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Dad the Hypocrite: A Confession

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By Jason Rothstein

People who know me have heard me speak many times in defense of hypocrisy.

Look, we should all try to live up to the ideals and values we espouse, and there’s not much to admire in someone who publicly declares one set of values while privately living another, particularly when those choices are thoughtless, selfish, or cruel.

But a little bit of hypocrisy? A little bit of hypocrisy keeps the world spinning. A little bit of hypocrisy acknowledges that our flaws should not keep us from striving to be better.

Give me a choice between a political candidate who is a hypocrite and a political candidate who is a scold, and I’ll vote for the hypocrite every time.

Last Father’s Day, I wrote an impassioned post about the importance of staying healthy as a dad. I wrote about as a father, making time for self-care is actually a selfless act, because the family needs you to be healthy and capable.

And I was right. But I was also a big, fat hypocrite. (And not just figuratively.)

I don’t know if my blog post reached anyone else, but after some reflection that my hypocrisy, in this case, was indefensible, I took action. I cataloged all the things that seemed to be going wrong prematurely in my middle-aged dad body, and then I scheduled a general physical for the first time in almost three years.

The results were not pretty, but not hopeless. I scheduled a follow up for three months later and got to work.

I didn’t do anything fancy. I resurrected a long dormant MyFitnessPal account and started logging food reliably and made some adjustments to my diet. I cut out sweets and alcohol altogether temporarily. I instituted a serious walking regimen, and when the Series 4 Apple Watch came out, I decided to finally put away my beloved mechanical watch for something that might be able to do more than tell me the time.

In three months, I lost nearly 20 pounds, and was taken out of some immediate danger zones by my doctor. I loosened up on some of the diet restrictions but kept everything else and lost another 10 pounds by the new year. Chicago’s winter set me back a bit, but even then on most days, I was dutifully logging two miles in downtown’s little-known and underused pedway system. 

(I didn’t care whether people noticed or not, but I got comments almost everywhere except work. When you work at a Jewish organization, the few comments about weight loss are all prefaced with, “Is everything okay? Are you sick?” We are nothing if not haimisch at JUF.)

To repeat it again, I am a middle-aged dad. I didn’t do this to improve my dating prospects, or to get ready for the beach, or to train for an athletic event. I did it so I could chase my son around the playground without feeling like I was going to keel over. I did it so I had the endurance to keep carrying my daughter when that was the only thing that would get her to sleep. I did it to improve the odds that I will see my kids bar and bat mitzvah’d, see them get married, see them have children of their own.

I have more work to do, and I bet even the healthiest, fittest dads reading this do too. Get that check-up. Get that test. There are better ways of being a hypocrite than short changing your health and your family.  

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