I trust my body

The great irony is that I learned to trust my body at the point at which it was most broken.

Let’s step back a bit.

I started getting a little chubby around the time when my period started in middle school.  In high school I lost a lot of weight because my religion forbids me from eating poorly prepared food and our cafeteria food was worse than prison-grade, so I ended up doing this kind of feast and famine thing where I’d starve during the week and fill up on the weekends.  This was especially bad between when they stopped providing Total cereal in the cafeteria during junior year and before I was able to ask my parents if I could have a food allowance senior year (money was always really tight at home and I didn’t want to be a burden, plus the dorms only had microwaves and fridges for food preparation).

When I got to college I grew two inches.  People complained about the college cafeteria, but the lettuce was never brown or even yellow.  There was fish!  Nothing sat in tubs of melted grease.  Cold-cuts!  Cheese!  Whole wheat bread!  The milk was never sour.  They served juice made from actual fruit!  No, not as good as home cooking, but the salad bar alone was like heaven after years of starving.

In college I was surrounded by beautiful skinny women who were always complaining about how fat they were.  Everyone dieted.  I resisted, but somehow they got to me (I didn’t even *notice* they’d gotten to me until my first year of graduate school when someone asked why I talked about my weight so much… oh, man, I’d been indoctrinated).  I counted calories.  I ate a lot of sugary things that had no fat because the no-fat diet was in.  I was always hungry.   I don’t remember ever consciously thinking about doing this– if asked, I would have told you I was against diets and poor body images (and happy with my breast size!), and yet, I was doing what everybody else did.  And I continually gained weight.  I was my heaviest weight ever by the end of college (I can *totally* fit into my college clothing, though I don’t because styles change).

Scratch that, I was actually my heaviest weight my first year of graduate school.  BCP and depression and not having to walk very much caused me to gain all the weight I’d lost the summer between college and grad school and some more.  (I’ve seriously blocked this time from my memory.)  After getting the depression under control and moving where I had to walk more to get to school, I dropped some, but was still was heavier than the healthy weight for my height, and not because I had too much muscle.

Then we decided we were ready to have children.  I went off BCP.  I cycled once.  Then twice.  Then not again.  So I went to the doctor who sent me to another doctor.  And then another doctor because my insurance changed, and then another.  The second doctor suggested PCOS (and POF and thyroid).  The third doctor confirmed PCOS.

For a year and a half my body was broken.  Every three months I’d take a provera challenge to get my cycle started again.  I was poked and prodded and found out I had a blocked tube on top of not cycling.

During this time I found out a lot about PCOS.  I found out I’d been doing the diet thing all wrong for me.  No fat was ridiculous for my body and was the reason I kept gaining weight while always being hungry.  I cut out HFCS.  Then sugar.  Then refined carbs.  I upped my fruit, nuts, and full-fat ice cream intake.  I began snacking.  I stopped being hungry all the time.  Sweet things began to taste more sweet and I started being able to appreciate dark chocolate for the first time.  Weight started falling off effortlessly at a pound or two a week.  I stopped having mood swings.  My acanthosis nigricans went away.  I stopped being sad for no reason (other than the infertility-related reasons).  My rational mind had much better control.  Eventually I added Metformin to get the insulin under control and weight slipped off even faster.

The major thing that happened (before the Metformin) was I started listening to my body.  I started listening to my hunger.  I started noticing what foods made me feel crappy later, and what foods filled me up.  I ignored calorie counts (mostly– it’s still kind of ingrained, but now it’s more, is this an 80 calorie hunger=apple or a full 200 calorie=small meal/larabar hunger?), instead listening to my stomach and to my moods.  I learned to recognize when my  blood sugar was dipping and always had something on hand before it could get out of hand.

And listening to my body is so much easier and less stressful than adding up points or calories or trying to be the mental command-economy for my body’s caloric intake and outtake.  I don’t need a calculator, just some mindfulness.

Now, that’s not quite everything.  I still have a very addictive personality and very little willpower.  But I’m also very good at putting in commitment devices in pretty much all areas of my life.  If I’m aware of my triggers, I can keep out of their way.  For example, if there are chips in the house, I will eat them, even though I know I’ll feel cruddy later.  Same with chocolate frosted donuts.  So I don’t keep these things in the house.  I don’t buy them.  DH isn’t allowed to buy them, and if DC1 buys them they belong to hir and I can’t have any.

