We’re a nation of super-fit marathon runners and obese waddlers…

Scales: Getty image

A juxtaposition of newspaper images – overweight people versus marathon runners – makes me stand on the scales for the first time in ages (not a good idea, by the way or weigh).

Don’t picture the scene, for God’s sake, as one man stops typing, goes upstairs, undresses shortly after dressing, stands on the scales – and looks down, with a sigh and a swear.

Reverse the process and here I am, typing again. With a heavier, ahem, heart.

A photograph used by many newspapers this morning shows a runner in the London marathon crawling over the finishing line. A caption in the Daily Telegraph names the exhausted runner as Hayley Carruthers, a 26-year-old NHS worker and athlete.

It’s a winning image. She supports herself with one arm, while the other reaches out, nearly there. Hayley is slight and slim, as good marathon runners often are.

Now back to that juxtaposition. Alongside photographs of marathon runners, many of today’s newspaper contain the latest warnings about being overweight. We’re a nation of super-fit marathon runners and obese waddlers.

The Daily Mirror headline says 18.5m Brits are in the “fat danger zone”, while a sub-heading adds: “‘Slightly overweight’ at risk”.

On the BBC website, the headline gets to the point – “Obesity: study of 2.8 million shows increased disease and death risks.”

This study is to be presented at the European Congress on Obesity in Glasgow. It suggests, alarmingly for a man freshly off the scales, that “even slightly overweight people were twice as likely to get Type 2 diabetes”.

If you are feeling brave, the BBC website has a calculator for your body mass index (BMI). Calling on optimistic memory, I put in my weight, add height and age. This places me in the healthy category, but only just. After weighing myself, the calculator is corrected by quite a few pounds, a nudge into the overweight category. The only encouragement is to be found in the following message:

Your BMI is lower than the average of 28.8 for a man in your age group (55-64) in England.

Depressing how we often weigh more than we think. My lazy off-the-cuff body calculator always tells me that losing half a stone might not be a bad idea. The scales heckle back: make that a whole stone.

Listening to the obesity story on the radio, I mentioned in passing to my wife that I was about the same weight as badminton playing Friend A and lighter than badminton playing Friend B. She raised an eyebrow over Friend A, observing that you don’t necessarily see your own stomach when looking down, and she’d been watching us run around last week.

That’s one of the unkind aspects of ageing: you put weight on even if you stay reasonably active. I still run once a week, play squash twice a week, badminton once or twice a week, and cycle a bit – yet the weight creeps on.

Back for a final time to that juxtaposition. I’ve never run a marathon but did run six or seven half-marathons about ten years ago. And at the height of all that running, I weighed around a stone less than now.

That’s where beer, bread and cheese get you with less activity and a few more years.

Something will have to be done about that. But what? The last time the dieting Coles tried the fasting diet, we gave up, hungry and grumpy.

What’s an ageing squash-playing, shuttlecock-bashing, running and cycling man to do?

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