Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Season's Greetings

...Where That Season is the Summer-Autumn Overlap--Wednesday, 9/30/15

I enjoy looking at the work style outfits on Polyvore.  Like the one below, they are usually much dressier than I would wear to my job (and I rarely have the pieces that they feature), but they provide good inspiration.  I typically mimic colors/patterns/textures more than I do the shape of the pieces because my wardrobe is a mishmash of old and new (and hence I often don't have items of the right, modern shape) and colors translate better onto different bodies than shapes do.  (Not that there are any bodies in the collages, of course, and some of the collages are specifically designed around clothing that is available in larger sizes.)


When I put these items together several weeks ago, I was afraid it would be too warm/wintery for summer, and I think I was right.  But I liked the look of it so well that I was like, what the hell, and I put it aside for when the temps cooled down (which they now definitely have).  Who cares if this feels closer to a festive Christmas outfit than something for soon after the autumn equinox? 

Grey leopard 3/4 length sleeve T (JNY), $6.80/wear+
Red cardigan (JNY), $6.50/wear
Dark microcheck skirt (thrifted, Banana Republic), $2.50/wear+
Red buckle flats by Me Too, $3.35/wear
*Red/gold necklace (Macy's), $8.49/wear+

Outfit total: $27.64/wear

I didn't want to wait for it to be very much cooler because I didn't want to have to figure out what tights would work to bridge the gap between the black/grey skirt and bright red shoes.

Speaking of Christmas, we have a closet in the long hallway of the apartment that we're using for storage of my tree and big bins of ornaments, other random stuff, and the art boxes that Robert, my parents, and I have built over the last two moves.  Those art boxes were too much a pain in the ass to construct--we don't want to have to make new ones the next time we move.  I mean, we're already going to have to build new ones for the additional wall art I bought for our new apartment and that's quite enough of a job.

In other news...Tam sent this article from The Atlantic, reporting on a study showing that when controlling for the calories people report eating and the exercise that people report doing, people are still fatter by about 10% than they were in the 1980s.  Tam points out that while intriguing, the study appears to rely on self-report of food intake and exercise, and that there might be a greater bias toward under-reporting of food intake now than in the 1980s--for example, we might now have a more generous idea of what a "serving" of ice cream looks like, and that might even happen if people were asked to report intake in cups, etc.  I think that a systematic bias in reporting is a serious possibility and a limitation of the study.

The authors list three possible reasons people might be fatter now than they used to be on the same diet and exercise plan--chemical exposure, medications, and a change in gut bacteria.  As a person who's ridden the medication-induced weight-gain train (note: not a fun ride), I find it plausible that this is a contributing factor.

I don't know if I've ever said this here, but my experience of medication-induced weight gain is NOT primarily that medication "slows my metabolism" (i.e., I am fatter on fewer calories than I used to be).  It's more like, medication makes me insanely hungry and I have to eat more calories than I used to (whether I'm exercising regularly or not).  Sure, I also started noticing an uptick in my weight even while I was maintaining the same exercise and eating plan (measuring and recording everything, not guessing), which I attribute to that whole "yep, you lost weight by dieting but couldn't keep it off even when you maintained the same regimen as before" problem that the self-satisfied pro-dieting camp doesn't believe in even though a gazillion people have lived it.  (I managed to lose weight and keep it off for the more than 3 years required by that registry of successful dieters, but I did not manage it for 5 years despite maintaining my lifestyle, so, fuck that.)  But the big change happened when I changed my medication and I simply could not possibly manage on that calorie level.  These days, I think that I am somewhat fatter than my food intake/exercise would suggest (my guess is due to the combination of being older and having the post-diet weight rebound), but that the extra food intake due to greater appetite is the bigger contributor.

The kind of ass-hat who posts comments on these articles like "Calories in, calories out, thermodynamics, fat losers!1!1!!!!" will say, "Aha!  See!  It's because people eat too many calories!  If you just had willpower, you'd be fine!"  But it's a lot more complex than that (as is, you know, the biochemistry of appetite, fat storage, calorie partitioning, etc.).  I feel like it's pretty shitty to get on people's cases about being overweight regardless of the cause.  But it feels shitty and immensely stupid and almost completely lacking in empathy when the response is that fat people don't deserve to eat when they are hungry.  "Live off your fat, fatties!"  I don't know, it seems to me that for a bunch of confusing, unclear reasons, my body does not want to do that AT ALL, now more than ever.

I don't know why it's so hard for some people to believe that some overweight people eat more than they "should" because they are hungrier than their skinnier counterparts.

On a side note, when I hear these "3500 calories, do the math!" arguments around weight gain/loss, I am often reminded of the bean counter (accountant, I think) from the state who told a room of parks staff (many of whom were biology/ecology majors in college and at least one PhD biologist) that if we told them how many acres each park was, they would tell us how many lawnmowers we needed at each one.  On the drive back to our offices, our chief of staff--who was not a biologist by training; I think he was a bean counter type too but was also a terrifyingly smart guy--and I got into a discussion about that (boneheaded) idea.  I was like, "How could they possibly think that could work?  Even if every park had the exact same ratio of grassy areas to be mowed to total acreage, the vastly different rainfall we get across the state alone would completely undermine that."  And he said that he had encountered over and over again people who are good with numbers but have no understanding of biology or even an understanding of its relevance.