That’s not to say I never eat junk… but when I get a boxed lunch at work, I give back the chips right away, unless they’re cheetos (I allow myself cheetos of opportunity).  I have rules.  I only eat sweets if they pass a certain quality threshhold (chocolate chip cookies from the good bakery, yes!  from the grocery store, no!), same with pizza (local place, yes!  Domino’s, no!), and with donuts, if there’s a chocolate frosted, I’ll take it, but no other kind.  (When I was pregnant I avoided even the above because of borderline GD with the first and that nasty wheat allergy with the second– I have a lot of willpower when it’s someone else’s life on the line).  When DH bakes something, I’ll usually eat some (and he often cuts the sugar and substitutes wheat flour if applicable).  I keep a bar of Green and Black 70-85% dark in my desk drawer at all times and take a square whenever I have a craving.  I don’t deprive myself, but the junk food has to be really good for it to be worth it, and if it is good enough, then I generally don’t need that much to be satisfied.

We also do psychological things like use salad plates for meals instead of the big plates.  We take multiple little servings so we can better judge when we’re no longer hungry.  Sometimes we freeze a batch of cookies to dole them out in smaller amounts later.  Back before DC1 was so big, we’d take half of a cake we’d just made to daycare so we wouldn’t eat it ourselves.  These things help us to pause so we can listen to hunger and desire.

And no, doing these kinds of things alone probably won’t put most people at the bottom of their healthy range.  (And some of my eating needs are specific to PCOS and my body. YMMV, which is why it’s important for you to listen to you.)  Depending on how much junk I’ve been adding (because with nobody’s life at stake, and DC2 not eating whole wheat, refined carbs have snuck in), how much exercise I’ve been getting, and whether or not I’m hard-core nursing, I can be anywhere within that range, usually between the middle and the top unless I’m on metformin or the baby is getting most of hir calories from me.

But I don’t need to be super thin.

I just need to listen to my body and take care of it so that it will take care of me.

And that fits in with the greater grumpy rumblings philosophy… mindful laziness with a side order of commitment device can do great things, with health, child-rearing, even career concerns.  Figure out what works for your specific situation, set up an environment where it’s easier to achieve those goals, and change things when they’re not working.  Complete flexibility within a rigid setting.  Mindfulness creating a low mental load.  Grumpy rumblings is vast: contains multitudes.

#2 would like to remind everyone that, whether or not you would like to make food and exercise changes, a great thing to have is radical self-love.

Taming the Work Week: A review

Taming the Work Week is a short e-book by M. R. Nelson, aka Wandering Scientist aka Cloud.  In it, she makes the argument that everyone has a work limit, and that working beyond that work limit not only leads to diminishing marginal return (she doesn’t use that language), it can also lead to costly mistakes that actually create more work.

She notes that although research is clear that for early 20th century factory workers, 40 hours/week is the limit, we have no idea what the work limit is for knowledge workers.  And we really don’t.  It probably depends on a lot of factors (task mix, personal ability, etc.).  However, she provides steps for individuals to figure out whether they are working efficiently, and if not, how to work more efficiently.

It’s a short book with a lot of good tips.

Some may work better for some people than for others. For example, if you get more of your socialization at work than at home or after work, you may need that daily down-time with your colleagues interspersed with work, rather than waiting until you get home.  You won’t be as efficient or productive per-hour at work, but you’re also filling that socialization need on a regular basis.  On the other hand, if your home and social life provide a lot of social interaction already, cutting down on interruptions could greatly increase your productivity, allowing you to get out of work earlier without guilt.

Similarly, just going home when you’re not being productive doesn’t work for me because suddenly I become less productive earlier and earlier in the day as the days go on because I’m rewarding bad behavior and I have no self-control.  Instead, I need to task-switch from doing thinky research work to doing unrelated scut work like teaching prep or service.  That way I’m still being productive on stuff that has to get done eventually and I’m not training myself to leave before it’s time to pick up the kids (which is my hard deadline at the end of the day).

Nelson acknowledges these different kinds of different work styles.  Probably my favorite part of the book is where she provides some of the standard “how to be efficient” advice and points out when it doesn’t work for her and why. (Just going home doesn’t work for her either, but for different reasons.)  This added discussion of “why” really illustrates how you can think critically about the advice that’s out there to craft your own methods to improve your efficiency.

