Men’s Health magazine has transformed many men – and its own fortunes – by featuring extreme muscle makeovers. But does changing shape fast have a dark side?

In 2004, Men’s Health journalist Dan Rookwood walked into his editor’s office in a funk. The topless beefcakes who appeared on their covers were unrealistic, he had decided. No one actually looked like that – not least the staff of what was then the UK’s third-biggest-selling men’s magazine. His editor smiled. He felt a feature coming on.

Just over a year later, a smirking Rookwood appeared on the March 2006 cover of Men’s Health. His biceps were huge, his six-pack extraordinarily well defined. “From fat to flat!” read the cover line, alongside a picture of a mournful-looking Rookwood, pre-transformation, his belly soft and rounded. It became the biggest-selling Men’s Health issue of all time.

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