Saturday, November 18, 2006

Fit or Fat

A decade ago, during a summer internship at Microsoft, I went to the intern picnic at Bill Gates's house. During a moment in his living room, I scanned his bookshelf. The right side of the bottom shelf was devoted to health and exercise. One title which caught my eye was called "Fit or Fat".

I found this title amusing, as I pictured a proper Jeeves-like man coming up and asking, "What would you like, sir? Fit or fat?" and then the reader carefully deliberating the pros and cons.


I gained ten pounds over the past two months. This is very foolish to write on the blog, because men who might want to date me will read it and decide to go ask out a skinnier woman instead. But the truth shall set you free!

I don't know the cause. I've tried to understand my body before -- why I sometimes need 10 hours of sleep and other times 5, why I fluctuate so much in weight. The analysis culminated in a three-month experiment this summer when I tracked a dozen variables daily in an Excel spreadsheet (Google spreadsheets hadn't launched yet). At the end, I excitedly graphed all the variables against each other, and ... nothing. It looked like a scatterplot.

The timing of my weight gain coincides with me starting to work out with my personal trainer Megan, though I'm sure it's not related. I must be Megan's worst example. She's often telling me about her other clients: the one who lost four dress sizes and bought her a facial as a present, the one who recently lost twelve pounds, the one who was able to go off diabetic medication.

On Tuesday, I was warming up on the treadmill, jogging with Megan standing by my side.

Me: "By the way, I weighed myself for the first time in a month. I'm now fat."

Megan: "Stop being ridiculous."

Me: "The scale doesn't lie, Megan."

Megan: "We don't know that it's fat. It could be muscle."

Me: "I did NOT gain that much muscle. Anyway, I've been following all the stuff you told me. I started eating breakfast. I run on the weekends, and I'm getting enough sleep at night. And what do I have to show for it? Fat."

Megan: "Give it another month."

Me: "Fine. One more month, because it's nice having more energy during the day."

Megan: "Good, we can see where you are then."

Me: "I'm telling you though, in a month, if I'm even fatter, I'm going back to my old habits. Because apparently, eating ice cream and never exercising works better for me."


Dave Fourputt said...

IMHO, the Weight Watchers "point system" works wonders. It will steer one towards making good meal/snack choices.

Anonymous said...

it could be muscle. honestly, do you actually feel fatter?

Anonymous said...

Hi Nin:

Don't sweat it.What's 10 pounds or so? Women wear their extra weight well anyhow. You are also more than your pounds, of course. Sure, work out. Sure, get fit. But what is it all for, Niniane? How much validation do you need?

I'm drifting towards an affection for you, based just on the person I am seeing through this blog. And I like what I see already. 10 pounds up, down or sideways shouldn't be an issue for you or anyone who cares about you.

Love from Australia :)

Anonymous said...

Oh nos! TEN POUNDS??? You are not anymore my favorite blogger! I am going to have to be reading a different blog now. Remember women: big hips -> no hits!!!

Charles said...

Actually, you look pretty cute to me. If you're interested in a 50-ish geek in Colorado, let me know.

In the mean time, though, why do you just know you haven't gained that much muscle? Are you clothes noticeably not fitting well? Where? If not, then your density much have gone up (no jokes now) and since adipose is the least dense tissue, it's either muscle or bone.

If youu're feeling well, more energy and so on, then maybe you're simply closer to your healthy weight?

Anonymous said...


It's probably more important to determine whether or not you're "fat" based on what your pants/dress size is.

10 pounds means that, if it's fat, you'd have gone up at least a dress size.

If you haven't? Then it's probably muscle.

I saw these amazing plastic models comparing the amount of space 5 pounds of fat took versus five pounds of muscle.

The fat easily took up 3-4 times the space that the muscle did.

Anonymous said...

Hi Nin,

You look exceptionally fit and healthy in the pics from Egypt! You are glowing and radiant. Clearly you are not overweight or underweight but seem just right. Why would you want to lose more weight? I think if you did you would be too thin.

Anonymous said...

Yes N is attractive, but you dorks are drooling way too much.

ArC said...

Because apparently, eating ice cream and never exercising works better for me.

Uh... maybe you were lighter then, but which of the two of you (Non-exercising Niniane vs Exercising Niniane) had a lower resting heart rate and better aerobic fitness?

And which of the two of you would be happier if you moved to a third floor office without an elevator?

Anonymous said...

"The right side of the bottom shelf was devoted to health and exercise. "

What was the subject of the other books on Gates's shelfes?

Rc, The Netherlands

Anonymous said...

If you have never seen, The Hacker's Diet ( is a nice look at this problem, because it's written by and for engineers. One of the problems it mentions is that the feedback cycle between what you eat and your body saying enough is very subtle.


P.S. Disclaimer: I don't follow the advice in Hacker's Diet.

Charles said...

Yes N is attractive, but you dorks are drooling way too much.

No we're not.

Anonymous said...

Hmph. You're more successful and wealthier (Engineer @ Google. Start date 2003. Stock price now $500/share. .yep. you're pretty goddamned wealthy) than I'll ever be in my life.

On top of that, you are every nerd's wet dream. Especially in the Bay Area with all the rice chasers around here.

I'd say measure your BMI. If it's in the normal range, I wouldn't worry about it.

Dave said...

fat weighs more than muscle..that's what I always tell myself.

Niniane said...

Thank you for all the positive comments. It's very encouraging.

I especially appreciated

1. "big hips --> no hits!" (lol)

2. the comment describing the book "Hacker's Diet", which I'm now reading online. "Programmer, Hack Thyself!". Awesome.

Charles said...

Good God, Niniane, I just looked down at the Egypt pictures and sorted out which ones were you.

Who in the world has been telling you you're fat?

They're wrong. If it's you, stop it.

Anonymous said...

Don't feel bad! That's why there are stores like Lane Bryant.

Anonymous said...

You are too bright and too sterotype-bending to fall for the cult-of-thin thing. ok, I'm one to talk. But really, it is no less harmful than the "Women can't do Math" and "Motherhood turns your brain into mush and your ambitions into lullabies" memes that are floating around. You are a woman in computing; you are a fashionable geek -- you can be a woman who cares about healthy and not about thin.

Is your endurance increasing? Are you eating healthy foods? Are you getting sick less often? That is what matters. Leave scale obsession for people who can't do more interesting Math.

Anonymous said...

Oooops!!! I know why you gained weight?! You were in Egypt for how long? You are looking great in your pictures so don’t worry about it :)

Anonymous said...

You shouldn't worry about 10 pounds since muscle is far more dense than fat. I would worry about buttaface though.

Billy said...

The Egyptian masseur was apparently interested enough in your body to tell you a story. Always listen to feedback....

besides it's small tits -> no hits ltm

Anonymous said...

This squirrel has a healthy attitude to his gain in avoirdupois.

Niniane said...

To the last anonymous,

That comic trip made me LOL.