The pandemic has done funny things to our bodies. While some have seen it as motivation to lead a healthier lifestyle, others (read: the majority of us) have just done the best we can to get through the whole thing.
Will Smith is part of the latter cohort. The 52-year-old actor recently took to Instagram to announce that he is in the “worst shape of his life”.
Posting a picture of himself showcasing his dad-bod in an unzipped jacket, Smith wrote: “I’m gonna be real wit yall [sic] - I’m in the worst shape of my life.”
He posted a follow-up video yesterday stating: “This is the body that carried me through an entire pandemic and countless days grazing thru [sic] the pantry. I love this body, but I wanna FEEL better. No more midnight muffins…this is it! Imma get in the BEST SHAPE OF MY LIFE!!!!!”
Smith is not fat (or even overweight) by normal standards and gaining weight is a natural part of ageing - even in Hollywood. But many men are having not as so a midlife crisis as a midriff crisis, due to WFH grazing, and lack of exercise.
“We all tend to gain weight as we grow older. Our body is designed to change as we move through each decade,” Sarah Hawkins, nutritionist and founder of @f.i.g_nutrition_ tells Yahoo UK. “Muscle mass begins to decline after the age of 30 which can make it harder to maintain and may lead to changes to body shape.”
“Between work, socialising and looking after family or children, exercising and eating can become less of a priority,” she adds.“There are so many factors impacting health and our body weight from our genetics to socioeconomic status, our access to food and our cooking skills, emotions, experiences and much more, so there really isn't one reason, as this will look different for everyone.”
Men in particular tend to have more abdominal fat than women, Dr Deborah Lee of Dr Fox Online Pharmacy explains.
“Women tend to have weight on their hips and thighs and a higher percentage of body fat compared to men,” Lee says.
“In one 2008 study, 572 men and women, average age 47.9 years were followed for one year, in order to document lifestyle factors and weight change. At the end of the 12-month study period, the men had put on an average of 0.3Kg, whereas the women had lost 0.2 Kg.
“The authors suggested this difference was due to a range of sociodemographic variables including educational attainment, calorie intake, levels of physical activity, depression, anxiety and smoking.”
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While gaining an extra bit of weight as you age shouldn’t be anything to worry about, if you are looking to shift the lockdown lard, Hawkins says it’s worth looking at other factors that could be influencing it – like sleep and stress levels.
“Remember that your body is meant to change with age and it's doing it's best to look after you,” Hawkins continues. “We can put such a focus on our diet and looking a certain way, but we tend to forget the bigger picture.
“How are you sleeping? How are your stress levels? Are you getting much movement? How are you emotionally? All of which can have a big impact on what, when and how we eat and bringing some attention to these important lifestyle factors can have a huge impact.
“Have a think about what you can bring into your diet rather than what to cut out. Think vegetables, fruit, wholegrains and variety rather than cutting out foods or food groups for a quick fix.”
While actively trying to lose weight and exercise more is a personal decision, looking after our health is something that becomes even more important as we age.
“This will help us to enjoy our later years, to maintain our independence, to allow us to see our children grow up, to keep an active brain and of course to have the best health outcomes,” Hawkins explains.
“Everyone will have their own motivations and keeping these in mind will be more useful than chasing a particular number or looking a certain way. Looking after yourself now and building those long term habits will likely make your later life a lot easier.”
If losing weight is something you're looking towards, nutritionists and fitness experts reveal their top slimming tips below.
Reduce the amount of calories
Roberta Stringer, head of nutrition at Dynamic Nutrition Academy says cutting your calorie intake is obvious, but remains a key way to shift the extra pounds.
“Simple carbs are the main culprit here, as insulin resistance is often the root cause of excess fat,” Stringer explains.
“All carbs are broken down into simple sugars called glucose and the hormone insulin drives it into your body, where it’s optimised as energy. When it’s consumed in excess, it's stored as fat. Reducing your simple carb intake is always beneficial for health. Switch to complex carbs which are broken down slowly.”
Stringer suggests consuming carbs earlier in the day to allow your body to digest and work them off properly, as well as limiting your alcohol intake which can add a large number of hidden calories.
You also need to make sure you’re eating enough during the day. The best way to find out is through calculating your TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure) which is different for everyone and can be worked out using free online calculators. Once you’ve found this number, take off 300 to 500 off your maintenance calories to lose weight.
Take up resistance training
Building muscle is a smart way to burn fat so adding some resistance training like body-weight workouts or pilates to your exercise routine could be a key weight loss tool.
“Sarcopenia (age related muscle loss) affects us all, just at different rates,” Tiago Ribeiro from Common Purpose Club says.
“Although it may start between the age of 35-40, that’s not to say you don’t have a couple of decades where you can reverse this pattern and maintain or even gain some precious muscle mass which will keep you burning more calories, help you stay more active in the hobbies you enjoy and ultimately help you age better.”
Only do exercise you enjoy
“If you're forcing yourself to do a type of exercise that you hate, it's unlikely you'll stick with it,” Hawkins says.
“If you have kids, getting out with them for walks or playing games with them is a great way to get some movement and to spend time having fun. If not, you might like to get out with the lads and play some football. There are also plenty of online programmes and gyms are reopening too.”
Be more active in general
Walking can do wonders, so try and make it a goal to reach your daily step target (anything from 7000 makes a significant difference.)
“Get outside and walk, jog, or cycle. Even brisk walking, just enough to make you feel slightly sweaty or out of breath, is regarded as a moderate intensity exercise (MIT),” Lee says.
“You should do at least 30 minutes per day of MIT, but you can do two sets of 10 minute bursts. So why not walk in your coffee break or lunch break?”
Make smart food swaps
Darren Sealy Founder of Mindset advises swapping the high calories foods you don’t find satisfying.
“Switch chocolate for a chocolate protein shake. Not only will this cure those sweet cravings, but will add extra protein to your day, which is key for building muscle,” Sealy advises.
“Prepare your own food, too. Instead of getting a McDonalds breakfast, make your own egg and muffin. This way, you know what's going into your food and there's less oil.”
Eat balanced meals
“For a lot of men I work with, they can be busy between juggling family life, work and looking after others. Sometimes food or alcohol can be a great comfort when experiencing difficult or uncomfortable emotions which society tells men to suppress,” Hawkins says.
“Aiming for your balanced meals and some snacks in between can be a great place to start. Some small swaps may include swapping white bread/pasta/rice for wholegrain, getting some extra fruit and vegetables in as snacks, getting a source of protein at each meal to keep you feeling fuller for longer and ensuring to get some regular sources of fats to support brain, heart and hormonal health.”