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Monday, December 30, 2013

twenty from the back...

Wow. Two blog titles involving ellipses out of the last three.  That's some damn lazy writing right there.

Blog readers, this is one of those posts I owe you from like six weeks ago that I'm just getting around to now.  Any day now we'll be all caught up. Maybe. I'm just saying, if I wrote and published this six weeks ago when it first started germinating in my brain, the too many ellipses in too few days problem would have been null, okay?

So.  Six or seven weeks ago, right before the birthday on which I turned 51, I was at my friend M2's house, and talk turned to aging blah blah. M2 is approximately 18 years older than I am but she is not an Old Person.  Not saying that anyone would look at M2 and say "OMG! I thought she was 40!"  I mean M2 is thin and perky, but she's also wrinkled and gray-haired.  What makes her not an Old Person is her mind and her attitude. To illustrate, the reason that we know each other is that we went to massage school together. Since we started that endeavor in 2005, if you do the math you'll see that she started massage school after the age of sixty. Anyone who goes back to school at the age of 60 to learn a whole new line of work is not someone who is, or ever will be, an Old Person.  M2 has friends of many different ages. M2 has varied interests and is in tune with the cultural zeitgeist.  M2's grandchildren are happy to hang out with her and she didn't even flip out when her eldest granddaughter went to live in India.  (I'd kinda flip out if a child or grandchild of mine went to live in India. That episode of Seinfeld is burnt into my brain, yo.)

I told M2 she is in fact one of my aging role models.  If she's almost twenty years older than I am and she's not an Old Person, then I have hope for myself. Because I don't want to be an Old Person.  I don't want to be stodgy, stuck in my ways, conservative, and disapproving. (Failing on that last one already. You should have heard the rant I went on after I was stuck on the commuter rail with a bunch of drunken 20-somethings coming back from the Kanye West show. OMG, all those girls in skirts that barely cover their asses and 5 inch heels they can't walk in.  No, honey, you do NOT look sexeh and klassy, you look like a streetwalker. Just stop.  See?  That's an Old Person rant right there.)

M2 was flattered and tickled that I consider her a role model.  And somewhere in that conversation she said something about how you just didn't want to be one of those women who look good from the back but cause you to cringe in surprise and semi-horror when they turn around. "OMG! OMG!" I said. "I have a name for that phenomenon: twenty from the back, sixty from the front!"  You see it not-totally-infrequently in the oh-so-very-klassy environs where I live.  A skinny woman in very tight jeans from the juniors department, usually sporting long bleached blond hair and accessorized with a Dunkin Donuts coffee cup and a cigarette, who looks like she just might be a hottie until she turns around and...oh. She's 30 years older than you thought she was and those thirty years have not been particularly kind.

I worry about reaching that corner. Well, without the shopping at Forever 21, the cigs, and the blond hair. I'm standing at the precipice and looking down.  I wear jeans and hoodies. My hair is below my shoulders and three weeks outta any given month, you can't see my grays.  And because I work out a lot, my body doesn't look like what most people assume a 50 year old woman's body is going to look like.  But if some 25 year old guy is checking out my butt in the Dunkin Donuts line, unless he's got a serious GILF fetish boy's gonna be pretty damn disappointed when I turn around.  I hate the thought of that happening. I mean, not that I'm interested in picking up children.  See: drunken-Kanye-fans rant.  I just hate the thought that someone would think I'm trying to look 20 and failing horribly.  I keep feeling like I need to telegraph my middle-agedness (haha) more obviously.  The last time I talked about that in here (the George Thorogood post) someone who has a stake in it told me vehemently that NO, I should not cut my hair, that it's pretty. And I'm kinda not ready to go gray until it's all gray.

So I should probably change how I dress.  Sadly, M2 cannot be my role model in this.  She dresses in a very casual, outdoorsy style, all fleeces and cargo pants or jeans with, like, Keens. Picture a perky 60-something year old in a Patagonia catalog. Totally appropriate, right? Not too stodgy, not matronly, but not too young.  But not me. At least, not me all the time, or me head-to-toe.  Sometimes I can and will do what I think of as "massage therapist drag" but sometimes I have the need to tuck my jeans into boots and wear some kind of Anthropologie boho nutjob top.  Sometimes I leave the house in yoga pants and UGGs. Sometimes I wear tight little cardigans with my jeans.  And sometimes I wear a fake leopard fuzzy coat that makes me look like someone's crazy Aunt Matilda.  M2 may have varied interests, but I have varied sartorial tastes and they're not all sane or probably, strictly speaking, appropriate.  It's times like these that I need a teenaged daughter to tell me when I really look like a douchebag.

Though I have to say, the other day a young woman in the CVS parking lot opened her car door to tell me how cute my UGG cardy boots are, so maybe a teenaged daughter would just encourage my worst instincts. I dunno.

