MIDWAY : Potty about paunch

It is now officially bad for you to eat, let alone drink or smoke. A recent report pointed out that people with pot bellies — ie, almost every man over the age of 35 — are at greater risk of developing heart disease. The extra fat, stored near vital organs, apparently blocks the blood vessels that feed the heart.

A pot belly used to be a badge of pride for middle-aged men. It was a sign of success; it suggested you had an agreeable expense account and were high enough up the corporate ladder to indulge in a spot of client entertaining. A pot belly was evidence that you enjoyed the finer things in life and men would proudly pat their bulging stomachs at the end of a meeting and boast, with a wink: “It’s all paid for.” As you got older, and the women you fancied didn’t, the consolation was snacks. If you were no longer in the game, you could at least eat a lot of game. And sex was out of the question — the missus lost interest long ago. The only spread you cared about was the one on your dinner table.

Now, it’s all changed: that perky paunch is a sign you are about to die. Dr James de Lemos, one of the study’s authors, says: “Even a small belly puts us at a higher risk when compared to those with flat stomachs... It’s better to throw food out than add it to our waists.” Stress is one of the biggest killers of middle-aged men and it’s only going to get worse if we’re fed absurd information such as this. We need to fight back. And with a few extra kilos on us, we should have the advantage.

I suggest we set up a Pot Belly Protection Society to provide guidelines on how the perfect specimen should look: round enough to reveal that you’re not a neurotic manorexic who’ll down nothing more than the occasional vodka and soda with a lamb’s lettuce and tofu lasagne (otherwise you’re not going to get invited for a pint and a korma with your colleagues on a Friday night); but not so obese that you can no longer see your feet (this could lead to mismatched shoes and awkward bedtime fumbling).

If we can’t eat, drink or smoke (even passive smoking is impossible to enjoy these days), then what are we supposed to do for a good time?Jog for joy? Forget it. I’m waddling off for a cheeseburger.