HL week day 5: the comparison trap

March 12, 2010

comparisons are bad.
comparisons are misleading. and comparisons can be dangerous! i remember in medical school, it was so easy to get psyched out by classmates who seemed like ALL they did was study. some just carried this impenetrable aura of absolutely maddening dedication and academic perfectionism. they would spurt out facts (or make mention of marathon-length all-night study sessions) in this totally casual way that always succeeded in making me feel like an ABSOLUTE DUMBASS.

though josh would make every attempt to convince me otherwise, i would feel guilty that i was actually enjoying my life, and panicked that i couldn’t give a rapid-fire spout-off of all of the muscles in the hand or holes in the head (um, still can’t — and guess what, it doesn’t matter! eat it, gunners).

[that big one there? that’s magnum. the rest i feel comfortable leaving for radiologists and neurosurgeons to worry about.]

so what’s my point? that i’m a dumb doctor? actually, i’m pretty certain that i’m not. anatomic ineptitude aside, i ended up doing very well in medical school and the boards — likely on par with some of the more gunner-inclined classmates described above.

but looking back, i often tortured myself with comparisons, psyching myself out regularly along the way. and i think it’s especially easy to draw all kinds of conclusions and pass judgment when you only see a little slice of someone.

i realize this may not seem like it has much to do with this week’s theme of healthy living — but oh, i think it does. because one of the things i wanted to mention was the dangers of comparisons and judgment in the HL world.

just a few common traps that come to mind . . .

common trap #1: comparing what you eat to what you see in someone’s blog and feeling bad about eating too much, too little, or not ‘cleanly enough.’ interestingly, i found myself doing this MUCH more this week when i decided to experimentally post what i was chowing down on.

the truth is? even some of the the most widely-read food bloggers admit that they don’t document 100% of what goes in. and photos can definitely be misleading — plate size, photo angle, and zoom can really change how large a portion looks on-screen.

so read food blogs for great ideas, for inspiration, and for fun. but take it all in with a big grain of (sea) salt. even if it were possible to compare, where would that get any of us? i hardly believe that i would morph into tall and ectomorphic meg by copying what went into her mouth, bite by bite. metabolisms and body types are all different, and it’s how you feel (and feel about yourself) that matters.

common trap #2: making similar judgments or comparisons about workouts/training. i cannot run the mileage that karyn regularly churns out (not many of us can!). the reasons for this are many, but include injury proclivity, time constraints, and just plain motivation on my part!

but that doesn’t mean that either of us are doing anything wrong. more is not necessarily better when it comes to exercise — again, it’s all about finding the balance that works for each individual. there will likely be times in all of our lives when we will work out more or less.

i do believe that there is a minimum activity level required for health, but almost every HL site i read describes going wayyyyy beyond that point (myself included!). i don’t mean that in a negative way — i think that most of us just work out more than the minimum necessary because we like to! after surpassing a certain basline, it’s all about enjoyment, weighing benefits/negatives, and personal preference.

and isn’t that a good thing? otherwise every running blog would be exactly the same . . . and that would be no fun at all.

common trap #3: this isn’t directly related to healthy living, but i sometimes i get emails and comments wondering about how i ‘do it all’. there is a phenomenon known as effortless perfection, a term which actually came out of the lovely dark blue institution where i spend most of my time (along with allie and caroline).

i hope it is evident from various meltdown posts that well — i don’t. do it all, i mean. if you know me in real life, you can vouch for the fact that i may write about mindfulness in the morning but have a flip-out in clinic by 10 am. i get tired and crash on the couch sometimes. my apartment is sometimes neat and sometimes (like right now) a minor disaster area.

and, there are problems and bigger issues in my life that i don’t write about.

i don’t think this makes me a hypocrite, and i really do write my posts with honesty and sincerity. i think this ‘life may be less perfect than appears’ phenomenon just reflects the fact that blogging just reveals a slice of someone — not the whole pie. and the prettier pieces are the ones that are generally more appropriate for internet publication.

i’ve loved reading your comments and input on the HL week posts (and i’ve even been better about responding 🙂 ). do you have feelings of judgment or comparison when you read these kinds of blogs, and how do you deal with them? and, on a lighter note, if you read any, what are some of your favorite healthy-lifestyle-related sites?

and speaking of pretty (ish) pictures
i have to finish what i started, right? yesterday’s adventures in food photography, coming up!

breakfast: oats, banana (stirred in), and a hearty glob of peanut butter. for those wanting to compare and keep track, i used exactly 2942.279/∞Σπ-squared grams of pb.

GLO-licious!: angela makes some delicious bars. a bit pricey, but a fun treat (LOVE receiving packages in the mail, plus i feel good supporting her!). i liked this flavor a lot.

lunch: a quick forage in the freezer revealed these forgotten favorites! 20 minutes in the oven –> fresh baked flavor.

hospital gourmet: i worked a late night emergency room shift last night (hence this later post) and resorted to caf food for dinner. and YES i brought in my (old) camera and snuck a shot! i eat this basic meal pretty much every time i am forced to dine at the hospital cafeteria. it tastes like call to me! but it’s the only semi-healthy option available that doesn’t make me want to gag. apparently, aramark does not cater to food snobs.

11 pm snack eaten between crazy cases. it was a busy night!

growth hormone + more
i got requests from susannah and kristina to discuss more about what i’ve learned about GH in preparing my talk. i definitely will — there is so much interesting science, plus a ton of ethical questions. i think i’ll wait until after i give my talk (tuesday), so look for a GH-filled post next week!

and also, very importantly:
HAPPY BIRTHDAY MOM!! i can almost say i’ve been in your life for more than 50% of it 🙂

a bread bday cake! although this loaf looks suspiciously wonder-like . . .



workout: 25 minutes yoga for runners

presentation progress report: i’d say about 2/3 done. i did make some good progress yesterday! today’s goal is to FINISH ALL OF THE SLIDES (up to the cases). it can (and will!) be done . . .


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