I used to go running quite regularly, it was something that I really enjoyed doing. But, between studying and working and having a girlfriend, I hadn’t been for ages.
I went for a run last night and it was great. The sun was shining, but it wasn’t too hot and there was a slight breeze to cool me down as I ran. This country looks beautifully green at the moment and the people I passed seemed happy as they enjoyed the summer evening.
If I’m being honest with you though, I’d say that the real reason I went running was because I stepped on a set of scales the other day and discovered that I’m almost a stone and a half (9.5kg) heavier now than I was this time last year. On the BMI charts, I’ve slipped across the line from the Healthy Green to the Overweight Yellow. More tellingly, trousers that I bought because they were baggy are now looking distinctly “fitted.”
I’m not overly concerned though, nobody who knows me would describe me as “fat” and I’m sure the extra pounds will come off again, but it got me thinking about things I’ve said to patients about losing weight.
On many occasions, I’ve advised people that they need to lose some weight, that their size is damaging their health and on many occasions I’ve been exasperated when they “refuse” to do so.
“How hard can it be?” I’d whinge to my colleagues. “All they have to do is eat less and do a bit of exercise and then they would be in the hospital in the first place?”
But now, I’m officially overweight myself. So, do I have any right to tell another overweight person to lose some weight?
The question I’m asking is “Am I a hypocrite?”
And the honest answer has to be, “Yes, I am.”
I’m far from being alone in this though. In fact, I believe that the vast majority of doctors across the world have given advice to their patients that they, themselves flagrantly ignore.
I used to work with a consultant vascular surgeon who, every week for the majority of his working life would amputate people’s legs because their smoking had clogged their arteries, causing their leg(s) to rot. And every week, at the end of his list, he’d take himself off to the smoking room to have a few fags before reviewing the post-op patients.
Drunk people are so annoying in the A&E department. Not only because they can be loud, rude and aggressive, but because the effects of alcohol itself mimics the symptoms of severe disease (dizziness, drowsiness, slurred speech, vomiting etc…) and makes it much harder to exclude potentially serious problems. I used to bemoan having to clerk in drunk people on a Saturday Night but I knew that, had I not had to work, I would probably have been in the same bar, dancing like a tool and being almost as pissed as they are.
I know doctors that regularly take recreational drugs, even though they of all people know the harm these substances can cause.
What I’m saying is that there is a large amount of hypocrisy running through medicine and a large amount of the “Do as I say, not as I do” attitude that comes with it.
However, on the flip side of this, being a doctor certainly gives a different perspective of life and health. We’ve all seen people die in front of us in horrible, but avoidable ways and, as a result, we are morally and duty bound to try and help the person in front of us from doing the same.
I suppose what it comes down to is this. We are no angels, we never said that we were. I guess that our hypocrisy stems from wanting our patients to have as good a life as possible and from trying to get them to avoid the suffering that lies further down the path that they’re on.
We’ll continue to do this, even if we can’t take that advice ourselves.