Tuesday, October 06, 2015

self image - fat woman/healthy doctor/chubby girl

It's interesting, this self image one has for oneself. I've been trying to come to grip with myself over the years. It's been a little up and down, I'll admit. I flip between feeling ok with myself and my body, and then getting caught up into the "I should loose weight and not be happy with what I look like". And after reading certain articles on line about discrimination against fat people, thinking "I'm fat*? Do people look at me and think I am fat and won't hire me in the future?"

Part of my confusion is that I've always been body conscious (hello 13 year old me and my so called school friends). Part of it is that I, as everyone, is bombarded with photos of "perfect" people and when you compare your regular photos with these... yeah, it's hard. I don't know "where I fit". I've never been sure on "how fat" is bad, grey scale isn't my forte, and I know that I'm not thin. Ergo, I'm fat and people judge. I judge.

So, to keep on track and not get caught up in some woe is me blog post. My main concerns nowadays are to sort out how to think about my body and my body image. I've spent a good portion of the last couple of years not to focus too much on the scale - but to focus on how I feel, try feeling good and getting in shape - not focusing on 'just' losing weight. How the clothes fit**. How much weight I do when I do my biceps curls. How many punches on the heavy bag. Is plank getting easier to do. How long I can run without stopping. How fast I can run those longer distances. Focusing on what my body can do rather than being a size 6 with no flab on the tummy. And at times, looking at myself naked and feeling "well you know, not looking that bad there" and deciding to like my body - even if it isn't perfect.

Some times I can't stop the weird small commentary that is running in the back of my head though. Like the other day when I told my coworkers that I jogged last weekend, 10 km one day and 9 km the other. I felt fine the next day, no stiffness anywhere, it was quite a sensation for me to be back to my pre-injury self. I mean, I'm not a fast runner - I'm a jogger. But I do jog the whole time, slow and steady - at times even a rush. (See what I'm doing here? Making excuses, trying to explain rather than just writing one sentence "I jogged 10 and 9 km over the weekend". full stop.)

Anyhow, the saddest thing? The back ground commentary when my coworkers expressed "wow, really?", since my brain heard "oh, the chubby fat woman can try and jog?". I don't know if they find me big or small or maybe they don't even care? Hello self esteem and self image all rolled into a nice little pathetic blanket.

I know, it's my issue and I should really get over it. It's like sending some risque photos to your beau and then he dumps you. You weren't pretty enough in the pics? I usually push those comments away since I know it's my sad little corner of my brain. It's hard though, since a lot of attention is going to the "wow, you lost weight you are so good. (really means - keep the self control). And I think about that time a few years back when I was at a fairly low point (ha, both weight and mood wise), I lost weight and people kept giving me compliments that I was so healthy&good looking. Truth, I was thinner than today, I agree with that. I wasn't healthy though -  my food intake wasn't really that good, but it was low calorie. I drank a lot of caffeine. I slept very little. I had high anxiety. My blood pressure wasn't that good either (140+) But damn, I was smaller and people kept telling me that I was so good, looked good etc.

Today I'm a 12-14, it depends on the clothes and the brand. I can't really fit into my size 10 gap jeans any longer, but I do fit in the 12 size. And I can run more. So maybe I'm healthier now? Maybe I can feel half ok about my body? Maybe it's ok to not feel disgusted when looking at oneself? My blood pressure is 125/74 with a resting pulse of 53. I try to improve my running with lower heart rate and I see improvement every week. 

Why am I bringing this up to a long rant now? Because I need some help to think about this again since I recently got a fitbit, started logging my steps, stairs, active minutes and weight and all of the other fun metrics I can do. And I've lost some weight and recognize my endorphin system stating "you go girl, you can do this - loose the weight and become the size 6, you can do it! be normal and sexy". There is nothing to me as a competition. Maybe I should push for that illusive sexy woman who doesn't have the large arms but the skinny ones you see everywhere? Maybe I will feel happy then, and proud of my body?

