Proof that it's not just gym boys and Robbie Williams wannabes who are under pressure to preen, Mark Hayman, friend of the late-night curry and lad-about-town, makes the ultimate sacrifice
SUMMER'S ARRIVING and I'm off to France. Not to join the World Cup trail (Glenn's already had his quota of lager and kebab nightmares without my contribution) but to soak up some rays. I've given myself four weeks to transform my ailing body from marshmallow into muscle. I have challenged myself to a better torso, and beauty shall prevail.

I've chosen a diet most might regard as dangerously obsessive, but drastic measurements require drastic measures. My diet, developed specifically for heart patients prior to surgery, involves a fat-burning soup, a whole day eating just bananas and indecent amounts of fruit and veg.

Sound good to you? Well, I'm in a rush. It's common knowledge that a footballer reaches his peak at 26. I'm 28 and doing the Super G slalom away from mine. Alan Shearer's the same age as me, but while he's been playing for England, I've been drinking the country under the table.

That was until last week, when I saw Gazza splashed across the tabloids, having a whale of a time on the Costa del lard. My stomach turned. This was the man who wasn't fit enough to play for England. The man who chose to take the donner out of Maradona and drink his way out of the squad. This was the man who mirrored myself, duplicitous bellies and all. Far from the toned muscles and lithe bodies of the Beckhams and Sheringhams of the world, I was looking at the fat boy who wasn't picked. This was when I reached the summer of my discontent with my physique. After a sly winter hiding behind forgiving tailoring, even I didn't want to be exposed to my revelations. My twenties seem to be running away from me and quite frankly, I'd like to see my feet before they do. Hence the diet.

I admit, I am slightly shocked at my decision. Despite the male predilection for a pint of lager (or two) and a packet of crisps (it's in the genes) , I'm as attracted to media images of the body beautiful as the next person. For me, magazines like Men's Health have become the stuff of nightmares, with their gluttony of immaculately waxed, buffed and toned bodies. Looking at them feels like glimpsing the Holy Grail. You want to make it your own, but human frailty forbids. How can you possibly achieve a six-pack when you're addicted to the four deadly tins - I mean, sins.

The fact is, to most men, myself included, dieting is still a totally alien concept. Ask a man how much he weighs, and watch his eyes glaze over. Don't know, love, and I don't care. And even if I knew, I wouldn't tell you.

Why not? Because it's not "manly" to diet. It's amazing, in fact, how far men will go to avoid the admission of watching their weight. "I'm purifying my system", "Just eating healthier", "I'm getting into Buddhism", "I've got dodgy stomach." Bollocks, you're just fed up with having bigger breasts than your girlfriend!

Interestingly, we're listening to you girls a lot more these days. Your opinion suddenly means so much more. While your bird pleading with you to stop drinking lager every night has traditionally increased your desire to caress your beer belly, now it's enough to give you sweaty palms and sleepless nights. A friend told me that when his girlfriend saw him prostrate on the bed and marched around chanting TUM, TUM, TUM, TUM, TUM, he gave up fried breakfasts immediately. Lad, lads, what's happened to us all?

Anyway, back to my beauty regime. For anyone out there foolish enough to try my "heart attack" diet, this is what happens. Initially you make a huge vat of vegetable soup (tip: pile in as much as you can - it's the nearest to solids you get).

Basically, you eat as much soup as you like throughout the seven days, without restriction, plus these daily additions:

Day 1: Soup plus fruit

Day 2: Soup plus veg (sickening, the best thing about this day is the allocation of a baked potato, as a treat. Make it a biggun)

Day 3: Soup plus veg and fruit

Day 4: Soup plus eight bananas and skimmed milk

Day 5: Soup plus beef and tomatoes (getting better)

Day 6: Soup plus as much beef as you can eat (yes!)

Day 7: Soup plus veg and brown rice (reality bites)

I write this on the third day of persecution. I'm the laughing stock of all my mates (a flask of soup is hardly the essential boy toy) and the temptation to smear myself in lard and dance around a giant deep fried black pudding is getting stronger.

Perhaps if I wasn't so weak-willed I could make it, but the sad fact is, what I am doing to my body is the cruelest, most self-abusive torture ever - who, in their right mind, would give up beer during the world cup? So, sorry Glenn, I quit. Maybe I'll be ready for Euro 2000.