Friday, 6 January 2012

What would you give for a better body?

Flickr: Tucia
Now this is just silly. According to the BBC's website today, many men are unhappy with their gut. That's not the silly bit, I fully accept it and am not desperately proud of my own. Body image, the piece goes on to say, is no longer (if it ever was) an exclusively female thing.

I'm OK so far on that. I set up this blog with the idea of writing about and for men who were a bit concerned about their appearance but who feel that from early middle age we're a bit abandoned by the style mags and media in general. I have no problem at all with someone wanting to demolish the myth that fat is an exclusively feminine issue, that we don't care how we look, that we're as attached to the idea of being better as anyone else of either sex, regardless of orientation (I don't buy into the idea that self-image and dress sense are exclusively gay things, either).

No, the silly bit is where the BBC has fallen for a bit of spurious research. I hate spurious research and as a jobbing journalist I get plenty, believe me. I dislike it strongly when it actually gets coverage. This one is from the University of the West of England's Centre for Appearance Research (I didn't make that up) and it says - wait for it - 35% of men say they'd give up a year of their lives to have a better body - flat gut, more muscles in the upper body, you know the sort of thing.

Oh, really? They'd give up a year of their lives? What does that actually mean, though? They'd allow someone to come and shoot them a year before their allotted time, if that could be calculated with any certainty? They really wouldn't mind telling their family that healthy though they felt, they'd made this agreement for a decent set of abs so it was now time to go off to Switzerland and face the end a bit earlier than absolutely necessary?

It's a ridiculous statement to make and frankly a stupid question to have asked.

I have a much better one. If you or I were seriously that unhappy with our bodies that we felt we'd shorten our lives to improve them, how come we're not shortening our days by half an hour or so to go for a quick run? Pair of trainers, shorts, t-shirt, 20 minutes or so a day before the usual shower, you think we won't see a difference if we combine it with less fat and sugar?

Of course there are time constraints. There are families to look after, kids to prepare for school. There's always going to be something stopping a lot of us. Nonetheless, the idea that a third of men with an average age of 40 are so concerned that they'd shorten their lives to get fitter (which incidentally is more likely to lengthen life) when in reality they can't find half an hour four times a week to do something about it is more than a little preposterous.


  1. The University of the West of England, not of Western England. It's what used to be Bristol Poly.

  2. Oh, and half an hour, four days a week, is in total not far off a year of your life, especially if you only count the waking hours.

  3. Thanks Bryan, I'm pleased to amend the name obviously. As to the second point, whether they'd sacrifice a year of their life and give it up to exercise doesn't seem to have been the question asked. If it was then the followup question "OK, why haven't you?" is an obvious next step.


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