Admit it, chaps - are you secretly just a little bit ashamed of your moobs? Do you laugh them off but dress in baggy t-shirts to hide them? Because if you do, you're in good company.
A new survey from the alcohol charity Drinkaware reveals that six in seven mid-life men (age 40-65) aren't completely happy with their bodies. Of those surveyed, 80% of men don't like their stomachs, but second on the list of niggles, at 44%, is the moob. In fact, so much time do we spend thinking and talking about man-boobs that the term 'moob' had just entered the Oxford English Dictionary as an official term.
Asked the top things they would do to improve their physical shape and 88% of men said they would take up exercise in the form of walking/running/cycling, while 70% said they would cut down on alcohol; 15% of them said they'd opt for plastic surgery, but we won't go there…
Alcohol has almost as many calories, gram for gram, as pure fat. With 193 calories in a pint of 4% beer, 242 in a pint of 5% beer and 191 in a large glass of wine, it's hardly surprising that drinking to excess can result in you piling on the pounds. A single pint has the same number of calories as a slice of pizza, and three pints equates to two burgers. It's also full of completely 'empty' calories, with no nutritional value at all.
Midlife men have the highest mortality rates from alcohol in the UK, with one in six deaths directly attributable to alcohol. Alcoholic liver disease was the commonest cause, but cancers accounted for much of the rest of the deaths. Alcohol also acts as a depressant, and one in 13 of these deaths were due to suicide.
But there's good news too. The survey showed that 41% of 40- to 65-year-old men were drinking above the new government recommended limit of 14 units a week. Other studies suggest that on average, men in this age group who drink over the recommended limits consume about 37 units a week - equivalent to three pints of beer on five nights a week. Cutting this by just one pint a night almost halves the risk of dying from alcohol related disease, from 9.1% to 4.9%.
Drinkaware found eight brave volunteers who were prepared to 'drink a little less, feel a whole lot better' to see how much difference modest reductions in their alcohol made. The results were impressive. One volunteer shed 12 pounds; another saw his Gamma GT (an enzyme in the liver closely linked to alcohol consumption, and an indicator of how much stress the liver is under) drop to almost the normal range in just a couple of months.
They used a variety of strategies, but one, to my mind, was a stroke of pure genius. One of the volunteers had got into the habit of coming home from work and making straight for the fridge to open the first can of lager of the evening. Before he put the cans in the fridge, he simply fixed a strip of sellotape over the ring pull, making it just that bit harder to open. Suddenly, he had to stop and think about opening another can - and it gave him time to ask himself if he really needed it.
In an ideal world, I'd love to see everyone drinking within the new government recommended limits of 14 units a week for men and women, spread over several days with at least a couple of alcohol free days a week.
But little steps, as our volunteers found, all add up. One pint less beer a night, five nights a week, could see you losing 1kg a month with no other changes to your lifestyle at all. Your moobs and beer belly might not melt away overnight, but it wouldn't take long. Why don't you give it a try?
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