A new poll has shown that when asked to estimate, UK men misjudge by inches when it comes to their waists. The average estimated waist size of nearly 1,000 men surveyed was 35.8 inches, 2.1 inches slimmer than the English average (37.9 inches) and 2.2 inches smaller than the Scottish average (38 inches). Health charities say this rose-tinted view is a recipe for danger as expanding waist sizes are a risk factor for cancer, Type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
One in eight know how to measure waist
Worryingly, nearly nine out of ten (87%) men in the survey did not know how to measure their waists, with a staggering 47 per cent of men incorrectly believing they can get away with measuring just above their hips. A meagre one in eight (13%) knew the correct method, which involves measuring at the midpoint between their ribs and the top of the hips.
Diabetes UK have teamed up with the British Heart Foundation (BHF) and Cancer Research UK to urge men to face the music and do something about their waist size as part of their Active Fat campaign. The campaign aims to raise awareness of the dangers of carrying extra weight around their middle.
Increased risk of cancer, Type 2 diabetes and heart disease
A bulging waistline means much more than a few strained buttons: fat cells around your middle work hard to pump out hormones and chemicals that can cause disease.
Men are at increased risk of cancer, Type 2 diabetes and heart disease when their waist size strays above 37 inches and high risk when they bulge past the 40 inch mark. The survey shows only 16 per cent of men admitted to a waist size of 40 inches or above, however this literally only tells half the story – the official figures show nearly a third of English men (32 per cent) and more than a third of Scottish men (34 per cent) are at high risk.
Small changes can be all it takes
Deepa Khatri, Clinical Advisor at Diabetes UK, said, "It is extremely worrying that so many men might not be aware that their growing waists could be putting their health at risk, especially as your waist size is likely to increase throughout your life.
"However, knowing you are at risk is the first step to taking action, and making small lifestyle changes can sometimes be all it takes. This can be anything from taking the stairs at work to swapping your afternoon snack for a piece of fruit. Incorporating these changes into your daily routine will make them easier to stick to. There are many different ways to lose weight, so set yourself targets that are achievable for you."
In the danger zone
Tracy Parker, Heart Health Dietitian at the BHF, said, "The results of this survey are worrying; they suggest men might not know they are in the danger zone.
"Taking action doesn’t have to be a chore. If your waist strays above the 37 inch mark, arrange some healthy activities around your day for maximum efficiency and minimum fuss. Get off the bus a few stops earlier, have a kick-around with colleagues or friends in your lunch break, and swap fatty snacks and creamy desserts for crunchy vegetables and juicy fruit."
19,000 cases of cancer a year
Hazel Nunn, head of health information at Cancer Research UK, said, "It’s really important that people are honest with themselves about their weight and the health effects of any extra pounds. Being overweight or obese increases the risk of at least seven types of cancer, including bowel cancer and pancreatic cancer.
"Scientists estimate that in the UK, the current number of people who are overweight and obese could lead to around 19,000 cases of cancer a year. After quitting smoking, keeping a healthy body weight is one of the best ways to reduce your chances of getting the disease."
The BHF, Cancer Research UK and Diabetes UK are sharing their top tips on reducing your risk of disease on theirjoint campaign website.
Make a difference to your future
Celebrity DJ Neil Fox is supporting the campaign: "It’s so important to be honest with yourself and measure your waist and weight properly, especially when you get to a certain age. I turned 50 this year so I want to look after my health.
"I cycle regularly and this year took part in the London to Brighton bike ride for the BHF and felt great. Of course it was challenging, but I know how important it is to stay fit and healthy. It’s your body and your life and this is one thing you have to do yourself. Not only could it change your life, and prolong it enormously... but it could be great fun in the process!
"So grab that tape measure and start making a difference to your future health today."
Find out how to measure your waist correctly and calculate your body mass index (BMI) atwww.activefat.org.uk.