Then I have to be honest with myself and recognize that I am quite happy (in weak moments even proud) of my arms when I pummel the heavy bag at the gym - just never liking them in photos.... And the weights I can lift. The miles I can jog and hike. The endurance I've built. There are times when I dress up in dresses or that nice pair of nudie jeans that really accentuate my butt (I've heard that it's quite ok) and look at myself in the mirror and think "you go, not looking that bad - looking good". Those small fleeting times - then I wonder if I'm completely delusional.

Oh woe is me. a whole blog post about body issues and self doubt. way to go on the introspecitve ranting as of old school. Thanks for reading. I need to go and walk those stairs at work and get my daily badge...

*the obvious is "what is fat?". According to BMI I'm sure the obese (BMI over 30) is called fat. I guess  "over weight" is fat too (BMI 25-30). Then I start thinking that anything over size 6/8 is fat. Or anything with waist measurement over 80cm is fat and unhealthy (according to some studies it's the magic number). It's clear when someone is thin, but fat? Everyone who isn't thin? Is this part of the problem? It's clear when you have a small person, but when does the scale tip?

**I can still fit into that nice skirt I wore when I was 23. You know what the small commentary part of the brain says? "so, I've always been fat, really nothing to be proud of". Gotta love it ^^ The other part of me knows that I gained weight while writing my thesis and therefore I've been up the mountain and down again so I can feel a little happy.

Thursday, October 01, 2015

disparity on views of experiments, details and interpretations of data

Since I started in science I've been trying to not have prejudice against certain types of people I meet and collaborate with. It's been working so and so. I have to admit that I have, quite often, said to myself "open mind sweetie, have an open mind maybe they do understand the idea with science and the need of details".

To make this a sweet and short post without pointing fingers, I have collected shorter key issues to explain some of my frustrations with specific instances that come up more often than I would like it to. Of course, I'm simplifying the questions and the answers but most of it is, imho, fairly general.

Do I draw conclusions from an experiment with an n=1?
If you do an ELISA, drug screening or similar in vitro screen with cells - you need at least one bioreplicate to have any idea that the data is really real. (Exception - if you have a validated GMP assay where all the parameters are locked down and specific to the conditions and cells/material you are testing. This type of validation isn't really what I see in research on an every day basis.) I personally look "is the assay valid?" (did the positive/negative control work, are the CV% working etc). Then I would wait for the bioreplicate to state "this is the result" to a larger audience and make my decisions of future research on it. And, it would be recommended to have a larger n within each run, like having triplicate wells/plates per run. In the end you have two (or more) data points from triplicates in bioreplicates, which gives you better stats and more importantly, will show you more the variability within the assays.

How do you define "one experiment - one data collection"?
If you find yourself using a complex machine (with exchangeable parts that differ every so slightly between themselves) - you shouldn't consider it the 'same experiment' if you exchange one of these parts in the middle of the run of the machine. Say for example, changing pipettes in the middle of an ELISA run or change the column in an HPLC run, or switch a pin tool in the middle of a run. For analysis reasons and data variation, you should minimize the various parameters between the experiments and keep them consistent through out the run.

How much details in written protocols involving computer programs used for collecting data and interpreting said data do you need?
Short answer: everything needed in order to replicate the experiment exactly.
Long answer: it sucks, I know. You have to write down the settings on the plate reader (double reads, single reads, wave length, columns first, row first), gating of the cells for the flow analysis, number of dips with the pin tool, number of dilutions ("in and out of the pipette") etc. A lot of this can be solved from doing the same procedure every time. A number of people I know have a generic system that they keep with every time, "I always aspirate/disperse with my pipettes 8 times when I do the ELISA". And when it comes to plate reading, the recommended course of action is to save a protocol with the settings and use the same protocol every time for the assay read. However, to not document what the settings is... let's say not recommended.

Last pièce de frustration, if you are embarking into a - for you - unknown territory and work with someone whose area of expertise is said territory..... I would highly recommend you ask questions and listen to the answers to learn new things. One of the best traits in a scientist is humility and being humble about all these details that we don't understand nor know. And that it takes team work to make progress in complex questions. Part of that team work? Listening to other people who are experts in their subfield.

There. I'm done on my soap box now. Off I go to another day in the life of a scientist :)