Being the dear friend that she is, after that conversation M2 sent me a birthday card saying that I'm still twenty from the back, twenty from the front.  Your friends will lie to you, y'know?

Readers: tell me. What should a woman in her 50s be wearing if she can't carry off Full Patagonia Catalog


Sunday, December 29, 2013

a book i didn't hate!

I know, I know, I generally only review books I loathe so you guys can listen to me froth and snark and bitch and eye-roll.  But since I've actually recommended this one to other people and it's kinda sorta blog-topical, I'm going to break with tradition and write a positive review.

Oh, Andrea, what the hell book are we talking about?  This one, kids:

Disclaimer: I love this pop science shiz, but I'm well aware when reading it that the author could be citing all the studies that support his thesis and ignoring the ones that don't and that if you're not in the field yourself you'd have no idea.  Mr Epstein, however, seems pretty good about presenting conflicting opinions and data and saying hey, there are only a few experts in the world studying x and they disagree with each other, so I was lulled into believing what he told me.  You all can read and judge as you want.

The most fascinating part of this book for me were the tidbits sprinkled throughout about what physical attributes make a person world-class at any given sport or athletic activity. It's not always what you'd think. For instance, do you know what trait all major league hitters have in common that sets them apart from the general populace?  I'm a huge lifelong baseball fan and it never occurred to me. Hint: it's not anything that can be improved with HGH or any other performance-enhancing drug.  Likewise, what kind of body do you need to succeed in the NBA? If you're sitting at your computer saying, "you need to be 7 feet tall, Andrea, duh," you'd be only half right. Yes, most NBA players are freakishly tall, but more than that, they have freakishly long wingspans.  Even for very very tall people, they have longer arms than normal.***  According to the book, this helps explain the racial disparity in pro basketball. Black people, as a general rule, have longer limbs compared to their torsos than do white people as a general rule.  As one of the scientists quoted in the book said puckishly, it's not so much that white men can't jump, it's that white men can't reach.

I guess I should mention that, yes, the book delves into why certain racial and ethnic groups seem to excel at certain sports and acknowledges that that conversation is uncomfortable for a lot of people.  You can't really deny it out of some kind of misguided political correctness. There are a lot of blond Scandinavian people, but not all Scandinavian people are blond. There are a lot of short-limbed Eastern European people, but not all Eastern European people have stubby legs compared to their torsos like yours truly. Those who do, however, are optimized for the sport of weightlifting and this is part of why Eastern Europeans kickass in international oly lifting. There are physical, genetic differences between people of West African and East African ancestry which explain why Ethiopians win all those marathons but the greatest sprinters in the world are Jamaican.  Actually, the Jamaican sprinter thing is fascinating and the book has a whole chapter exploring the controversy about why Jamaica? and particularly why a very small area of Jamaica?

Moving away from world class athletes to the rest of us, another fascinating study the book references took a bunch of normal people of varying ages and fitness levels and put them on a highly-controlled aerobic training program aimed at increasing their VO2 max for x weeks.  Some people made huge gains. Others made...none.  And it didn't correlate with how good you were to start with.  Some people with great VO2 maxes made huge progress. Some made little. Some people with crap VO2 maxes improved a lot, some didn't.  (And--this killed me--there were/are some people walking around in everyday life who never trained a day in their existence, who basically can and do sit on the sofa eating Pringles and playing World of Warcraft and when you measure their VO2 max, it's extraordinarily good. We hate these people, right? I mean, just a little. C'mon now.)  There was also a similar study done with strength training that showed similar results: put a varied bunch of regular people through the same training program and some gained a whole bunch of strength and muscle and others, not so much. What gave me pause with that is, they controlled the training but they didn't control the nutrition (or at least didn't report controlling the nutrition). So, from my perspective, it's entirely possible that the people who didn't make gainz just weren't eating enough calories and/or protein while the people who did were. Eat to grow! It makes me wonder if there's some similar confounding factor in the VO2 max study that affected the people who didn't improve and I myself just don't know enough about running/aerobic training to know what it could be.

Anyway, I could go on all day talking about interesting shit I read in this book, but instead I'll just suggest you buy and read it yourself.

BTW?  What all major league hitters have in common?  Better than 20/20 vision. You need extreme visual acuity to pick up the ball the second it leaves the pitcher's hand, register its position, and the position of the seams on it, etc, to then unconsciously draw on the database in your head built up from many many years of practice and study to almost instantaneously figure out where that ball's gonna be when it reaches the plate. All the practice, study, and lightning-quick reflexes in the world ain't gonna do shit for you if you can't see the minute details on that baseball when it's 90 feet away.


***The takeaway being, if you as a parent are trying to decide what sport to nudge your offspring towards and they're always outgrowing their sleeves before anything else, buy them a hoop and a ball and in 15 years maybe they'll be buying you a Mercedes and a new house. It's worth a shot, eh?

