Can YOU fit into the jeans you wore at 21? As research suggests it’s the key to lessening the risk of Type 2 diabetes, people in their 30s, 40s and 50s reveal how they’ve defied middle-age spread to keep the weight off
Earlier this week, a new study suggested that Type 2 diabetes – which leads to an increased risk of heart disease and stroke – could be prevented if people maintained the waist size they had at 21 in middle and even later life.
Professor Roy Taylor, from Newcastle University, said: ‘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.’
This research, presented at the Annual Meeting of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes, has proved controversial, with many on social media saying using ‘you should still fit in the jeans you had at 21’ as a measure of a healthy weight is ‘unhelpful’ and even ‘fat-shaming’.
Professor Taylor maintains the research should be a ‘wake-up call’ on the clear links between obesity and Type 2 diabetes and everyone should be mindful of their ‘personal fat threshold’, saying: ‘These results, while preliminary, demonstrate very clearly diabetes is not caused by obesity but by being too heavy for your own body,’
Here, FEMAIL speaks to four people who can proudly say they can comfortably still wear the same jeans that they did at 21…despite now being decades older…
Researchers at Newcastle University say Type 2 diabetes – which can cause heart attacks and stroke – could be prevented if people were aware of their ‘personal fat threshold’ – with the jeans you wore at 21 being a guide for what your waistline should be to stay healthy
‘The weight crept on in my thirties…but now, at 50, I’m back to wearing the 32-inch waist that I wore at 21…’
Father-of-two Sandy Pureval, 50, from Berkshire, says he’s not a huge exercise fan and has a sweet tooth – but health scares have made him re-assess what he eats…and the weight has fallen off him. He’s 5ft 9′ and weighs 12st 1lb…
When I was 21, I was in my last year of university and I partied a fair amount but I would also go to the gym – even though it bored me senseless.
My weight would fluctuate a bit but I was a solid 32 inch waist. I have a really sweet tooth but my metabolism at that age must have just sorted it out – I didn’t gain weight.
I always thought I could be a bit trimmer than I was but I never really thought about my weight at that age.
Dad-of-two Sandy Pureval, from Berkshire, who runs well-being platform Superfied says he’s now back in a 32-inch waist after weight – spiralled by a sweet tooth – crept on in his 30s when he started his own marketing business
Sandy at 21; he says eating well now is all about preserving his future health as he approaches his 50s – and that his waistline has returned to what it was in his early twenties
By 27, I’d put on a bit of weight and I though ‘I need to sort myself out’ – I got married that year and I was keen to be lean and healthy.
However, a couple of years after getting married, domestic bliss set in and I crept up to a 34-inch waist – and that was tight on me. Setting up a marketing business in my thirties meant long hours and stress and I jumped to sweet foods for treats.
In my early forties, my allergies – hayfever and eczema – got worse and I decided to see a specialist doctor – including an acupuncturist – to try and sort it out.
With recommendations on triggering foods to avoid, I changed my diet – and lots of weight came off in the process.
I cut out processed food, meat and massively cut down on sugar and dairy. Within three months, I noticed a massive difference in my health problems and my weight and I started to take food more seriously.
Portion size has grown so much in recent decades and I try to stick to that old adage that two-cupped hands of food is enough. I still have burgers and the odd treat but I’ve tamed my sweet tooth – as I get into my fifties and see friends with various health problems creeping in, it feels like there’s more at stake now.
Earlier this year, inspired by own journey with food, I started the self-care platform Superfied (besuperfied.com). It aims to empower people to take better care of their own health via better food.
Staying the same size has never been about losing weight or looking good, it’s been about health and, more importantly, preserving my future health.
‘Running a business and being a mum means there’s not much time for exercise but a low-carb diet keeps my waistline in check…’
Mother-of-one Corinne Card, 40, from Brighton, is 5ft 5′ and weighs 8 st 12lbs. She says the keto diet – which is low on carbs – has helped her approach middle age at the same weight she was as at 21…
Time-warp jeans: Corinne Card, a 40-year-old mother-of-one from Brighton, pictured when she was 21, with a 28-inch waist
And as she looks now, 19 years on: the businesswoman says that a low-carb approach has kept her weight at 8st 12lbs since her twenties
‘My waistline is exactly the same as it was when I was 21, 28 inches. I was a fussy eater as a child and got into the habit of eating mostly toast, penny sweets and Quavers crisps while at boarding school.
‘When I left for university, I wanted to feel fitter and healthier and I found the Atkins Diet book while browsing in a bookshop.
‘I didn’t weigh myself at the time but I lost so much weight, my Mum had to take in my jeans by several inches.
Since then I’ve avoided too many carbs and too much sugar and I’ve stayed a healthy weight.
‘Now I follow the keto diet, which is low carbs with plenty of green vegetables, nuts, eggs and fish.
Occasionally, I have a cheat day and get chewy cookies or whatever I’ve felt like I was missing out on.
Corinne says she doesn’t have a strict exercise plan – she simply walks as often as she can, with baby Freddie (pictured right) and swims
Following a healthy diet has kept Corinne trim but she admits to occasionally having treats such as cookies
As a mother-of-one, running my own business, Full Story Media – working with entrepreneurs who want to make the world a better place with their businesses – I don’t always have time for an exercise routine.