I think these discussion threads around calories have a similar problem.  People who can do the basic math think that's all that matters.  I think it's further bolstered by a lot of motivated reasoning, of course--it's a lot easier to feel morally superior when you think being fat is something that can be easily avoided and thus, that it's ultimately a choice that people make (see: anti-gay bigotry during the "it's a lifestyle choice" era).  And I suspect there's also a sort of scientific Great Chain of Being problem--because math and physics are higher/more important/more "rigorous"/etc. than biology, arguments based in math ("calories in, calories out!" and physics ("thermodynamics!" are given greater weight (so to speak).  Hell, that's an understatement, really.  It's more like, those are the only arguments that matter.  They don't want to hear about your leptin and your neuropeptide Y and your ghrelin and all that fuzzy "soft science" shit.  And don't even say a word about any psychological aspects of this thing.  It's about math and physics and good character (which is how they seem to view "willpower") and that's it.

And of course some people are just fucking assholes, straight up.


jen said...

I think the gray + animal print keeps it from looking x-mas'y.

So, I know that I've been lucky to have a fast metabolism as well as a natural inclination to get a lot of exercise. Being pregnant, and all the official sources saying that I'm supposed to increase my calories by X% to gain Y lbs per week to have this nice slow, linear weight gain..... uhhhhhh right. That was going peachy for a while, and then boom. My doctor is fine with the numbers and said most women do actually gain more than the official guidelines and it's ok, but it's interesting to experience firsthand the whole "I gained 5 lbs just looking at a donut" feeling. I also found it interesting that my doctor said if it bothers me, I should look at how many carbs I'm eating. She said nothing about calories, just that I still need to be eating 6 times a day and gaining weight steadily.

And that brings me to the other point..... are people getting calories from the same foods as they were before or are they, for example, getting more sugar?? I mean, a calorie isn't a calorie.

Sally said...

Jen, sorry you've been dealing with extra weight gain but it sounds like your doctor is great. At least you're getting an experience of what it's like for some people but that will be temporary (we hope).

The question about what people are eating is a great one. Other sources suggest that we eat more sugar/refined carbs now, and I wonder whether that's true as a percent of calories.

For the record, I want a pumpkin donut now ;)

Tam said...

If a person is eating a controlled diet, many many studies have confirmed that, metabolically, a calorie a calorie, and you will gain the same amount on a diet of glucose + vitamins as you will on any diet of the same calories, give or take extremely tiny differences.

But obviously in reality we don't eat a controlled diet, nor would we want to.

If we're to believe that you can only gain weight if you overeat, then theoretically a child could also intentionally refrain from adolescent growth spurts by just not eating more food than the body requires. No extra food = no growth spurt, right? And I think we can all see from introspection that that just isn't possible; nothing short of forced starvation will prevent growth.

Of course a 14-year-old's growth spurt is different from an adult person just gaining weight willy-nilly, you might think, but it's hard to know how different it is in practice, in terms of how it actually feels. The fact that tens of millions of Americans desperately want to lose weight and keep it off and yet basically almost nobody (at least nobody fat) successfully does so suggests that it can't be very easy at all.

Sally said...

Tam, thanks for the info on that research.

It's interesting--the same experimental controls that help isolate what's going on metabolically make the research basically useless as a guide for what actually happens when people eat different diets. It's like, perhaps a calorie is a calorie*.

*Under controlled conditions. May not apply to anybody's real life.

Your last point is one that really sticks with me. It is hard to simultaneously believe that there is a huge number of people who want to lose weight and that it is something people can do at all easily. The character/willpower argument is a non-starter given that the correlation between body weight and conscientiousness is pretty much zero (while conscientiousness correlates with all kinds of other positive outcomes). I always think of Oprah when that argument comes up--not because an n=1 is great data but because it's such a stark example. We're really to believe that one of the richest, most successful women in the world, who started out dirt poor, sexually abused as a child, etc. and is now a billionaire, just doesn't have the "willpower" to lose weight and keep it off? (Of course, I do not advocate Oprah's own role in further the dieting myth.) I mean, sure, OK, maybe you believe she is an "emotional eater" and blah blah blah. But she is one of millions of successful fat people...people who are successful, despite the widespread prejudice against them.

Tam said...

Yeah, Oprah is a good example. Here is someone with (apparently) strong motivation to be slender, who can pay an entire entourage of coaches, and she is still fat. Of course she also has a really stressful career, one imagines.

The last few times I tried to diet I just couldn't even make myself try it for more than a day or two. My body was like "Nope."

Back when I lost 60 pounds over a course of several years by sensibly counting calories, it was really the main thing on my mind all the time. There was some pleasure in that - it's not like it was torturous. But I did constantly think about food, exercise, calories, the plan, where I was in relation to the plan, and so on. I just don't want to do that anymore. I was also freezing cold all the time after I lost that weight - not (one assumes) because at 200 lbs I was too skinny to stay warm, but probably because my body decided to survive an apparent famine by not bothering to keep me comfortably warm anymore.

These days I have a much more relaxed attitude to food - I don't eat completely freely, but I do exercise what I think of as a sort of 'normal' level of control (eating some vegetables, not eating a whole bag of chips or having a cheeseburger and fries for dinner every day - that sort of thing). But if I'm hungry, I eat. That's what hunger is for.

mom said...

Yeah, don't eat and live off your fat! Would you believe Uncle Jim wasn't very concerned about Grandma eating regularly and complete meals because she could live off her fat. He actually said that several times to Dad. What nutty thinking!

Sally said...

It's nice to not be thinking about dieting all the time. It gives you mental space to think about important things, like bunnies.

Mom, why am I not surprised that Jim thought that. It's precisely the kind of idiocy on the health front we've come to expect. But I am a bit surprised that he said it, repeatedly. WTF.