You've seen him - the middle-aged man at the gym in a muscle T-shirt with flabby arms and even flabbier belly, his sweaty arms flailing around as he groans to do another sit-up. Robert Wang, 42, has been battling the bulge since he hit 40. 'When I was younger it was as if I had hollow legs - everything I ate would go straight through me,' says the engineer. 'But now it seems that I've developed a tummy that I can't get rid of. I've tried everything to trim down. I've watched my diet - at one stage I was just eating soup. And I've exercised at the gym. But nothing has really made a dent.' 'Men ask: 'Is my stomach flat enough?' 'Am I fit enough?' 'Am I good enough,' says psychologist Lesley Lewis, from Culture3Counsel. Harrison Pope, co-author of The Adonis Complex and a Harvard Medical School psychology professor, says females aren't the only ones who suffer from eating disorders and an obsession with their appearance. Males, especially teenagers, are increasingly 'tying their self-worth to their body image', says Pope. 'They're obsessed with their bodies.' Advertising and celebrities have raised unrealistic expectations. Personal trainer Muk Venkatraman at Physical Harmony Personal Training, says not only do men want a flat stomach, they want instant results. He constantly sees men in the gym struggling in vain to rid themselves of a sagging gut. 'I see people doing crunches and sit-ups, thinking that their huge tyre around the waist is going to get smaller, but that six-pack won't show on anyone who has a high body-fat percentage.' Excess body fat from the Hong Kong diet and a sedentary lifestyle is contributing to ballooning waistlines. 'We have a rich carbohydrate-saturated diet - the rice and noodles,' says MSL Nutritional Diet Centre dietitian Joanne Chan Yuk-yi. 'But I also find loads of people have a high protein intake, too - an unhealthy balance of it, which is increasing the fat around the stomach. My clients say to me: 'It's the rice that makes my stomach bloat, or the noodles.' But it's not just the rice. It's the sauce, how you cook the meat, the deep-fried food, the cream-based sauces. The small bowl of rice that most people have at lunch is not the main culprit.' So what should you eat to get your stomach from fat to fit? 'Smaller portions,' says Chan. 'Eating until your belly's completely full is an archaic notion. Fruits and vegetables, high-grain foods are great as they help your bowel movements expel toxins from the body. Drink eight glasses of water a day - with the high fibre intake, you'll need the water to move it out.' And tonic water doesn't count. 'A lot of people in Hong Kong drink too much alcohol,' says Venkatraman. 'Not only are they poisoning their body, but they're adding empty calories.' Chan agrees. 'Our liver metabolises alcohol and excess alcohol turns into fat, easily deposited in the stomach area - and that's any kind of alcohol.' Venkatraman says beer bellies are made when your calorie consumption exceeds the exercise you do. 'What it all comes down to is calories in versus calories out,' says Venkatraman. 'Do you eat more than your body burns? If the answer is yes, then you'll gain weight.' Forty per cent of Hongkongers have waistlines that exceed the recommended standard, according to a patient study. That makes the proportion of Hongkongers with outsized waistlines the same as that for North Americans. The standard average waistline suggested for local men in Hong Kong is 89cm, while for women it's 80cm, according to the International Diabetes Federation. Their 2005 study, called the 'Idea' - International Day for the Evaluation of Abdominal Obesity - is a global survey involving about 180,000 patients from 63 countries. It aimed to find the prevalence of abdominal obesity and its relationship to the risk of chronic diseases. It was the first time Hong Kong had taken part in the survey. Just as worrying is that the Chinese have a genetic tendency to accumulate fat in the inner abdomen, which increases the likelihood of heart disease, diabetes and other illnesses related to obesity. This recent Canadian study examined 822 healthy individuals. Doing sit-ups, for example, is unlikely to help someone lose harmful inner abdominal fat exclusively, says Gwen Chapman, a professor of nutritional sciences at the University of British Columbia. 'That's more likely to affect the muscles, and so you might have more muscle tone in your stomach,' she says. Specialist men's slimming clinic Mence says a growing number of its clients sign on wanting to build a six-pack. 'In Hong Kong, most businessmen don't have the time to spend hours in the gym, so we provide services to target their problem areas - especially around their stomach,' says spokesman Ronald Kwok Ka-lok. 'They can relax and sometimes go to sleep while the machines do the work. There's an infra-red treatment, ultrasound treatment, a lymphatic treatment and many others.' Although there's no such thing as a quick fix, Venkatraman says one way to appear instantly slimmer is to improve your posture. 'The better your posture, the more calories you'll burn. Slouching is what the body does to save energy. If your body is upright with good posture, then technically you're burning more calories.' Venkatraman also says it's important to keep moving. 'Stop taking the elevator and take the stairs instead. Don't jump in a taxi, use the MTR and save the environment and yourself.'