If your husband, boyfriend or dad is middle aged, with a waist more prominent than his chest and puffs like a greyhound when he walks – give him a hug.

He needs it.

Australian men are losing the battle of the bulge and in doing so are becoming more depressed, stressed and withdrawn as a result – well, according to the findings of the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.  Their report shows that 70 per cent of Australian men are now overweight or obese, compared to 50 percent only 3 years ago. Women, on the other hand, weigh in at 56 per cent. If we were still at school, our collective health status would mean an F on the end of term report card.

These extra kilos put men at risk of a whole host of health concerns including heart disease, type 2 diabetes and sleep apnoea. These chronic diseases not only bring you to an early grave, they will change your life forever if you manage to survive ‘a scare’. Whilst our mortality is increasing (we are living for longer), so is our morbidity (we live longer with disease). Perversely, these chronic diseases which live hand-in-glove with poor lifestyle choices are 90% preventable. That means for many of us gifted with proper, functioning hand-me-down genes – chronic disease is a choice. Will I reach for another donut or wont I? Will I take the car or walk? Will I give up smoking this year or not? Another beer? Why not.

The report also uncovered some interesting insights into why middle-aged men are turning their backs on their own health. It turns out time, or more specifically lack of it, is the most common road block to getting healthy. The hilarity of this, of course, is we all think we are the busiest person on Earth. That no-one, NO-ONE is busier than us. “When it comes to my 16-hour work day – no one does it harder than me cobber”, says you. The way I see it, it’s all BS. I’ve known single-mums with four kids under five, working a part-time job and studying for a law degree who call still rattle off a 20-minute workout and eat well. It all gets down to what we see as important. It gets down to priorities. The billion calorie question is how do time-poor, busy, stressed-out, over-worked, take-their-daughter-to-seven-am-netball-practice-before-school, honey-can-you-get-some-take-out-on-the-way-home, kinda’ guy to see the light and change his ways? There is no one or decisive answer – but perhaps a few ‘truths’ can resonate into action:

1. Put on Some Gown-up Pants. Unhealthy at 50? Got wife? Kids? Good job? Then grow the hell up! At this stage in our lives what could be more important than these things? The way I see it, getting healthy is an act of maturity. You are the Provider. People rely on you. Why are your bringing anything less to the table than your A-game? Improving your diet and getting active is evidence that your house is in order. Your new behaviours will provide a powerful blueprint for your kids and their kids. Mature people take responsibility. They lift. They act. They get The Work done, day after day. You need to stake a rebel’s flag in the middle of your crappy habits and make it stand. Get clarity around your priorities, temper your distractions and seductions, pull the sword from the stone, and make a change.

2. Get Jiggy with It. At 50, there’s no ‘Someday’ to getting healthy. Someday is NOW! My favourite financial writer – the Barefoot Investor, Scott Pape, once said, “Your mortgage should be repaid with the same urgency as if the hair on your head was on fire”. I love this quote because it highlights an action set for ‘someday’ (paying off your mortgage) and rocket-ships it into the now. At 50, time is running out. I think about this scarcity every day and it’s one of my prime motivators to be healthy. Remember, no one gets unhealthy behind their own back. We know the habits which are holding us down. I think about disease on-set as if it’s a crushing boot to my neck and I’m determined it’ll never get me even close to the dusty ground…before my time, that is. I don’t want to be what The Boss says “The same ol’ story, the same ol’ act…one step up and two steps back”.

3. Get Congruent. As much as I respect The Arts, I will never buy a ticket to the ballet or the opera. Why? Because it isn’t me. It’s not who I am. I can’t relate to it – therefore I don’t engage with it. It’s the same with getting well…you have to align with the strategies and behaviours which relate to YOU! Hate going to the gym, then don’t. Lifting weights boring? Then put them down. Find an activity which you like, which is repeatable, which is congruent with who you are and then, own it. Like body-weight exercises? Great, let’s get a program going. Like walking? Awesome, let’s get a walking program sorted. Tennis, swimming, cross fit, cycling – whatever your thing, embrace it and make it part of your discipline of doing The Work. If your weight has climbed by the stairs over the past 30 years, don’t expect it to fall by the elevator. The most important step in turning your health around is to be consistent. Turn up and do The Work. Today. Tomorrow. The day after that.

Time is not you enemy, your priorities are. Get these right and in 12 months from today you’ll be bringing home an A for effort on your end of term health report card.