I've recently become aware that over the past few months I may have become a little thicker in the middle than usual. And by thicker, I mean I've achieved what I like to call my ideal winter weight. And by aware I mean my mother, in her watered-down-white-wine variety of love, decided that a family lunch would be the ideal time to loudly proclaim "you've gotten fat!" and grab at my newly-formed love handles.
So what do you do when you discover you no longer possess the svelte greyhound waistline of your early twenties and have instead gained all the signs of an indulgent early 30s paunch?
You could go back to the gym, give up the beer, fight those sweet tooth impulses and maybe rethink that second hamburger. Or, if you're less motivated, you could invest in hi-tech clothing that hides your indulgences in one seamless undergarment designed to not only make you look trimmer but also help improve your posture, aid circulation and even ease certain forms of back pain.
And since I've a lazy streak that's miles wide, I obviously chose the latter.
Over the past few years, specialist brands such as Equmen and Spanx have released a range of clothing made specifically for men who, much like myself, have better things to do than go to the gym yet occasionally need to pull the wool over the eyes of their peers. Shapewear – or compression clothing as it's known in the sports industry – has been one of the worst “best-kept-secrets” in womens' fashion for years, worn by the likes of Oprah Winfrey, Tyra Banks and Gwyneth Paltrow whenever they needed to streamline their physiques on the red carpet. Now a variety of men including actors such as Tom Hanks, Jimmy Fallon and even Brad Pitt have openly confessed to using shapewear as a way of maintaining a lean silhouette beneath their designer suits.
Marc Stubbs, the head buyer for online retailer, The Men's Shop, says men from all walks of life are realising shapewear means you no longer need to buy the next size up in order to hide your preference for lagers and lasagna.
“Every guy wants to look fitter and slimmer,” explains Stubbs. “Our customer is a male [who is] interested in his appearance and just wants to feel a bit more confident … and compression garments are becoming much more commonplace these days, particularly in sports apparel.”
So how does it all work? Shapewear clothing combines Spandex with state-of-the-art cotton compression techniques. The fit is meant to be snug without being restrictive. “The biggest myth,” explains Stubbs, “is the need to size down. Always buy true to size so you stay comfortable as well as look good.” An added bonus is that the men's range is completely stealth in its appearance, looking like any other t-shirt or singlet you may have in the cupboard. So unless you tell them, no one will know you're getting a helping hand on those handles.
Even the underwear range, should you feel the need, looks no different to your average pair of boxers or tighty-whiteys. They're just a lot more comfortable, with a hell of a lot more support. And before you dismiss this as narcissistic nonsense, compression-ware label Equmen is also used by men with chronic back pain as a way to help build stronger core stability and improved posture.
I'm well aware this won't prevent me from turning in to some kind of Jabba the Pizza Hut in the long run should my current gluttonous lifestyle continue, but neither am I in any rush to do a hundred crunches every morning just to make sure my shirt doesn't bulge at the sides.
And besides, if it's good enough for Tyler Durden (aka Brad Pitt), it's good enough for me.
Would you consider using shape-enhancing undergarments?