A few things

1, I am feeling sort of “stuck” these days and it’s getting to the point where it’s pissing me off.

2, A comment in the spam filter got me giggling when it talked about how I might not lose much weight if I exercised but if I were to start exercising I would lose fat in my muscles.   Because OF COURSE I have a menu item on “Exercise” because I absolutely never ever exercise, and OF COURSE losing fat is the only valid reason to exercise.  Improved endurance, strength, balance, cardiovascular system — those are unimportant.  (Or maybe they’re only important for men, whose bodies have utilitarian uses?  Not sure.)

3, Lose fat in my muscles.  Oy.  I don’t think I’d actually heard that one before.

4, This piece on Mike & Molly isn’t bad in how it discusses fat people on TV.  No idea if Mike & Molly is really any good.

5, Naafa linked to a post on obesity’s role in healthcare inflation (short form: not much).

6, I liked this piece on frequent traveler and business owner Lisa Welchman, and how she copes with stress through meditation.

7, I’m bored with my yoga DVD and the man of the house is watching some new show on the main TV, so I’m going to see if I can convince the old TV to talk to the VCR again so I can do an aerobics tape.   It may be time to find a way to transfer the VHS stuff I can’t get on DVD to my computer.

Sleep-Deprived Teens May Pay A Hefty Price

That’s the title of this piece on Yahoo! news about teens who sleep less eating more fats.  (Eating more fat = the “hefty price”.  Geddit?  Amazing how reporters think nobody’s ever made a fat joke before them.)

In the study, adolescents who slept fewer than eight hours on a weeknight consumed more of their daily calories from fat and fewer calories from carbohydrates than teens who slept eight hours or more. […]

However, the researchers note that their study only shows an association and cannot say for certain whether sleep loss did in fact cause the teens to eat more fatty foods.

The correlation between sleep dep and weight gain has been noted before.  (So’s the correlation between weight gain and stress.  And sleep deprivation is also linked to stress.)   Whether it’s the 2.2% increase in fat intake doing it or not is unclear.

But what had me rolling my eyes was the speculation on why this might be.   Sleep deprivation’s effects on hormones?  Being up longer might provide more time to eat?  The time of day that one is eating might have an effect? Seeking a boost in “reward-seeking behavior”?   I wonder if the researchers ever were sleep-deprived as teens.  I certainly was; I remember the fatigue, falling asleep in class, feeling like I’d never be rested.  I also remember that food would give me energy.  Energy to finish my homework, energy to get through gym class, energy to walk home from school, energy for my after-school cleaning-woman job.  Caffeine was my friend too, but it worked much better with food.

When I was on a diet, of course, I was even more tired—and thus craved food even more.  I’d skip breakfast, have a salad for lunch, and wonder why I was so exhausted at dinnertime.  By college I’d routinely stop for a snack on the way home from work.  Two-packs of Hostess cupcakes; a Twix bar; a single-serving bag of Bugles;  I loved them all, even as I was ashamed of what I then considered binges. (Now that I’ve learned more about eating disorders, I realize that while I might have been “cheating” on my diet, those weren’t binges.)

It’s frustrating, though, that the article doesn’t mention other effects of sleep deprivation: cognitive impairment, increased risk of occupational or automobile accidents, high blood pressure, impaired immune systems — all of which are much more serious to me than being fat.  Or that many teens naturally have a later “sleep phase” than younger kids or adults, which makes it harder for them to get to sleep earlier.   Maybe those weren’t in the press release.

Music Monday: Still Catch the Tide

I first discovered Talis Kimberly’s song Still Catch the Tide (lyrics) on Seanan McGuire’s album Stars Fall Home.   The album version features harp, flute, violin, and guitar, and it’s one of my favorites for yoga. This video is of a live performance that’s a bit of a faster tempo…which is likely appropriate for a Monday morning. :)


From left to right: SJ Tucker playing drum; Michelle “Vixy” Dockrey; Seanan McGuire; Tony Fabris; Amy McNally (fiddler).

There is something about this song that I find incredibly calming.  I think that’s why I’ve been listening to it a lot lately ;)

Trivia: Seanan also drew two comics about this song, Logic Problem and The Selkie’s Suitcase.

(Yes, Seanan McGuire is an artist.  And a singer/songwriter. And the author of the Toby Daye books.  Oh, and her book Feed was recently published under her open pseudonym Mira Grant.  Seanan is bit of a polymath. I suspect she doesn’t sleep much.)

