It wasn't so long ago that a fine body of male stars seemed to positively revel in their podgy torsos, but that's all changing. Andrew Johnson reports

Fat is a masculine issue now. Just ask Ricky Gervais, and a host of other male stars who have emerged from under layers of flab in recent weeks to reveal firm, toned, svelte figures or, at least, something less obviously porcine.

Naturally, we mean no offence to the formerly, or indeed currently, overweight. In fact, particularly to be congratulated is Mr Gervais. The once-porky creator of The Office and Extras was photographed this week with a toned muscular figure worthy of the Hollywood pals he hangs with.

Outspoken and occasionally vitriolic, Gervais, 48, at least takes his own advice. In January, he launched a broadside on overweight people who opt for surgery rather than hard work. "I want to say to them, 'You lazy fucking fat pig. Just go for a run and stop eating burgers. You might fucking die'," he said. He attributes his new leaner figure to working out in his own gym.

At one point, Stephen Fry weighed in at 21 stone, overweight even for his 6ft 5in frame. But he has shed six stone in six months. "For the first month, I did without bread, potatoes and sugar, and the weight rolled off," he said. "Since then, I've stopped eating other types of food, such as red meat. I've continued to lose weight and feel much better for it."

Eddie Izzard may like women's clothes, a dash of eyeliner and a touch of nail varnish, but the "action transvestite" is no softie. Last Wednesday, he completed a marathon of marathons – running 43 in 51 days. His diet on the 1,100-mile charity romp around Britain consisted of potatoes, porridge and cake. He did not lose much weight but emerged from the test with a more muscular body shape, joining the new crop of celebrity slimmers.

Johnny Vegas

The cult favourite who found mainstream fame in TV ads with a knitted monkey used to revel in his pints and kebabs. He lost six stone, however, after developing gout.

"I think I'm realising more and more that I've got a job to do, and I can't be doing the big nights out and working to my full potential the next day," he said. "An early night was 4am. But I simply can't do it any more. So I'm quite happily dull, having quiet nights in with me decaf."

Ricky Gervais

The comic last week unveiled a buffed figure after reportedly losing three stone to become a "svelte 13 stone". He denied, however, that the influence of his Hollywood friends had anything to do with it. Ever one to put the record straight, Gervais said: "I haven't been on any diet, but I have been working out more. With a gym in your house, there's no excuse. One paper said that I'd lost three stone; they also said I was now a 'svelte 13 stone'. That means they think I used to be 16 stone. Still, mustn't grumble."

Robbie Williams

Sitting in the Californian sunshine, growing a beard and hunting for aliens all takes its toll – especially on the waistline. Now he's in trim, ready for his big comeback: his new album is released in November. "I've been a food ninja now for over two months," he said. "Food ninjary consists of not eating anything you like. No cake, no crisps, no chocolate ... easy when you have a record coming out and you don't want to look like Michelin man."

Eddie Izzard

Endured "blisters on blisters" to raise £200,000 for Sports Relief by running 30 miles a day, with one day off a week, for 51 days. "You put on weight because of the muscle, but I've changed shape," he said. "I thought I would be totally skinny, but the body holds on to fat. You need to lift logs for a six-pack. I'm exhausted. I don't know what the fallout will be."

Stephen Fry

The ubiquitous polymath, game-show host, actor and general know-it-all has filled our television screens in more ways than one for 20-odd years. Now he says he can bear to look at himself in the mirror once again after losing his "appallingly corpulent" appearance. "And I never thought I would say this, but I genuinely enjoy going to the gym. I spent years mocking them, but now I'm one of the converts."

Matt Lucas

Lucas, 35, who is currently starring in Alan Bennett's Prick Up Your Ears, lost three stone by cutting out Toffee Crisps. "My dad died at 56. So I thought I needed to take responsibility," he said. "People often look for deep psychological reasons why people eat, and I'm sure for many those do exist. But others, like myself, are just greedy bastards who like eating."