Erikka Askeland: Talking about it does fat lot of good

'Fat talk. It's the scourge of women everywhere'. Picture: Getty

'Fat talk. It's the scourge of women everywhere'. Picture: Getty

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FAT talk. It’s the scourge of women everywhere. It often occurs in the changing room in shops, driven by the dreaded combination of uncompromising overhead lighting and skimpier summer fashions.

My personal favourite, especially when trying on trousers with too long legs, tends to be something like: “I’ve got a backside the size of a much taller person.”

Discussing ones overly wobbly parts is a regular pastime among most females. One study reckons 93 per cent of college-aged women had indulged in complaining about their thighs, according to a report in the New York Times.

It’s a bonding thing. She says: “Check out these bat wings,” as she swings back and forth the droop of flesh under her upper arm. Her mate is supposed to chuckle wryly, responding with something equally denigrating about her own multiple chins/ muffin top/cankles.

And yes, “cankles” are a thing. They are like ankles but a bit podgier and have been the subject of several celebrity paparazzo exposés, mainly headlined “Cheryl Cole Catwalk Cankle Shame”.

Men too are supposed to be getting in on this strangely addictive type of self-denigration. But they are not as often subject to long lens tabloid scrutiny as women, and so don’t get the perverse pleasure of it.

Instead, as men age they are increasingly becoming preoccupied with extreme sports. In the US, the number of men between the ages of 40 and 60 competing in triathlons has swelled to almost a third of all of those poor deluded folk swimming, running and cycling.

Looking at the number of men of a certain age I know who have invested in bike shorts and carbon steel frame bicycles suggests the same is happening in the UK and Europe.

Collectively they are known as “mamils” – middle-aged men in Lycra. Unfortunately these are often the same men who, having honed their office chair-shaped 40-something figures into those of lithe, muscle-roped warriors, find themselves dropping dead of heart attacks.

According to a report on Bloomberg following the sudden death of a 55-year-old merchant banker after a gruelling training session, ultra endurance sport can do more harm than good.

As the older gents, who might have otherwise spent their mid-life crises buying motorcycles or fast cars, push through the pain, they might actually be ignoring the danger signs. That and ultra-exercise has been implicated in the build up of scar tissue on the heart for the over-40s.

So really boys, relax. Resist the temptation to start training for the 156-mile Marathon des Sables and have a light jog then a beer instead.

But what else can you do when it comes to the disheartening realities of the middle-aged spread? Well, dear reader, I have opted for the 5:2. In case you haven’t heard of it yet, it’s the latest diet fad.

My decision to fast for two days a week then eat and drink normally the others was spurred by a recent photo of me in which I looked a little too much like a weeble. Now, see what I did there? A classic example of fat talk.

I’ve tried a few fad diets in my lifetime. I recall with a certain anguish the diet “cake” my aunty made for my 11th birthday. Might as well have just lit the end of a carrot stick for how nice it tasted. Thereafter, over the course of a few decades, was the anorexia and bulimia, the Atkins and now intermittent fasting.

So far I like this one the best. The meagre snacks allowed on a fast day are actually quite bearable and if you start to feel deprived, you can have a bit of what you fancy tomorrow. And, although I’ve only just started, I’ve lost a couple of pounds. So far so good.

But what I would rather see is greater acceptance and less misery, particularly among women, but the blokes too. Studies which show that women would rather be thin than successful is just the tip of the meringue.

If you are healthy, pain-free and mobile, rejoice in what your sturdy meat sack allows you to do, even if that picture or the mirror in a changing room puts it in a less than flattering light.

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