Though there are examples of fit older men, they are the exception, just as attractive young people are the exception. Yet in youth people just accept that, while in middle age men seem to take it more to heart, lowering their feelings of self-worth.

In youth, attractiveness can be dismissed as genetics. Later on it becomes inevitable due to age.

Some of the despondency is due to media claims about health. Body Mass Index, BMI, is a good population level look for a health proxy but it has no clinical relevance, yet diet claims and journalists still use it as if it were a scientific metric. A body mass index (BMI) of more than 25 is considered to be overweight, and over 30 is defined as obese. Using that standard, almost 70 percent of English men aged 16 and over are overweight. Of those aged 35-64, 31 percent are obese.

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To understand the implications of that body standard, a team interviewed men aged 35 and over participating in The Alpha Programme (TAP), a football and weight management project delivered in local community venues. The qualitative study featured in-depth interviews with eight participants aged between 35 and 58. Researchers explored their relationships with food and diet before enrolling on the programme, why they felt they had put on weight, whether they were concerned about their health, any previous attempts to lose weight, and how they felt about being overweight or obese.

Family and employment were the two main factors attributed to their predicament, with discussions highlighting a sense of resignation, and that weight gain was an inevitable consequence of these life choices. Comfort eating was blamed for much of the weight gain, but interviews showed little awareness of other nutritional factors such as food types and portion sizes. 

Discussions about their weight were often tinged with despondency and showed self-objectification and a loss of self-esteem, and yet, despite awareness of both their mental state and the health risks of continuing their eating behaviors, attempts to change these were infrequent and non-committal.

Lifestyle matters most but if people feel like weight gain is happening due to age, the calories they ingest become less of a concern. Outreach programs should focus less on fad diets like food elimination, and not on ideals like unrealistic food pyramids, and on the one thing that is settled science; energy balance. How many calories you eat are more important than how many vegetables it is.