The biggest downside to this e-book is that the writing is uneven– it starts out stilted (carefully avoiding using contractions, for example), then shifts to a more conversational tone that is much easier to read.  Keep reading past the opening section or two– it’s worth it.

Your Ideal Work Day

A few years ago, get a life phd asked readers to think about what their ideal day would look like.

My ideal work day definitely does NOT include teaching or ANY emails from students.  It does, however, include research and friends.

I was at this conference when I realized I was having my ideal work day.  No students.  No student emails.  I talked to colleagues about research:  theirs, mine.  I got inspired to learn about a new statistical technique.

I saw good friends I hadn’t seen in a long time.  I ate good food.  I had time for a nap in the middle.

I met a new research collaborator and we talked about what research we do and could share.
I could choose what was most interesting to go hear talks about.  Setting my own schedule is awesome.
That is an ideal work day.

#2

I think mine would start off with me checking my email to find a desk accept.  :)  Or an R&R from a top 2 journal.  Follow it up with a request to do something relatively trivial using my expertise for a large sum of money (like reading a proposal or giving a discussion).

These ideal day exercises aren’t so useful to me because my fantasy scenarios mainly depend on things that are outside of my control (last week was not an ideal week– the summer started with two conference rejections and a journal rejection, also our unscoopable paper that coauthor sat on for two years got scooped), and because I’m pretty happy with my life as it is and trying to optimize instead of satisfice just makes me grumpy.  It may not be a perfect life, but spending time and mental energy trying to make it better tends to make it worse and take time and energy away from things that actually help my life improve.  I remember the morning that I first heard about the willpower research on only being able to make a limited number of decisions each day, I was completely useless because I’d second guess making any decision instead of just making it, thus adding to my mental load.

Now, if I were miserable or unhappy, then the amount of time thinking about what makes me happy would be totally worth it.  A little bit of introspection might be able to make big short-term changes.  Fortunately for me, that’s not where I am right now (rejections aside).  We will see what the future brings.

What’s your ideal work day?

How do you get through piles of grading?

The reward method:  Grade an essay or grade a problem and then you get to read a book chapter (or a section of a book chapter).  Sure it sounds like it’ll take longer, but it takes a lot less time than procrastinating by hitting reload on the internet for hours and not actually grading anything.  Works best with short sections (romance novels!)

It helps to be on a couch away from people and away from the computer too.  Distractions are difficult to resist when grading, so they need to be minimized.  Having a big pile (on your lap, or on both sides of you) that’s difficult to escape from also helps, but you have to remember to use the restroom between problems or else you could end up in a bad situation.

My best tip is to grade in colored marker.  Any and all colors that you love.  The benefits are two-fold: 1) it makes grading more fun when you get to play with pretty markers; and 2) it prevents you from writing too many comments, so the grading goes faster.  Students who want details can always come see me in office hours, but they rarely do.  The thickness of a marker means you have to write your comments pretty big to be legible, and not a lot of words fit in the margin.  As it should be.  If you really MUST say a lot of things (why??), then you can always use the marker to write “Come see me.”  Switch colors whenever you get bored.

#1 prefers Pilot G2 gel pens (sensuous) or colored pencils (erasable!).  But we’ve had this conversation before.

Those of you who are or aren’t procrastinating, how do you get through your piles of grading?

How do you mentor junior faculty?

Being in a promotion and tenure meeting for the first time, one learns things.

Encourage junior faculty to publish on their own — get that dissertation work out, but also start steering a more independent course from the diss advisor.  (This may vary by field.)  If in a field where multiple authors is the norm, it’s important to have papers authored with different people (as in, not just the dissertation director!).

Book-article-book-article: make a choice and stick to it.  If you can, steer the juniors towards projects that will pay off faster.  If they do choose the book option, make sure they have a realistic idea of how long (very long!) it takes for the book to be published and all the obstacles that may come in their way through no fault of their own.

Tell them it gets easier after the first semester, and definitely after the first year.  It does.  But also don’t let them think it’s ok to do nothing their first year.   Yes, designing and teaching new courses is important, but often showing improvement in teaching over time is good enough to meet the teaching requirements for tenure (and you will improve).  Giving up that precious year of getting work done and getting your name out may make your research journey more difficult in the future.  Try to help junior faculty set up a research pipeline.  Research must start on day one, or you’ll never find a way to fit it in.

