Theresa did a twirl in her new sharp suit. “When I hit fifty I assumed the weight was piling on because that is what happens in middle age. When I hit sixty I realised I was kidding myself, and stopped eating as much. That’s how I got into this outfit.”
It is easy to adopt a “ho hum” attitude to a bulging midriff in middle age, since everyone around us is similar and it seems this is just what happens when we get older. The drop in testosterone that men experience (but see “Testosterone levels”) plus high insulin and a fatty liver can mean a big belly and man-boobs, and women lose estrogen and therefore have proportionally more testosterone, so fat shifts from the bottom and thighs to the abdomen; this is how women who were always naturally slim find they can no longer eat what they like. Don’t look at your thin legs, it’s your midriff that can cause problems. But did Nature actually mean us to get all the health problems that come with middle age spread?
A waistline of more than 35in (89cm) for women and 40in (102cm) for men leads to a substantially increased risk of heart disease and type-2 diabetes.
Fat around the abdomen raises blood pressure and cholesterol. It increases the risk of diabetes, Alzheimer’s and some cancers. Fat that forms around our vital organs is called visceral fat and sends out its own chemical messages, unlike subcutaneous fat. It causes inflammation in the blood vessels which can lead to cardio-vascular disease and calcium deposits which harden the arteries.
Middle age spread is the worst possible type of fat we can get. Pear-shapes become apple-shapes, the classic walking heart attack cases. And let’s face it: it’s ageing to our appearance – it looks pretty awful.
Remedies? Weight training as well as exercise can keep an expanding waistband in check.
No more excuses: middle age spread is not natural, and those around us who got fat after forty are playing dice with their health. Fatigue is due to a lack of exercise, not the other way round. Lack of exercise decreases muscle mass, which reduces the number of calories burnt : vicious circle.
Hormonal changes and a more sedentary lifestyle mean that we cannot carry on eating three square meals a day in middle age like we did when we were younger. If we do, prepare the route to the outsize shop. There’s no two ways about it : we have to eat less.
How normal is middle age spread? Answer : not normal at all. Unless you believe illness and being a blob is Nature’s gift to the middle aged, now is the time for action. Our body is our machine: if we don’t take care of it, no one else will.