Coffee at Lunch?

The “coffee drinkers are less likely to have diabetes” idea has popped up again, this time focused on those who have coffee with lunch.  From the abstract,

[T]he hazard ratio in the highest category of coffee consumption [≥3 cups (375 mL)/d] was 0.73 … in comparison with no coffee consumption. This inverse association was restricted to coffee consumed at lunchtime (hazard ratio: 0.66 …) when comparing >1.1 cup (125 mL)/meal with no intake.

.73 or .66 on an observational study doesn’t seem all that huge.  What struck me was how the lower chance of diabetes was associated with women who drank coffee at lunch.  Generally when I have coffee with lunch, it’s actually at the end of the lunch — a sign that I have time to de-stress a bit more and relax.  Stress is known to influence blood glucose levels in non-diabetics as well as diabetics….

But is my experience (coffee with lunch meaning de-stress time) what most people experience?  Or is it really something in coffee?  Right now, there’s no way to know — and I doubt this is going to be double-blind tested anytime soon ;)

Flying While 400lbs

I wasn’t going to write about Kevin Smith being bumped for fatness because I felt like I’d written enough already on airline stuff.  But I’ve been contributing to the Kevin Smith thread at Shapely Prose.  Then tonight I wrote up a huge long comment on my airline experiences at We Are The Real Deal and … it’s a post in itself.   So.

Observations:

  1. Per the airline definition of “fit” (armrests down with seat belt on) I can “fit” in a single coach seat. This is partly because I have an “apple” body shape. It’s not comfortable — compression occurs — but it’s doable.
  2. My shoulders are pretty wide, though. When I last flew in a single coach seat (2 and 3-hour flights, same clothing size as now) I’d get a window seat and lean on the bulkhead to keep my shoulders and elbows out of my neighbor’s  way.
  3. It’s very possible that I could end up next to someone (a gent with very long legs who’s “straddling” the seat ahead to keep from crunching his knees?) who has to touch my fat thigh and risk fat cooties.  Or who also has wide shoulders and keeps brushing mine.  Or I might get reassigned to a middle seat between people who don’t want to brush my shoulders.  If they complain about me, what do you think is going to happen?  I buy a second seat or get bumped.
  4. The man of the house is slimmer in the hips and fits into a coach seat much easier than I…but his shoulders are wider than mine, and has much more difficulty not brushing his neighbors’ shoulders…
  5. Which makes me wonder why hips that don’t fit into 17″ are a huge problem, but broader than 17″ shoulders are fine. This couldn’t possibly have anything do with broad shoulders being a desirable trait among men, could it?
  6. I have been known to book 2 coach seats for a cross-country flight, primarily for my own comfort. Once was with United, in 1996, before United had its “passengers of size” policy. The more recent times were with Alaska, last fall and in 2004.
  7. I’ve never had a travel or airline website allow me to book 2 seats for 1 passenger.  I’ve always had to call the airline directly. Each time I’ve ended up on hold while the agent looks up how to book 2 seats for 1 person.
  8. Each time I’ve bought multiple seats, I’ve been cautioned that they might not be together when I fly. (??) Yes, even when purchasing as a “passenger of size” policy — the policy which says big people must buy two seats? after telling the agent I weigh 400 freaking pounds? — I’ve been told this.
  9. Cassi commented on an earlier post that she had purchased two seats in advance and was told “Oh, we’re overbooked, so we’re bumping your empty seat” at the gate.
  10. There are reports of people flying to one location in a single coach seat with no problems, but being told they have to buy a second seat to get home. Or to take their connecting flight. In other words, the policies are applied inconsistently.
  11. I also sometimes fly first class. The seats are still tight, but they are more comfortable, especially for my legs and shoulders. (I wear a 30″ inseam.)
  12. I don’t fly often. Yes, I can afford to buy an extra ticket or even fly first class (first class on Alaska is often not much more than 2 coach seats – unlike many other carriers).  But it is an optional expense, and I usually opt not.  I’ve gone years between flights.
  13. My current job doesn’t require travel. I’ve traveled for business before (wearing the same clothing size as now) and it’s not bad, but that was before the “passengers of size” policies. I’d hate to be stuck in an airport explaining to my boss I’d been bumped from a plane as “too fat” and that I’d need an extra ticket to get home.

Conclusions?

