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One way to lose the pounds

A GP's life is a sedentary one, so Phil has joined his local gym - but just the thought of going is stressing him so much he's losing weight

A GP's life is a sedentary one, so Phil has joined his local gym - but just the thought of going is stressing him so much he's losing weight

Here's four words I never thought I'd write: I've joined a gym.

Like many a GP, I've discovered an uncomfortable truth. Being a hospital doctor - running up and down between floors, sprinting for crash calls, covering miles a day between wards and never having time to eat anything - keeps you thin and fit.

General practice, with its emphasis on sitting behind a desk for eight hours a day and eating a lot of biscuits and free sandwiches from the drug reps, has the opposite effect. One gets flabby and breathless on the stairs. It is an undoubted truth that even my ties are getting too tight.

Mrs P dragged me along to the local gym's open day. It was a 'meet and greet' session.

One of my favourite patients is a reformed alcoholic (he insists his reformation occurred during a 15-minute rant from me, after I lost it, called him an oxygen bandit and accused him of being less mature than my 10-year-old son). Although I like to hear about his new job and newly responsible lifestyle while I'm in the surgery, I am disconcerted to find he is the 'meet and greet' merchant at the gym.

'Dr Peverley!' he exclaims with glee. I'm on his turf now. Clapping one propriatorial arm around my shoulder, he shows me around. 'This is where we do the health assessments,' he tells me. Hanging on the wall are these pincer things that they use to measure the amount of body fat you've got. I know how much I've got (too bloody much) and make a mental note to lay my life down before those cruel pincers get anywhere near me.

'This is how much it costs,' he says, and shows me the bottom line. 'Not too bad for a year,' I comment. Turns out I'm looking at the monthly fee. They bring me back to consciousness by applying the pincers to the inside of my nostrils, and we move on.

So now I'm a member. I was hoping that, just by being a member of a gym, fitness would somehow invade my body by osmosis (much as, when I was a student, I would sleep with a textbook under my pillow in the hope the knowledge would somehow seep into my brain while I was asleep) but it turns out you actually have to turn up and do some work to get the benefits.

Sweating buckets

About half the GPs in Sunderland turn out to be members. Skinny bastards in stylish tennis clothes. 'Alright, Phil?' they ask as they pass, wearing Nike shirts and holding bottles of Swiss designer water, while I'm sweating buckets in an old T-shirt on a cross-training machine.

Another of my patients turns out to be the cleaner in the men's changing room. He's an elderly gent who has somewhat unfortunately had three wives die on him, and the fourth, my patient also, isn't all that well either. He leans against the wall with his mop, all matey, while I get changed.

'Had a good workout, Doc?' he asks. I discover that, while I'm perfectly relaxed about my patients getting undressed in front of me, I have serious problems with being naked in front of one of them. Is he looking at my bum? It's excruciatingly embarrassing. I would like to ask him if he hasn't got some friggin' work to do somewhere else, but find I can't, so I just get my kecks on as quickly as I can.

I find the gym is doing me some good. In truth I don't actually have to attend. I just have to think about it, and the stress puts my metabolic rate up a couple of notches and I burn calories like nobody's business.

I think I've lost a couple of pounds just writing this article.

Dr Phil Peverley is a GP in Sunderland

Phil Peverley

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