When middle-aged spread goes large

It was bound to happen.All my hopes for a dignified passage into dotage dissipated the moment I realised my favourite skirt was too tight...

When middle-aged spread goes large

When I first started on the extra-strength HRT, I was worried the extra hormones might turn me into a sex maniac.

It's far worse.

I am putting on weight. In the past, I may have slightly misled you into thinking I was a size 16. The truth (and it hurts) is that I was a size 16 in parts. In other parts I am more of an 18.

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What used to be a glorious expanse of, silky smooth flesh from my beneath my bust to my tummy button now rumples up into an undulating concertina of torso that measures alternately 16, 18, 16, 18, 16.

You realise you have a problem when you watch programmes on the history channels that show people being tortured on a rack and find yourself wondering if being stretched a couple of inches might be the answer - not too fat; too short.

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I have found myself looking at the Black and Decker workmate and wondering if I could rustle something up with a plank of wood, cable ties and four large screws.

“Just fasten me to this plank, darling, and tighten the screws every few hours.”

“Hang on, I'll just don my leather face mask and loin cloth; call me Mungo.”

Obviously this method of skin tightening is not recommended. Do not try this at home.

The correct and infinitely more boring answer to losing weight is sensible eating and exercise. As my friend Carol Mulley tells me: “The gym, oh, the gym is the answer.”

In my case, I'm afraid, the answer can only be sensible eating. My BMI may be unsatisfactory but I am not yet desperate enough to resort to exercise - not with these knees.

BMI, by the way, is not a type of rough terrain bicycle, it is Body Mass Index and there is some sort of complicated calculation whereby you divide your weight in kilos by your height in metres and add your waist measurement in millimetres to come up with some frightening figure that means you are clinically innumerate.

But, as I never tire of reading*, it's all about lifestyle. You have to make changes that you can live with - learn to love soya and lentils and so on. Is it too much to ask?

I am not a fad dieter… Well, let's be brutally frank, I have never dieted although I have been known to pretend.

After Kellogg's advertising campaign about getting into shape for summer, I decided to aim for blob as the most achievable shape and bought two packs of Special K breakfast cereal. One came with yoghurty flakes and the other with nuggets of something resembling a cluster of oxygen molecules (see Lynne's chemisty work book c1967). My idea was that, with a healthy start to the day I wouldn't need to eat so much lunch.

But it seems to have had the opposite effect. Come lunchtime, I am ravenous. What's more, I'm bored with Special K.

I read somewhere, in a sadistic diet regime probably developed by supermodels, that it was good to feel a tiny bit hungry… but what is a tiny bit? Is it the sort of tiny bit that can be satisfied with a single Malteser or the tiny bit that needs a meat pie?

There is a theory that we have a tendency to eat too much because we are constantly worried about where the next meal is coming from.

This is an implanted memory inherited from our Stone Age, hunter-gatherer forebears, apparently. Although it would be nice to blame Neanderthal man: “See what your lifestyle has done to my thighs, Ugg?” I can't member what I did yesterday, let alone two million years ago.

The blame is all mine.

While men (allegedly) think about sex, on average, every seven seconds, I think about chocolate at similar intervals and normally succumb twice a day (to chocolate not sex - as if I needed to make that clear).

Sadly, it seems chocolate converts directly to cellulite. It does not pass Go but you still collect 200lbs.

My husband, who has no such addiction, doesn't have lumpy deposits of fat.

Unbeknown to him, I was studying his buttocks only last year and thinking how remarkably youthful they look compared to my own low-slung (and descending) bottom.

It is so unfair.

* I do tire of reading about it

My piece about dozing off in the afternoon struck a large orchestral chord, last week.

It has also prompted my boss to ring me every three minutes between 2.30 and 3pm and shout: “Wake up, Mortimer!” down the phone. (He sits about 10 feet away).

Ron Longland commiserates.

“For some years I attended day release at Medway and Maidstone College, trying to become a scientist. I doubt whether I really succeeded although I kept that hidden for over 30 years! One of the subjects was entitled 'Theoretical Chemistry'. Yes, it was as dry as it sounds, covering such esoteric things along the lines of 'we believe it but we cannot prove it'. This lesson was always after lunch! Everyone in the class, all seven of us, felt the same. We knew that because our notes, hand written in those days, had blank patches or, even better, pen scrawls across the page where brain and hand became disconnected. If one was absent from any lesson it was pointless asking the others for their notes!

“One chap was expert at this. He could prop his head up with one hand and seldom gave the impression that he was asleep. Everyone knew, of course, even the lecturer.”

Ron's nodding-off anecdote from the London Underground encapsulates Britishness.

“I was travelling once on the Circle Line when a fellow passenger rolled off his seat in a tight ball. He picked himself up and sat back down again. No one even glanced up.”

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