Share your strategies for recruiting, hiring, and managing students, if applicable.

Strongly encourage them to write.  It turns out some of our junior faculty didn’t want to “bother” those of us with tenure, until we explicitly told them that we wanted them to come to us with questions.  We said we’d be happy to read their drafts and give feedback about writing, journals to target, etc., and they said, Really? Great!

Here at Grumpy Rumblings we’re big fans of group accountability and research meetings.  Schedule writing dates where a group will get together to work in writing for a few hours in a coffeeshop.  Or start a weekly research group or writing group where one person presents each week and gets feedback at whatever stage they need.

Talk up their work when you’re out at conferences or giving talks.  Or while talking to administrators and other important people at your university.

Tell stories about how many times your papers and grants got rejected before they finally hit.  Show them all your tips and tricks for minimizing grading time.  Share rubrics, standard email responses, syllabus rules, “secret” resources on your campus, and the names of who to ask for special favors.  Sometimes there’s unofficial money that can be used for research, travel, paying a student, etc., and you just have to ask for it.

Model decent work-life balance, if you can.  My colleagues know that I don’t work on Saturdays, ever.  You might have different rules.  Talk about your hobbies, maybe.  Tell people who are new to town where they can sign up for a belly-dancing class.  Don’t ever assume that having a baby pre-tenure is incompatible with tenure.  Or that not having a partner is incompatible with staying in a small town.  (Or any number of wrong and -ist things that are even worse.)  And stop any of your senior colleagues who suggest such a thing, especially behind closed doors in important meetings.  They are wrong and their beliefs can end up being self-fulfilling.

Defend them from student complaints, and let them know what’s going on.  Share tips to avoid the problems.

Encourage junior faculty to come to you before they take on any service activity, and steer them away from useless ones.  Someone wants you to be on a committee with contentious members that doesn’t improve your working conditions or get you a publication?  Say no!

Take them out for drinks and food; tenured people often have more money than juniors.  Help them find a cat-sitter.

Give the gift of books by Ms. Mentor.  Celebrate every time they get an article accepted.  (If you tend towards jealousy– remember, at least after you’re tenured, colleagues who are more productive than you are more likely to benefit your career than hurt it.)  Cheer their progress.  Don’t let them disappear.

 

Savvy readers, what did we miss?

Small change is ok

I can’t stop rape by myself, but I can refuse to tolerate inappropriate and disrespectful behavior from the men (and women) in my classes.  I can show students resources, and issues, and hope to inspire a new generation of activists.

I can’t fix the American education system, but I can tutor and give scholarships.  And I can fix math anxiety in my own students.  I can present them with research about the advantages of a growth mindset.

I can’t fix the problems with unwanted animals in the country, but I can donate to shelters and save a couple of kitties.  Of course, we have our own fixed, too.

I can’t feed the world, or give everybody books to read, but I can donate to the local food shelter and local book program.

While it’s true that where you live and what you drive will have bigger impacts on your wallet and on the planet than the latte factor, if the latte factor is all you feel able to address right now, start with that.

Some flossing is better than none; it’s not quite but almost as good as daily flossing.

Writing 1 sentence a day may be a suboptimal way to write a paper, but it’s hella better than waiting for the perfect time or inspiration, and sometimes it leads to an entire paragraph.  Boice is all about this with his daily sessions.  15 min of writing is better than none and leads to greater things.

All-or-nothing thinking leads to burnout, discouragement, apathy.  One thing at a time.

Snowball your debt– even small contributions will add up over the long term when you have high interest.

Instead of the bestest blog post ever, we’ll post this one now, so you can all start the conversation with us.

I sound pretty disgustingly hopeful here, eh?

Some days you dismantle patriarchy; other days, the most radical action you have energy for is turning off the TV.

What radical action did you do today?

What would make you quit a TT job mid-semester?

Just curious.

Do you know anybody who has quit a tenured or tenure-track job mid-semester.  Do you know why?  How did that work out?