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

...and your food looks like chit...

Feliz Navidad, kids! Hope whatever holidays you do or do not celebrate, the end of December is treating you well.

Now that the seasonal pleasantries are out of the way, let me ask all y'all a question.  Did you know there are entire forums on the internet devoted to mocking, snarking on, and generally critiquing other people's blogs?  I was sorta, kinda vaguely aware of this in the way I'm aware there are Christian dating sites or places on the interwebs where you can* go to hire a hitman.  I'd heard of it but never really felt compelled to visit, y'know?  

But fairly recently, I rectified that lapse in internet completism. Well, as far as the blog-snarking boards, not the Christian personals.  (And as far as the hitman-hiring goes, I'm staying mum. That doesn't mean some people shouldn't watch their backs. Ahem.)  Do you know what is prime capital for internet blog-snarking? "Healthy Living"/fitness blogs.  Like this one, I guess, though I have never ever claimed to have good health habits or to be some kind of model of clean living.  Having to regularly use the Fourth Macro (alcohol, duh) when logging one's food kinda craps all over that possible claim, amirite?  But if you were going to slot MMINAE into a category, that's where you'd probably stick it, the category of mildly-amusing-sarcasm-and-mouth-frothing-rants-with-sucky-underwear-pics-of-old-women being a little too overly specific.

I won't even tell you what the google image search was that returned that^^^ but I had to use it even though it's completely irrelevant to anything in this blog post.  Cat in a babushka, c'mon now.  

Where was I? Oh, yeah.  Healthy Living blogs=endless source of mockery fodder.  And one of the greatest generators of lulz is what healthy living bloggers eat and, oh yeah, post recipes for and pictures of.  Any of y'all who've been around the block a few times will recognize the clean eating staples. Kale, oats, quinoa, egg whites, chicken breast.  Cauliflower "pasta".  Protein powder and Quest bars.  (Shut up.)  Bloggers who eat these things are routinely accused of having eating disorders (and to be fair if that's *all* you eat, yeah, you may have, at best, orthorexia) and their pictures of the above are often responded to with a cute little vomiting emoticon and comments that their food looks like shit.

Oh, so many feels.  You guys know that along with the wine and the fudge-covered Ritz crackers, I have been known to eat--frequently--concoctions fondly referred to as proats and sludge, even though I rarely subject you to photos of the same.  Yes, mixing protein powder into other foods or using it to bake with may sound gross. It may well be gross. I don't do it for the taste, that's for sure.  But what the people mocking it may not understand is that if you lift weights semi-seriously to seriously, you need more protein than the average person (.8-1g/lb of bodyweight or, for me personally at least 92g protein a day) and unless you're willing to eat way more chicken breast and egg whites than I am plus forego the wine and beer calories, it's hard to meet that macro and stay at maintenance or below calories without resorting to adding protein to other non-protein foods.  When I'm bulking, yeah, I can eat waffles for breakfast knowing I have plenty of calories left to fit all my protein in later in the day.  When I'm dieting, not so much.  I gotta eat those proats for breakfast instead. If I'm gonna "waste" 300 calories by 9am, they've gotta have the 25-30g of protein in 'em. Is that disordered?  I dunno.  I kinda think it's eating for your sport, much in the same way endurance athletes need to eat lots and lots of carbs.  But no one's gonna mock them for eating waffles for breakfast on a day they run because...waffles!  Believe me, I wish simple carbs were all I needed to eat to build muscle but sadly that's not how the human body works.

Now, saying that proats look vomit-worthy? Well, um, yeah. Is there any way to photograph any kind of oatmeal and make it look delish? I mean, I personally think oatmeal *is* delish, but it's gruel. It looks like gruel no matter what you do to it.  Just because it doesn't look pretty doesn't mean it's not awesome. It's got a great personality, all y'all.  I mean, yes, I guess I understand mocking the posting of pictures of gruel and/or mocking fawning blog commenters who say ZOMG, that looks mouthwatering! to pictures of said gruel.  But just because food isn't gorgeous-looking doesn't mean it doesn't taste good or isn't nutritionally worthwhile.  

Does this all sound crazily defensive?  I'm not saying that there are not a lot of people in the fitness blogosphere who are disordered as hell.  I'm not saying there isn't a crapload of mock-worthy behavior out there, my own included. (The fact that I go months weighing and logging just about every morsel of food that goes in my mouth? Totally mock-worthy and borderline disordered.  The only thing that makes it not completely disordered in my opinion is that, sweet baby Jesus, I can and do take a break from it periodically and I'm rolling my eyes at myself every time I put something on that goddamn food scale.)  I'm just saying that there are good reasons some people eat shiz that may look and sound to you like it's OMG groce. WILL NO ONE THINK OF THE CHILDREN MY MUSCLES????????  

You think that shiz^^^ grows itself? God.


*allegedly, allegedly