I am a hypocrite. I have been one for many years. And I only realized it a few weeks ago, around my 26th birthday.
Birthdays for me are always a time of introspection. I usually do a bit of navel-gazing, sink into self-pity and realize how much more wisely I should have used my time. My conscience, which for some reason speaks to me in the words of Hollywood, tells me mercilessly “You have been weighed, you have been measured, and you have been found wanting”.
I will tell you, Dear Lancet Student Reader, the absolute truth: If I had been born in Sparta, I’d have been thrown into the chasm in Mount Taygetus faster than you can say “late umbilical cord clamping”. You could write a book about all the diseases that run in my family. Sometimes I think they got the name wrong: instead of Harrison it should be “Fuertes’ Principles of Internal Medicine”. There’s thalassemia, thyroids going hypo and hyper -depending on the side of the family-, cardiovascular disease, familial hypercholesterolemia, premature myocardial infarction, major depressive disorder and suicide, early onset colorectal cancer, fibromyalgia… You name it, we either have it or we’re just one mutation away from getting it and passing it on to our defective offspring.
What is even worse is that I do nothing to try to be healthier. Ever since I graduated from high school I have done nothing for my health, just the opposite. This of course means that:
1. I can hardly go up three flights of stairs without seeing my life flash before my eyes. Granny, is that you?
2. Under no circumstances will I risk running for the bus: I’d rather be late than suffer from syncope.
And 3. There’s not enough money in the world that will get me to join a gym.
All of this is why I always wondered, how I could possibly look a patient in the eye and tell him that he needed to get some exercise and start eating healthy? How could I honestly say all that if all I could think of doing the moment I got home was opening a bag of chips and watching re-runs of Friends? I couldn’t picture myself living under the hypocrisy of knowing what to do to stay healthy, telling people what to do (even getting mad at them if they didn’t do it) and yet not doing it myself. How can we tell a patient to quit smoking while having a pack of cigarettes in our pocket? I refused to be an agnostic posing as a preacher.
So it all came down to weighing the pros and cons of my current lifestyle and doing something about it… which I did. A few weeks ago I made the momentous decision to try and change my life around. This meant exercising, giving up junk food, cutting back on my coffee, alcohol and cigarettes and overall feeling very miserable, very sore and tired… but healthier!
And how am I doing, you ask? So far, so good. In fact, as I write this, I am still dog-paddling in a sea of endorphins after 25 consecutive minutes of running, courtesy of the NHS Couch to 5k plan podcast (which I emphatically recommend).
I don’t know if you can relate to this experience and I sincerely hope you can’t and stay healthy forever. But if you can and want to take some advice, trust me on this: Lead by example. The best thing I’ve ever done for myself is getting a pair of training shoes and running away from hypocrisy.