As we get older, we find ourselves making more excuses for not attending big meals out, refusing seconds at dinner parties and declining celebratory cake because we’re worried it takes longer to work off those extra pounds than it did 20 years ago.

Anna Mason, the founder of Distance Dieters, said there are many reasons why we tend to gain weight as we age, including a slowing metabolism, a change in hormones and an increasingly sedentary life.

"However, there is one further important piece of the jigsaw," she commented.

"By eating just a little too much, over time, there will be a weight gain. Say for example that at the age of 20 an individual’s Body Mass Index was within the healthy range. By eating a little too much and gaining just 1lb each year, by the time this individual is 50 years old there will have been a 30lb weight gain."

In this sense, middle age spread is a fallacy, added Ms Mason.

However, there are proactive steps we can take to ensure our spare tyre stays more bicycle than monster truck, including eating little and often to kickstart the metabolism.

Exercising each day is also advised, because this too will speed up our metabolism - just a 15-minute brisk walk, jog or cycle every day can help.

"Eating ’real’ food will help keep the bulge at bay. Eating fresh vegetables, fruit, lean meat and fish and drinking plenty of water will provide much needed energy for regular exercise, improve sleep and boost vitality," said the healthy living expert.

Try to cut out any processed foods, such as biscuits, cake, sugary snacks and drinks, white bread and pasta, while alcohol should be avoided if you want to slim down to a healthier weight.

Posted by Freya Harper