Would you measure up in a mid-life health check?
An office-based job, a bit of a sweet-tooth, a liking for Friday nights in the pub and a tendency to go everywhere by car can mean only one thing… you’re a bit of a slob.
Lifestyle, after all, is what makes you tick. And for some of us, it seems, the clock is ticking faster than it is for others.
So a new Government campaign to bring middle-aged folk to their senses before it is too late can only be a good thing, or can it?
One You, designed by Public Health England, isn’t meant to be a shock tactic. But if you answer it honestly - well, more honestly than you might admit to your GP - it can make for alarming reading.
The idea is to give us mid-lifers a series of multiple choice questions about exercise, food, drink and smoking and then grade our answers using the traffic light system of red, amber and green.
A red light can spell danger ahead. More than one and it’s time to update the will and dust off the insurance policies.
Now I’ve always considered myself to be an average sort of guy in pretty much everything. The only thing I’ve ever done to excess is watch football.
I like a beer or, as the years have gone on, more the odd glass of vino. I’m not the biggest red meat eater - I prefer fish - and the only time I’ve ever smoked was when, back in the day, it was considered manly to puff on the occasional Castella (no swallowing mind) while enjoying a pint.
I played team sports into my thirties and then carried on jogging until I was pushing 50. I might be shipping a bit more timber than I used to. But that’s middle-aged spread and a natural fact of life, or so I like to tell myself.
So how do I shape up according to One You? Well, here goes.
The first question is a gentle under-arm delivery: How are you feeling right now?
You grade your mood on a sliding scale from “really knackered” to “full of beans,” or “lean and mean” to “fat and flabby,” or “down in the dumps” to “over the moon.” In every category I was slightly on the smiley, glass half-full side. What was I doing to take care of myself? My answer was “I don’t have the time,” although there were other equally valid reasons available for avoiding the gym.
Who depends on me being healthy? Wife and kids (no grand-kids just yet).
What are my three health priorities? I went for “staying young-looking,” “keeping my mind sharp” and “being there for my kids.” I could have chosen “fitting into my jeans,” or “having a more active social life.”
At this point in the survey the great cyber killjoy chips in with an interim bit of advice. It would appear, on the issue of wellbeing, I could do with a bit of a shake-up.
On to eating and, while I scored well on fruit, fish and porridge, the survey guru wasn’t too impressed with my liking for chips, cheese, crisps and custard creams.
“Your food choices aren’t terrible, but they aren’t exactly great either,” came the response.
Now, the category I had been dreading. Booze. And it soon became clear that anything above a teaspoonful of shandy a month was being frowned on from a great height.
I’m not an everyday imbiber, yet the survey told me: “It looks like your drinking is starting to add up.” It was followed by a stern lecture on cutting back, or switching to lower alcohol brands - which is quite difficult with a nice glass of Burgundy.
Exercise came next. Right away I knew I wasn’t doing enough. I didn’t need a survey to tell me I led a lazy life. Time for the gym being tight or not, I was forced to hold my hand up at that one.
Public Health England’s “something to think about” was: “Spending less time sitting and more time being active helps keep the body relaxed.”
It ended with “avoid anything too vigorous before bed.” No worries there then.
Having forgotten to mention the Castellas back in the day, I got a “good for you” comment on the fact I don’t smoke.
Right, total score out of 10? Just a miserable five. “You could be worse, but you could be a lot better too.”
I got one red light - on exercise - two ambers on eating and drinking and one glorious green on smoking.
Overall the survey told me: “You are feeling pretty average, so you probably won’t be surprised at your score. There are some areas where you need to take action.”
After that damning report I think I need a drink - and maybe even a cigar.