We have to make a living…

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I know y’all feel me out there in academia.  This year I have the pleasure of sitting on 2 search committees and a personnel committee, all within my department, which is in between chairs, and the interim chair doesn’t respect me.  And I hate my classes.  So far, there is a temporary contrast effect where my salary keeps me from leaving, for now… but the job conditions have me on the market (and the dean, too!).

At least I got a raise with tenure… at least I got the tenure bump… at least I have tenure….

#2 notes that she starts bright and early at 8am teaching a math class!  Also, she hasn’t gotten her contract letter for the year yet.  And she has no idea how many department searches her department will be doing, but at least now she has two interim administrators in addition to the non-interim provost (still no word on the interim president).  Oh, and after she completely reconfigured her class homework assignments etc. (but before writing down the changes on paper), the university reverted her blackboard page to what it was 2 years ago, two days before her first 8am class.  Thank you university!

Commiserate in the comments.

So much to do! A busy summer ahead

OMG, I am so overextended this summer, but if I can pull it off, it will be AWESOME.

What happened, in case you’re wondering, is that I submitted a bunch of short-term grants and got three of them.  On top of that, there’s regular submitted papers coming back from journals and so on.

So I have 4 big projects that need major work for the summer.  Mentally I’m only capable of keeping track of two or three, so this is going to need extra organization.

I have:

1.  The R&R paper that is getting split into 2 papers (a small one for the journal I sent it to, and a regular-sized one for the journal I’m sending the main paper to).

2.  Restricted data project for which only I am allowed to touch the data.  I was supposed to have access to these data last summer but SNAFU FUBAR @##@.  But I have it now, and am going to need to get a no-cost extension to keep it.

3.  Pilot study needs to get done for grant proposal for big grant.  Coauthor moved slowly so we’re behind schedule.   Lab manager graduated.  New lab members.  Do not want to talk about the weeks of administrative SNAFUs.

4.  Stupid NSF thing I got added to for the $.

[update]:  #5.  Mildly crappy paper that I sent into a conference got accepted unexpectedly.  I guess I passed the threshold from being accepted too infrequently to being accepted too frequently, at least in some venues.  No more crappy submissions to this conference in the future!  It’s going to be hard getting an hour and 15 min talk out of the material.

I have a small army of RAs of varying quality to manage, including one guy who just got a low C on the final for his methods class.  Damn it.  He did well on the midterm, but ugh.  Fortunately he won’t be working the entire summer.

So, that’s my story.  I’m doing Dame Eleanor‘s thingy for #1, and I’ve got RAs to keep me going for 3 and 4 and a coauthor whose sabbatical is ending for #2.  Who needs sleep or weekends?

Do some people *want* to be miserable?: A deliberately controversial post

We’re just curious.

We see some folks do the same negative repeating behaviors over and over again and we don’t understand it.  Complaining about the same things.  And not just addictive stuff.

Sometimes they group together and encourage others to wallow too so there’s a mutual complain and enable-fest.  Sometimes they take turns.  Sometimes they talk over each other.  However they communicate though, it seems to encourage the misery rather than taking it away.

We don’t get it.  When we complain we want to vent and then to find a solution after we’ve calmed down.  We want to be happy.

We all get hit with bad things from time to time, some of us more than others.  But some folks seem to be able to manufacture their own bad luck, or to react incredibly strongly to things most of us are just mildly annoyed by.  How people react to negative events seems really important.

We want to be around people who want to be happy.  We like people who have growth mind-sets.

We understand that sometimes people have chemical depression, and we’re all for therapy and FDA-approved (and psychiatrist-monitored) pharmaceuticals as needed.  Please get professional help if you need it!

#2 would like to note that there is a time and place for shared misery, particularly in grad school and in the early tenure-track.  But there are ALSO times to stop moaning and do your writing.  Structured groups are good for this: first hour bitch-n-moan, second hour hard work, then break for snack, more work, a closing few minutes of social time, etc.  Commiseration is useful sometimes, but it must be backed up with productivity if you’re going to survive.  My good friend in grad school pointed out that we had “a culture of stress” and that it wasn’t necessarily the most helpful.

We gotta wonder though, if you’re hanging out with people who seem to enjoy being miserable, and seem to enjoy encouraging you when you’re making bad choices (that will cause misery down the road) or just being miserable (and discourage you from making choices that could reduce the misery)… why are you doing that?  And can you explain it to us?

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