Airlines really want the problem of people who don’t fit to a) go away or b) get monetized. If there’s a complaint, the fat person is kicked out and made to pay a penalty. If there’s no complaint, then they ignore it. This capricious and inconsistent application of the policies is one of the biggest problems I have with such policies.

If you haven’t flown lately, how do you know in advance whether you’ll fit?  Sure, you can take a tape measure and start measuring seats, but unless you have a 17″ (or 17.5″) wide seat with armrests at home or work or otherwise readily available (movie theater?) you may not know.

At the same time, airlines don’t see any reason to make it easier for people to book two seats. And remember, just because you paid for two seats doesn’t mean you’ll actually get them. (Again: capricious and inconsistent. It’s like a theme or something.)

“Passenger of size” policies do make it possible to get a refund.  I did receive my refund from Alaska for my most recent trip.  But finding the form to let me request it wasn’t easy, and the people answering the customer service lines didn’t seem to know how it works either.

Some airlines are also advertising “premium coach” or “business” seats that have extra legroom. They get more money and “Hey, we have an option for tall people!”

Finally: If you haven’t read Kate’s Broadsheet piece on flying while fat, I suggest you do.  (And as always, sanity watchers warning on the comments.)

Time for what?

This year I was able to take off one day a week from work in December, along with the time between Christmas and New Year’s.

Which means this is my first full work week in  over a month.

I happened to run across this last night, in Kathleen Norris’ book The Cloister Walk:

In our culture, time can seem like an enemy: it chew us up and spits us out with appalling ease. But the monastic perspective welcomes time as a gift from God, and seeks to put it to good use rather than allowing us to be used up by it. A friend who was educated by the Benedictines has told me that she owes to them her sanity with regard to time. “You never really finish anything in life,” she says, “and while that’s humbling, and frustrating, it’s all right. The Benedictines, more than any other people I know, insist that there is time in each day for prayer, for work, for study, and for play.”

Of course, from what I’ve seen of monastic schedules, they often have less time allocated for work and commuting than is common for those of us with “normal jobs”.  But they also make time for their priorities, with an overall goal of balance.

What do you make time for?  What do you want to make time for, and what do you want to NOT spend time on?

Side Benefits to Exercise

…and I’m not saying anyone has to exercise.   Goodness knows a lot of the “Exercise Shoulds” do nothing but spoil the party.  But as I’ve tried to let go of the Shoulds and exercise for my own reasons, I’m discovering some things I didn’t expect.

  • I’m generally sleeping better.
  • Less low back pain.
  • Walking or aerobics tends to get rid of my nervous energy; I find weight lifting and yoga both help me meditate.  Both cause stress to dissipate.
  • I often get semi-“alone time” with some favorite tunes.
  • I usually have a warm, relaxed feeling after a workout.

My muscles get warmed up and feel happier, though I wouldn’t call it a “runner’s high”.  Perhaps that’s because I’m not a runner.  Or, to quote someone who was a runner and eventually a racewalker:

I’d spent the previous two decades ingesting various mood-altering substances, and I damn well knew what it was to be high, and that you couldn’t manage it by running around in circles.

Lawrence Block wrote that in his engaging memoir Step by Step. I certainly don’t have grounds to disagree with the man.  :)

I also want to note that feeling good when exercising is only something I’ve found when I’m choosing to exercise, myself — not when I’ve been pushed to exercise (by teachers, by parents, by other relatives).   Let’s face it, it’s hard to feel GOOD when you’re feeling BAD about not losing weight.  If your emotions are on overload you may not necessarily notice how your body feels when moving around.

What about you?  If you choose to exercise, do you find yourself reaping benefits you didn’t expect?

Mixed Links

A nice piece on beating stress & angst

Contraceptive pills may reduce or prevent muscle growth.

From an article on being fat and fit

As long as people see physical activity primarily as a way of losing weight, they are unlikely to keep it up, either because it doesn’t achieve that objective quickly or because they think they have to lose weight before they can take up serious exercise […] the benefits of being fit are usually greater than those of weight loss.

Finally, as Kate Harding twittered, Trolls Aren’t New.  But before email they had to, you know, find paper and stamps.  :)

What I’m Reading…

An article on public policy vs academic research tackles salt, but I wonder if the same thing could not be said about dieting. 

