A professor of medicine and metabolism has said to stay healthy, you should be able to fit into the same jeans you wore at the age of 21 – and people are not impressed.
Professor Roy Taylor said adults are at risk of developing type 2 diabetes if their waist has changed in size since their early twenties.
He made the comments at the annual meeting of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes, while presenting the results of a small study.
In the study, adults who had a BMI considered “normal” were able to reverse signs of type 2 diabetes by losing weight.
“These results, while preliminary, demonstrate very clearly that diabetes is not caused by obesity but by being too heavy for your own body. It’s due to having too much fat in your liver and pancreas, whatever your BMI,” Professor Taylor said.
He added: “As a rule of thumb, your waist size should be the same now as when you were 21. If you can’t get into the same size trousers now, you are carrying too much fat and therefore at risk of developing type 2 diabetes, even if you aren’t overweight.”
While nobody is denying Professor Taylor’s study results, many people have objected to the framing of his comments. After all, weight fluctuates for many reasons – and not all of us were our healthiest at the age of 21.
Weight often changes as we enter different life stages, confirms Dr Jeff Foster, who works as a private GP.
“Women may find post-pregnancy their metabolism changes, this may be due to a medical problem such as over or under-active thyroid, [which] can cause weight to increase or drop,” he tells HuffPost UK.
“Men may find over the age of 35 as their testosterone drops, their metabolism slows down and they put on a belly and find it harder to shift weight.
“Post/perimenopausal women may find the same and the drop in sex hormones can cause weight to increase as metabolism slows.”
Lifestyle factors such as stress, motivation for exercise and access to leisure facilities can also play a part, he adds.
Being told to stay home last year, without access to gyms or even our daily commutes, would have undoubtably led to weight gain for some.
Many of these factors are outside of our control, so isn’t chasing the waist size of our 21-year-old selves an unattainable goal? Dr Foster disagrees, saying waist circumference is actually “a pretty good measure of health risk”.
“Whether you feel that promoting this information creates unfair pressure on an individual to look good is not the point,” he says. “This information is not about trying to pressure people to look young, or change their body image, or even how they see themselves. By highlighting the link between obesity and disease, it is hoping to provide a better understanding of what makes us get sick, and help people stay healthier and live longer.”
Still, we find it hard to believe that clinging on to jeans from a bygone age is the best way to nurture mental health.
And Tom Quinn, director of external affairs at the eating disorders charity Beat, agrees. “Weight is just one factor that makes up an overall picture of someone’s health, and cannot, in isolation, determine whether someone is healthy or not,” he tells HuffPost.
“Highlighting the age of 21 as being the blanket age to be at an ideal weight is irresponsible, especially if someone was unwell with an eating disorder at the time. We also know that changes in shape and size are natural over the course of someone’s lifetime.”
Dr Foster does concede that a better way to keep track of health is to book a health check, which usually involves a blood pressure check and blood test.
So yes, your waist size might influence your diabetes risk, but remember: you are so much more than those old, skin-tight skinnies.