Millions of men are deluding themselves about their weight. More than half of overweight men think their weight is “about right”, according to a Men’s Health Forum report.

Women have been under pressure for decades to diet and slim in pursuit of a perfect body, but experts believe men view obesity as acceptable.

British men are 17% more likely to be overweight and 26% more likely to have diabetes than women. Yet they are far less likely to do anything about it. Men make up only 23% of participants in NHS weight loss programmes.

Peter Baker, of the Men’s Health Forum charity, said: “Overweight men convince themselves it is all muscle, and being a ‘big bloke’ has a certain status.” He cited a University of Liverpool study which showed 55% of overweight men thought their weight was “about right”, compared with 31% of overweight women.

Baker said: “Culturally there is so much pressure on women to be slim - women’s magazines are full of dieting tips and idealised images of thin women.”

Even if they do realise they have a problem, men are often unwilling to take action, Baker said.

“Part of the problem is weight loss programmes are just not designed for men. They do not want to sit and talk about their feelings,” he said.

“Ironically, if men do go along they are often more successful than women.”