Monday, June 16, 2014

Grad students and weight loss

Also from this week's C&EN, a really neat story by Linda Wang:
...Weighing nearly 300 lb by the time he was a junior at the University of Toronto, [John] Janetzko knew that his years of unhealthy eating and leading a sedentary lifestyle were finally catching up to him. He felt miserable. A friend who worked in the same chemistry research lab noticed, and he encouraged Janetzko to join him at the gym. In the beginning, Janetzko could barely jog for 10 minutes, but he kept going. Meanwhile, he was also making much healthier choices in what he ate. 
Janetzko recently shared his weight-loss journey with CNN’s “Weekly Weigh-In.” Now a Ph.D. candidate in chemistry at Harvard University, Janetzko, 24, weighs a lean 170 lb, and the only weight he’s trying to gain is in muscle mass. He continues to work out regularly and has motivated others in his research group to do the same. 
The lifestyle change has done wonders for both his self-esteem and his research productivity, he tells Newscripts. “It’s made a huge difference for me to feel more energetic, more enthusiastic, better about myself, and more confident.”...
As someone who gained (and then lost!) and then gained some weight in graduate school, it's pretty neat to see a story of someone who managed to go the other way. I think the establishment (if you didn't already have one) of an exercise routine of some sort in grad school is a really great way of promoting/preserving mental health.

(That, and staying away from the Taco Bell drive-thru window...)  

15 comments:

  1. During my miserable post-doc I spent most of my evening dinners at Taco-Bell. Mentally therapeutic but physically destructive.

    Want to lose weight forever? Go vegan like I did (Joel Fuhrman diet in particular). You will get down to HS weight and maintain it for the rest of your life. Plus, you can facilitate the implosion of Big Pharma. Huge Plus for me there.

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  2. If you want it, chemistry has the advantage of being much more physical than a desk job, to be honest this is one of my favorite things about it.

    My postdoc lab was on the ground floor, NMR was on the 4th floor and I wasn't going to waste time taking the lift or walking 10 times a day, so jogging up them it was. And in walking to work, going to mass spec and crystallography and spending all day on your feet in the lab and losing weight wasn't a problem.

    I agree with the point about exercise for mental health and creativity, it helps so much to clear your head

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  3. Yeah keeping physically active is a good plan and I think is easy with our line of work (that is working in a lab, instead of working at your desk) but make sure if you are jogging at work you do not do that while coming out of the lab, people might get the wrong idea.

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  4. I dropped from ~200 lbs to ~160 lbs in grad school. The university gym was right across the street, and going sometime in the early afternoon when there was a break in the action and my pots were all boiling away was a great way to beat the post-lunch lethargy and help me deal with the 7am-9pm days. Too bad I don't have the same freedom in the corporate world.

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  5. Good for him! I went to UofT and while I didn't know him personally, I recognize his face from around the department.

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  6. There seemed to be a good correlation between those grad students who were going to make it through our PhD program and those that picked up an exercise routine 2nd or 3rd year. The maturity and discipline to hit the gym after work went hand-in-hand with the same skills to stay focused on the long-term project with no immediate pay-out of your PhD.

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  7. Just a note: I think we should be cautious to equate "less large" with "happier." There's a lot of discrimination against people who don't fit the current slim-is-best cultural preference, perhaps particularly within the scientific fields, and this attitude does not help. See this recent article by Rachel Fox: http://chronicle.com/blogs/conversation/2014/06/17/too-fat-to-be-a-scientist/

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    1. I agree that "less large" does not necessarily equal "happier."

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    2. Bring the MoviesJune 19, 2014 at 1:48 PM

      *sigh*

      I find the obesity epidemic to be visually appalling.

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    3. Unhealthy body, unhealthy mind. Excess weight is not healthy, nor is being underweight. The same thought processes that strive for success in your work are the same that strive for success in you personal life, body included. If you are not willing to take care of your body, why would you be willing to take care of your work? I've never met a successful obese person. Slightly overweight, sure, but obese no. The only correct part of the article you posted is the Geoffrey Miller tweet.

      Discrimination based on weight while hiring is as valid as not hiring someone because they lack a degree. It points to inate problems in their work ethic.

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    4. Well I suppose no one should have ever given Stephen Hawking a chance to do science then, since he probably rarely pumps iron. Yeesh. There are all kinds of discipline, and the brilliance of one's chemistry does not equate with the size of one's biceps. To think it is is illogical - a false equivalence. Athleticism is one form of hard work paying off, and that's fantastic, but I see all kinds of red flags with this sort of 'equating body fitness with work ethic', which is unfortunately wide-spread. Good on Mr Janetzko for his hard work and success.

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  8. Probably at his (pre-grad school) weight, he might have ended up with health problems independent of people's feelings about overweight/obese people - mobility and knee problems, etc. If you're heavy enough, it's probably hard to do things other people can, and so being less heavy in that case would make one legitimately happier, whatever other people think of you.

    Of course, there are lots of people who would prefer overweight people be somewhere far far away - the head of Cleveland Clinic (I think) was quoted as saying he wouldn't hire overweight people if he could get away with it, in the same state where Scotts has gotten away with firing smokers. I love living in the workers' paradise of OH.

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    1. Yes, it's not good to reply to oneself, but.. here is source of the Cleveland Clinic quote referred to above - http://blogs.wsj.com/health/2009/08/12/should-employers-be-allowed-to-deny-jobs-to-the-morbidly-obese/

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    2. Bring the MoviesJune 19, 2014 at 3:07 PM

      As attractive as this idea is to me I realize there are not to many super-fat PhD's out there so it would not remove any significant competition for me in terms of being a well-paid scientist.

      However, the obesity epidemic spreading to China and India may improve things 20 years from now.

      I guess I'll just have to read more papers and be creative. Damn

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