Q+A: Why have I got an ever-expanding waistline?

Q My weight, diet and running habits have not changed for 20 years – but my waistline has grown steadily. What’s going on?

AEven runners who stay in top shape as they age may see their waistlines expand because of declining levels of “youth” hormones, such as DHEA, which alter where body fat is stored. While your diet may not have changed much, certain foods can have a bigger impact on weight gain as you age. Keep your belt buckle on the same hole with the following strategies.

Pack in produce Studies show that people who eat ample fruit and veg have smaller waists than those who skimp on produce. The theory goes that a diet rich in fruit and veg helps curb blood sugar swings, which can influence the hormones that make fat.

Keep it whole Eating whole-grain, rather than refined-grain products keeps waistlines trim. Research suggests that refined-grain eaters have larger waistlines – possibly related to a lower fibre intake and its impact on controlling body fat.

Easy on the alcohol Studies show heavy alcohol consumption leads to fat accumulation around the middle. Women should drink no more than one drink daily, and men should limit themselves to two drinks per day.

Stay fit Studies show people lose specifically from their waist when exercise is part of their weight-loss programme. Upping your mileage or occasionally adding other cross-training workouts may help shave off inches.

Make the most of minerals Your stomach ages, just like the rest of your body, and can struggle to absorb nutrients from your diet. You can give it a helping hand in digesting your food by avoiding foods known to reduce mineral absorption, such as tea and coffee. You will absorb all the vitamins and minerals you need to stay healthy without having to consume more food.

Liz Applegate, nutritionist and author of Powerfoods