Come on blokes, seriously? I see it everyday walking through the city. Scores of (mainly) middle-aged men out the front of office buildings huddled together like arctic penguins puffing their lungs out into oblivion.
It’s not so much I don’t get it…I do. I get why people smoke: I just feel an immense level of concern for them and the mouths they feed.
Sadly, statistics say that 66% of those who smoke will die from it. That’s worse odds from a flip of a coin. Heads, stay alive. Tails, drop dead. So why wouldn’t you hustle for a better deal?
With all the health messaging, readily available health care, free joining fees at gyms, fitness ‘wearables’, fitness apps, on-line fitness programs, employee health programs and deliver-to-your-door health food – why is ‘selling’ health to middle aged men akin to flogging a dead horse?
Here are my top reasons why at middle-age you don’t give a toss about your health:
1. You’ve Earned It.
At middle-age you’ve worked too hard not to live a little, right? You battled through uni, flipped burgers at Harry’s, rubber gloved chewing gum out of urinals, started in the mail room and kicked every butt on the way up the corporate ladder…so what’s wrong with a few beers after work, eating crap food and staying up late with Net flicks?
For some, these actions precede the justification game – will I or won’t I, have another beer? (Arr f**K it..! Waiter…?) For others, these actions are simply auto pilot like the 3pm coca cola habit. Besides, downing beer and pizza makes us happy and relieves the stress of working with assholes all day long. I call this thinking the L’Oreal Syndrome – the male equivalent of the “Because I’m worth It” beauty campaign of the 80’s. Sure, you may be worth it, but aren’t those who rely on you for strength, financial security and love, worth it too?
2. Being Unhealthy is the New Norm.
You think the extra notch on your trouser belt, another chin roll on your face or your constant indigestion is just the ‘natural’ rough and tumble of aging, yeah? It’s the ‘new you’. The ‘risen’ bar. While we may recognise our unhealthy habits, its another story to act upon them. We simply tolerate the new itch and life trundles on. Recent research into recovering heart attack sufferers suggest that 2 in 3 patients fail to improve their diet or adopt gentle exercise, even though it will improve their likelihood of a repeat attack! It takes courage to change yet comfort to stay the same.
3. Peer Pressure.
Yes, even in middle-age you’re highly influenced by your peers. Who’s gonna order paleo chicken at a business lunch when everyone else is having the beer battered fish and fries? I remember on countless occasions joining my uni mates after lectures at the local chew and spew. “What ya drinking Davo? No I’m good, I’ll stick with mineral water…” I would reply. Of course I was met with stares akin to announcing I was about to undergo a trans-gender migration procedure.
No doubt we feel uncomfortable outside ‘the norm’. On the upside, disclosing your efforts to get healthier to your friends or family is a proven strategy to keep your actions accountable. We feel the need to follow-through and to save face – that’s why sharing your goals with others works.
4. The Law of Attraction.
Ever noticed how a group of teenagers standing around all look relatively the same? Same clothes, same ‘look’, same body types. Next time you’re with your middle-aged colleagues – look around you. Same clothes, same ‘look’, same body types. The same over-weight group of men (or women) suddenly doesn’t look so overweight anymore, right? This camouflaged thinking leads you to (falsely) believe that if I look the same – if I feel the same as the tribe – everything is OK. On the flip-side, if you stand-out (lose weight, get healthier,) there’s a fear that you’ll lose connection or indeed be cut-down for your righteous habits – banished from the tribe.
This can be true of our partners as well. They aren’t ‘into’ getting healthy so why should I?
It’s in our nature to attract those who share our traits, but when it comes to our unhealthy habits this can lead to conformity and complacency. In a society where 65% of us are overweight and sick – it’s a club which you should never aspire to have membership of.
5. You’re Living in the Dark.
Do you think people with hoarding tendencies recognise their slowly burgeoning stash? They simply don’t see the mounting pile of crap – to them it’s just another piece of treasure. In his brilliant book, The Six Pillars of Self Esteem, Dr Nathaniel Branden writes, “Self-destruction is an act best performed in the dark”. He says if an alcoholic is conscious that his habits have led to his unemployment, the separation of his partner or the destruction of his family, yet he continues to drink, he must ‘turn-off the light’ regarding this consciousness and put it in the dark – in other words – sweep the problem under the carpet.
If you KNOW you eat fast food most days, have a tipple after work to relieve stress or yell at the kids every day because your job sucks – yet you continue to do it – congratulations! you’re successfully shut down your ‘voice of reason’. Not ideal, right? Shining the light of awareness on your unhealthy habits is the key to changing them. In middle-age our health consciousness needs to be better honed.
Of course my thinking can be applied to any age-group. I’m zoning in on middle-age men because I’m in this category and whenever I spot an unhealthy one I wish them greater potential. So men, take a good hard look at yourselves, dust off your clothes, swing a leg over and get back on that horse.