If you were an academic researcher, you’d have to persuade your institutional review board that you had considered the risks and obtained informed consent from the participants. […]

But if you are the mayor of New York, no such constraints apply. You can simply announce, as Michael Bloomberg did, that the city is starting a “nationwide initiative” to pressure the food industry and restaurant chains to cut salt intake by half over the next decade. Why bother with consent forms when you can automatically enroll everyone in the experiment? 

Meanwhile, CNN reports on a correlation between insomnia and high blood pressure.   (Funny how articles on insomnia always make me worry about getting insomnia… which can make it harder to get to sleep … and stare at the clock all night … until I move it so I can’t see it from the bed … okay, I’ll quit pulling your leg now ;)

Chronic Stress Tied to Obesity? Hey, Let’s Make Them Thin…

So I was reading about a study that says kids of families with chronic stress were maybe a little more likely to be fat and wondering what else there is about chronic stress and being fat.   I run into: 

Researchers found a molecule the body releases when stressed called NPY (neuropeptide Y). NPY appears to unlock certain receptors in fat cells, causing them to grow in both size and number.

But the good news is that by blocking those Y2 receptors, researchers say they may be able to eventually develop new drugs to combat stress-related obesity. 
WebMD 

Because the worst thing about chronic stress is that it might make someone fat.   Nevermind what other damage chronic stress might be doing OR the other fallout from whatever’s causing the chronic stress (unemployment, underemployment, debt, crime, sick family members, abusive family members, racism, sexism, overwork) … no no no, the REAL problem is OMG TEH UGLY FAT!!!!   *headdesk*

Optimism

It’s getting tougher these days to think of the glass as half full rather than half empty, but if you’re going to survive this economic crisis – literally – you might as well try. – Time

Optimism.  This can be hard when 2 people you know lost their job in the last week and a third got a layoff notice.  Or when everyone’s ready to throw their fat panic all over you.  Or when people start talking like keeping a “positive attitudealone will keep you from getting sick or dying.  Next thing you know, people are saying things like, “Well, she was always so negative. No wonder she’s sick.” 

So what has been found?  Most recently, some researchers found the women they identified as optimists lived longer than the ones they identified as pessimists.  They also found that those who were more “mistrustful”, or “cynically hostile”, were more likely to die than those who were less “cynically hostile.”   

But what does this mean?  Well, first off, this is correlation, not causation.  The optimism may be directly affecting longevity, or it may be affecting something else that affects longevity, or the optimism and longevity may be both caused by other factors.   

Some speculations: 

What it’s not is magic. Optimism doesn’t prevent bad things from happening.  

Sure, if being optimistic makes you happy, go for it.  I tend to care about it a bit myself* because of my own history.   But I also think that being worried about not being optimistic enough is probably counter-productive. 
 


*One of the main reasons this story caught my eye is that excess stress and pessimism tends to push me toward clinical depression.   So I tend to keep a mental eye on my mood and to make sure I give myself time to laugh, to unwind, and to look on the bright side.  Call me crazy, but I like not being depressed.  :)

Bad Marriages Tied to Metabolic Syndrome, or Depression?

You may have seen this article about depression and “metabolic syndrome” being tied to unhappy marriages.  Or to be more precise: 

While both men and women in “strained” unions, those marked by arguing and being angry, were more likely to feel depressed than happier partners, the women in the contentious relationships were more likely to develop high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high blood sugar and other markers of what’s known as “metabolic syndrome,” aid study author Nancy Henry, a doctoral candidate in clinical healthy psychology at the University of Utah.

Part of me wonders if this means that governments are going to push marriage counseling at the same rates that they push diets.  (boom-tish!)  

Part of me wonders if this might actually say something about how women and men respond differently to stress.  The press release states that according to co-author Tim Smith,

[T]he endocrinology of depression’s psychological stress may explain why the five risk factors that comprise metabolic syndrome fit together. 

He hypothesizes that perhaps “the hormonal effects of stress are why you are depositing fat [around the waist], why your insulin resistance goes up, why your lipids and blood pressure get out of whack. Part of the reason these things may be clumping together is because they are part of an unhealthy body response to stress.”

Considering I averaged a ~30lb weight gain with each major depressive episode (without antidepressants) I kinda wonder if there may be something worth further research here.

De-stressing

Work was stressful today.  I came home feeling out of sorts.  Mentally I was punchy; I knew my thinking was a bit slower than usual, but I was still obsessing about work.   Physically I was wired – not only was I was busy enough at work that I ‘d forgotten my afternoon walk,  but after dinner I’d sampled the candy my coworkers brought in.  I wasn’t sure I’d even sleep tonight. 

