‘it must be the cut or the style…’

With the current heightened focus on health issues caused by the Coronavirus pandemic and, in particular, the fact that obesity and diabetes are emerging as clear risk factors for severe Covid-19 infection; it’s clearly now time to address the issue that we, as a society, have probably ‘ducked’ for far too long – the need to improve our lifestyles, reduce our weight, increase our fitness levels and enhance our general health.

For some years now I’ve been an ambassador of the Blue Ribbon Foundation, a national charity working to raise awareness of male health issues by encouraging men to take positive action to safeguard their health and wellbeing…..which sounds easy when you say it quickly!

Being involved with this important charity – whose sister charity is the Pink Ribbon Foundation – coupled with the current pandemic, has made me far more aware of the importance of looking after my health, especially as I am officially classified as being ‘middle aged,’ which is now accepted to cover the years from ‘about’ 40 to ‘about’ 65. That said, as I’m 64 I’m reminded of a comment I once heard the comedy writer Barry Cryer say about middle-age – ‘middle-age? How many 128 year old people do you know?’ – but I digress.

What the Blue Ribbon Foundation provides is clear and concise information and advice on issues that men of all ages can relate to, such as the importance of measuring their waist and watching out for what is colloquially known as ‘middle age spread’ Yes, it comes to us all! It’s an important issue though because, disappointingly, obesity rates in British men are the highest in Western Europe.

The fact is, people who carry too much weight around their middle have a greater risk of developing coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and, we are told, Covid-19. For men, we have a higher risk of health problems if our waist size is more than 94cm (37 inches).

Let’s be honest, most of us assume we know our waist size, don’t we? We buy trousers with the same waist and inside leg measurements as we’ve always done and when we try on new trousers that feel tight we tell ourselves that ‘it must be the cut or the style’ and that it’s clearly a ‘design issue’ and stick to buying our usual ‘with stretch’ trousers as they ‘fit perfectly’. What we probably don’t do is use it as a warning sign to start losing weight.

It sounds daft but do you know how to correctly measure your waist? I didn’t until I found out from my involvement with the Blue Ribbon Foundation. In fact, nine-out-of-ten of the 1,000 men surveyed by the British Heart Foundation admitted that they didn’t know how to measure their waist properly.

So how do you do it?

• Find the bottom of your ribs and the top of your hips
• Breathe out naturally
• Wrap a tape measure around your waist midway between these points to find your measurement

Recognising that one of the best avenues to reach out to men is through professional sport; the Blue Ribbon Foundation developed great relationships with the Charlton Athletic Community Trust and also with Ebbsfleet United FC and in recent years the charity has staged successful matchday men’s health promotions at The Valley and at the Kufflink Stadium.

Having spent most of my career working in football, I appreciate that at a time when we’re all desperately looking forward to returning to our favourite football ground again to support our team and to meeting up with our friends and enjoying a pre-match pie and a pint; having me going on about waistlines is not exactly what you want to read about! However, generally speaking putting on excess weight is simply due to eating more calories than you burn. Over time, that excess energy is stored by the body as fat and this leads to issues with the ‘cut and style’ and ‘design‘ of your trousers!

So gentlemen, the next time your trousers feel too tight don’t put it down to design vagaries or because you knew you ‘shouldn’t have ordered trousers on line’ as ‘they never fit’; use it as your spur to reduce your waist size. You’ll feel better and who knows, that suit you’ve kept in your wardrobe because you used to like it but is too small for you ‘at the moment’ just might be able to make a comeback – when we’re all let out from lockdown of course!

Right, where’s that tape measure?!

For further information on men’s health and wellbeing matters go to: www.blueribbonfoundation.org.uk
STEVE SUTHERLAND
May 2020

Updated article, first published in 2017