of dehydrating then soaking in a bath with about a gallon of Epsom salts. It’s insane stuff. I think you’re right, and that the best thing we as consumers can do is to avoid it and spread the word. Each voice adds up.

  6. Cammy says:

    I went to high school with a guy that was into body building, and he definitely looked dehydrated and run down before a show. He was extremely well-muscled and impressive, but I remember hearing him gripe about only being able to eat plain rice and boiled chicken and thinking “Wow, I have a broader diet than him and I’m a f*ing anorexic.” :(

    It’s also hard for male wrestlers. Also in high school, I heard lots of binge/purge parties after wrestling matches, and more than once saw guys running laps on the track wearing garbage bags to sweat off weight before a match.

    • Katie says:

      I actually dated a wrestler in high school, and there were definitely some unhealthy habits on that team in the week leading up to weigh-in. Sigh. :(

  7. I was not aware, and now I feel awful for enjoying me some male “eye-candy” from time to time. I did have a neighbor who was into body-building who once told me he couldn’t eat celery because it made you retain water, and I remember thinking, “Celery, really?” Not that it has a lot of nutrients but there’s wonderful fiber and such a satisfying crunch, and I thought, “No way am I giving up CELERY.”

  8. peacebeme says:

    I think you are going to make a difference, Katie. You are sharing this with your readers. As a reader, I am now going to take this post and a link to the article to show to my fiancé and a lot of men I know.I think it’s both satisfying and discussing at the same time to learn something like this (like when I learned someone is airbrushed). It kind of helps to know that what you are trying to attain isn’t even real, so have to be so hard on yourself. But mostly it just makes me really angry because most people in the world don’t know about that.

  9. peacebeme says:


    DON’T have to be so hard on yourself*

    Sorry for all the typos!

    • Katie says:

      Haha no worries! I appreciate you saying all of this, and for passing the information along! I agree that it’s helpful to recognize that the supposed ideal is an illusion in the first place.

  10. Wow, Katie, thanks so much for sharing this with us! I’m both shocked and yet not. Very sadly, we see this everywhere. I’ve read of participants on the Biggest Loser starving and dehydrating themselves before the final weigh-in, and I also remember how far the wrestlers in my high school would go to make weight. I remember them waking around like zombies and also hearing stories about the lengths they’d go to lose weight fast. It’s scary!

    I think just contributing our voices to the conversation is important. We’re talking about it, and that’s the first step. I do think that spreading the word to people we know who read these magazines is key, too.

  11. Sarah says:

    I did not know this! So, basically, the magazines are selling something they can’t really offer. (I’m guessing there won’t be any articles about how to look taut and muscular by drinking nothing but alcohol in publications like Men’s Health!)

    • Katie says:

      Wouldn’t THAT be interesting! Haha.

    • Alexis says:

      Same with airbrushing. No skin care routine/ make-up/ teeth whitening/ stomach crunch/ can compete with photoshop. If the image is not real then it is not abtainable, making the advice, ads, products null and void. Ppl need to wake up and catch on to that ASAP, before more little girls flatline in eating disorder facilities.

  12. Alexis says:

    Contestants on the biggest loser do the same thing. Dehydrate themselves for a few pound advantage. Huge audiences cheer them on. I wonder if that show would be as inspirational if what was going on behind the scenes was disclosed.

    Extreme examples sold as ideal examples. How many men are going to commit to 4-7% body fat. Few. But they should look like them just the same.
    Same with women. We should be 15% body fat and work out constantly. So we try to find shortcuts and ways around the fact these images are not doable without an all consuming 24/7 commitment. Like Bulimia. And eating nothing but lettuce and mustard.

    • Katie says:

      I haven’t watched the Biggest Loser yet…sounds like the show would just tick me off!

      • Alexis says:

        Some of the activities look like fun, but I don’t like competitions.
        The weigh ins, though. I think they are twice a month with an entire ep devoted to it. It’s an unreal display with an over the top HOLLYWOOD scale and digital readout board! The duntdudundun music of dread plays not only during “the walk” to the scale, but also when the scale is calibrating, which takes forever. Tension packed anticipation, then the number reveal. The tears. Joy or shame depending on whether they failed to lose the extra few ozs to beat the blue team or had Herculean results that brought their team to #1. It’s embarrassing to watch.

  13. doesn’t surprise me at all. In fact – I have seen it first hand during the fitness competition I did. The body builders are all so weak from dehydrating themselves…just as many of the women did too.

  14. Wow, I had no idea! I know that many magazines put alternative covers on magazines (for the same issue) and then do research on which cover sold most magazines. I wonder if we can be more selective about which magazine to buy (based on the cover) and see if somehow that creates the right message.

  15. Karen says:

    I hadn’t heard of those techniques before reading the article but after reading it, I’m really not that surprised. Magazines are run like a business with no regard for the best interest of their readers (or their models). I can’t even begin to imagine the damage these men are doing to their bodies by using those methods to make their bodies “look good.”

Leave a Reply

Panorama Theme by Themocracy