An hour later I felt quite calm and relaxed.  What happened?  

  • I vented some of the stuff that was frustrating me with the man of the house.  His reassurance helped me to let go of some of the frustration. 
  • I did my weight-lifting routine.  Lifting heavy things is a good way to tire some muscles.   I also find the process of lifting weights ( focusing on engaging each set of muscles & counting reps) to be similar to meditation in how it calms my mind.  
  • I held some yoga poses, 5-10 breaths each – cobra, side twists, child pose, cat/dog pose.  Again, the focus and movement was helpful. 
  • Stretches – sides, hamstrings & quads.   

By that point I felt much better.  Not only relaxed, but centered and at home.  Since then I’ve sipped a glass of white wine while I visited the Shapely Prose community site & written this post.  Now it’s time for a bath & bed. 

 Since the worst kind of stress is chronic, the key is to focus on stress relief every day, and not just on weekends, say stress researchers. – NY Times

How do you like to de-stress?

Why I Should Go to Yoga Tonight…

… even though I’m probably going to want to skip it just on general “it’s my Monday I want to go home and collapse already” reasons.

More than 1,000 studies have been conducted to determine whether yoga helps people suffering diseases. Here’s a sample from the medical literature:

Depression: Patients diagnosed with depression showed significant reductions in anger, anxiety and neurotic symptoms after completing yoga classes, according to researchers in California, Russia and Italy.

Cancer: Cancer patients reported an improvement in overall well-being after practicing yoga, researchers in Canada found. In addition, a group of postmenopausal women who had been diagnosed with breast cancer reported to Duke University scientists that they had fewer hot flashes, slept better and felt less tired.

Diabetes: People with metabolic syndrome, often a precursor to diabetes, took 90-minute yoga classes over 10 weeks and reported having higher energy, lower blood pressure and improved well-being compared to others who did not take the classes, California researchers reported.  —  Yoga’s Stress Reduction Helps Alleviate Other Problems

I actually started doing yoga in college with Raquel Welch’s book on yoga. (It is not exactly body accepting and includes the usual diet advice, which is why I’m not linking to it.)  Even then I found yoga relaxing and energizing.  It also helped me improve my strength & flexibility.  Since then I’ve worked with a couple videos, another book, and even ventured into actual classes. Continue reading

Is fat hysteria damaging?

Well, now, let’s think about this. Besides the negative affects of weight bias, besides the negative effects of the resulting stress, besides the fact that trying to lose weight often results in gaining more, there’s this little gem:

[I]n one 1960s test, when hospital patients were given sugar water and told it would make them vomit, 80% of them did. – WSJ

This is called a “Nocebo result“: The patients’ belief causes the problem they expect to have.  (House fans may recall an episode about it.)

Patients with asthma were divided into two groups. One was given a bronchoconstrictor, which ordinarily makes asthma symptoms worse, and told that it was a bronchodilator, which normally improves the symptoms. This placebo suggestion reduced their discomfort by nearly 50%. The second group was given a bronchodilator and told it was a bronchoconstrictor. The nocebo suggestion reduced the drug’s effectiveness by nearly 50%. – Harvard Health Letter

This is not a psychiatric disorder.  “It’s the way the mind works,” cites an expert in the WSJ.  The WSJ’s article focuses on whether reading about a drug’s possible side effects can lead to a nocebo result: If you are told that a drug can cause headache, and you get a headache while taking it, is it the drug, nocebo, or just a headache you’d have had anyway?

I can’t help but wonder: If a fat person is told she is unhealthy over and over, could that lead to a Nocebo result?

A possible example of nocebo effect on coronary disease has been teased out of the famous Framingham study (a massive longitudinal study that began in 1948). Elaine Eaker and her colleagues found that women who said they were more likely than other women their age to develop heart disease were in fact twice as likely (over a 20-year period) to experience myocardial infarction or coronary death, even when the results were controlled for variables like smoking, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. – Salon

So, what to do?  Well, I don’t know exactly what will work.  But I have some ideas.

  • Be skeptical of anti-fat hysteria.
  • Do things that you enjoy that improve your own health.  Vesta at Big Fat Delicious enjoys walking.  I like to do yoga and lift weights.
  • When you do deal with doctors, become involved in your own health.  Ask questions. Don’t take “Well, you’re fat” as a diagnosis.

Other thoughts?