Well, the truth of it is women are piling on the kilos because they have cut down on housework.
According to some American research which is the subject of a Daily Mail report (here) –
* Women now burn up to 360 calories less a day than their parents
* Housewives in 1965 spent 27 hours a week cooking, cleaning and washing
* Women now spend only 13.3 hours a week on housework.
The newspaper will be putting the frighteners into its chubby female readers by saying:
We have long been told that our unhealthy diet is why we are all too fat.
But now, when it comes to women at least, researchers have a rather more controversial explanation for rising obesity – they are not doing enough housework.
Women are piling on the pounds because they have cut down on the amount they are cooking and cleaning, a study has shown.
They are burning up to 360 calories less a day than their parents did because they are so sedentary around the house.
Women have also used the hours gained from time saving technology like washing machines to spend twice as much of their lives sitting watching TV than they did in the 1960s.
The Daily Mail opined that the findings were likely to outrage working mothers for whom there is still a gender imbalance when it comes to housework.
But when Alf skives off to the Eketahuna Club instead of helping Mrs Grumble with the household chores, he can now say he has her best interests at heart and is caring for her health.
The study was carried out in the US by Edward Archer, a research fellow with the Arnold School of Public Health at the University of South Carolina.
This sounds like a reputable outfit.
Moreover, we are told similar studies have shown the same result.
He studied thousands of ‘time-use diaries’ provided by American women every year beginning in 1965.
And he found that back then women spent an average of 25.7 hours a week doing the laundry, cooking and cleaning.
In 2010 things had changed and women were spending an average of 13.3 hours per week on housework.
A recent survey by npower in the UK found a similar trend.
On average women now spend 18.2 hours a week on housework, including cleaning, vacuuming, food shopping and cooking.
This compares to 44 hours a week on average in 1965, according to official figures from the Department for Education.
Dr Archer found that as a result of this change, housewives are burning around 360 calories every day less than they did in the 1960s.
That’s more than the typical chocolate bar, apparently. Its equivalent in whisky – something of more interest to Alf – would be good to know.
But regardless of that, working women burn about 132 fewer calories.
Mrs Grumble will say she comes into this category, because she runs Alf’s electorate office and helps him with his research.
But hey. Here’s the crunch.
In a depressing twist, with all that extra time in their lives women have apparently used it to sit down and watch TV.
Dr Archer found that in 1965 women typically spent eight hours a week catching up on their favourite programmes.
By 2010 that had more than doubled to 16.5 hours a week.
Archer concluded that women needed to ‘start finding ways to incorporate movement’ into their daily routine such as walking to the post box, chopping vegetables or playing with the dog.
Alf has suggested to Mrs Grumble she perhaps doesn’t have to worry too much about doing those things, because she chops the wood, looks after the vegetable patch, and so on.
Mrs Grumble, moreover, is likely to take heed of this sort of thing –
Feminist and relationships expert Jean Hannah Edelstein said it was a ‘preposterous, sexist assumption’ to suggest that women should do more cleaning to slim down.
She said: ‘It’s not like men are getting any thinner either – perhaps they should get off their behinds and do some more housework!’
Alf will discuss this advice with his mates at the club.
He suspects the consensus of opinion will be to ignore it.