I know some people can stay slim without being so careful with their diet but I know I need to be careful or the scales creep up, and I think it’s worth the effort for feeling happy in my own skin.
‘I love vintage clothes and spend a lot of time walking around Brighton’s charity shops. Walking is my main exercise and I love to swim, too.
‘I love walking along the seafront, at the moment it’s with my eleven-month-old, Freddie, in his baby carrier.’
‘I don’t eat well to look good, I do it for my mental and physical health. I’m in better shape now than I was at 21…’
Dance teacher Afaf Belcaid, a 44-year-old mother-of-two, from Chiswick in West London, suffered a mental and physical burn-out at 40…and changed the way she viewed food. She’s 5ft 4′ and weighs 8 st…
Dance teacher Afaf Belcaid, 44, said a burn-out at 40 had left her re-assessing her mental and physical health and she now eats well and exercises to preserve her future health
At 21, Afaf, (pictured) weighed 49 kilos – 23 years on, the dance business owner says she’s healthier now than she was then because she eats well, using food as medicine
Living her children and family behind while she was in hospital left Afaf determined to approach her health in a different way – and she now says looking good isn’t her motivation, it’s feeling well mentally and physically
What is Type 2 diabetes?
Type 2 diabetes is a common condition that causes the level of sugar (glucose) in the blood to become too high.
It can cause symptoms like excessive thirst, needing to pee a lot and tiredness. It can also increase your risk of getting serious problems with your eyes, heart and nerves.
It’s a lifelong condition that can affect your everyday life. You may need to change your diet, take medicines and have regular check-ups.
It’s caused by problems with a chemical in the body (hormone) called insulin. It’s often linked to being overweight or inactive, or having a family history of Type 2 diabetes.
I’d always been around 7 st 7lbs as a teenager and in my early twenties – probably a little underweight for my height.
When I had two children, I put on 20kgs with each of them; you have to put on weight to deliver and look after a baby – they were both breastfed.
Nutrition is important to me, but not because I want to look good but because I want to feel healthy in my body and mind.
I had a massive burn-out four years ago, I was admitted to hospital and I was convinced I had a terminal disease but it was just exhaustion from life as a busy mum and trying to work too.
It proved a wake-up call for my health and I thought then that I wanted to look after my body – it was a horrible feeling having to leave my children when they needed me because I wasn’t well.
After my recovery, I spent a lot of time researching food that was good for mental health – using food as medicine.
A doctor asked me what I like to do, I said ‘dance’ and I found a dance class and then eventually started my own business, dance2happy.com. I broke the cycle of anxiety and exhaustion.
I’m 5ft 4′ and now 8 st and I wear the same jean size as I did when I was 21 – but I’d argue I’m healthier now than I was then because I exercise more and I eat well too.’
‘I eat 2,500 calories a day and enjoy ice cream, cakes and biscuits but I still wear jeans I wore when I was 17…’
Vegan Rebecca Derbyshire, 39, a blogger from Gloucestershire, says the scales have barely budged since she was a teenager – she currently weighs in at 9 stone 1lbs, 5ft 5′ and has a 27-inch waist…
Rebecca pictured in 2005 wearing jeans she’s had since she was a teenager – her weight has stayed consistent and she can still wear the same jeans and belt at the age of 39
Still looking good! The same pair of jeans pictured in 2021; Rebecca is now vegan and takes care to eat healthy food…but says she does eat ice cream, biscuits and cake from time to time
‘I’ve always stayed the same weight. For years, I was 8 st and the scales didn’t budge at all. I then slowly went up to about 9 stone 1lb and have stayed there ever since. And that gain was only because I was really trying to put on a bit of weight…I started weight training and my muscle mass increased slightly.
‘In terms of fitness, I have always been a pretty active person. I swam for my local team when I was a teenager, and sailed in the British team until 1999. I now go to the gym four times a week but that’s more because I love it than to stay a certain weight or shape.
The full-time blogger says she tries to cycle instead of using a car and her weight has changed only because of muscle mass after working out in the gym. She currently weighs in at 9 stone 1lbs, 5ft 5′ and has a 27-inch waist
I decided to go vegan two years ago because of the health benefits and feel so much better and cleaner for doing so. I eat around 2,500 calories a day, sometimes more but it’s 99% healthy foods – lots of fresh vegetables and fruits.
‘I also make a lot of my meals and treats myself so I know what ingredients I’m consuming. I don’t eat any refined sugar but I still have plenty of not-so-healthy foods such as biscuits, cakes, ice cream.
Rebecca says she consumes around 2,500 calories a day and goes to the gym four times a week
‘I’m a full-time blogger, runnning thelifestylebloggeruk.com since 2015, so there is a lot of sitting down throughout the day.
‘However, I always make sure I go for a walk, especially on nice days to get some fresh air and move my body.
‘I live in Gloucestershire, in the middle of nowhere surrounded by fields and beautiful places to walk and explore so that helps me get out and about.
I also cycle as much as I can instead of taking the car – this is more for environmental reasons than health reasons.’