Monday, January 7, 2008

Laws Of Physics: Part Two

My wonderful husband gave me some delicious chocolates for the holidays. Last week, I probably consumed a great deal of calories in chocolate that would be above and beyond my normal intake. There are also some weeks when I'm not feeling well, and I eat less than half of what I normally do. However, no matter what food I eat, and how much I do or don't exercise, my weight remains very stable. I have not gained weight in years, actually.

"But Rio," you say, "What about the laws of physics? Shouldn't you gain more weight when you eat more, and lose weight when you eat less? That doesn't make sense!"

Ah, the laws of physics. Every fat-positive's favorite square on the bingo card. Folks seem to think that bringing up *~Science~* will end the argument. They think knowing a little something about physics means that we're lying about what we eat and how much physical activity we have. Please note, that these same folks clam up when I point out that my thin husband eats three times as much as I do, the same food that I do, and (up until recently, due to work changes) generally got as much physical activity as I did--often less, depending on how many jobs I was working at the time. I often find myself staring mournfully at the open refrigerator, wondering what happened to leftovers that would have given me meals for several days, as they have disappeared within a day.

I don't begrudge my hungry sweetie a single bite, honestly; I'm just finding it hard to cook enough food to keep up with his metabolism!

There, I said it, the magic word: Metabolism.

Brian's body burns up a tremendous amount of energy while he does everyday activities. The same activities require far less energy from me, even accounting for differences in health. I can go a longer period of time without eating than he can; he becomes lightheaded and tired without a constant food intake. My husband is more like a shrew in this regard.

Shrews, in UTTER DEFIANCE of the "laws of physics", must consume tremendous amounts of food constantly simply to remain alive. Depending on species, gender, and reproductive status, they must consume between one and four times their own body weight every single day. For shrews, only calorie-dense, easily digestible foods will do; they eat mostly invertebrates, but will also consume anything that resembles food, including small vertebrates, fruits, and seeds. If you are trying to keep them in captivity (not recommended, unless you are a zoo or researcher), they will require an astonishing amount of food. While caring for a captive shrew until its release the next morning, I observed the shrew eating over fifty crickets, several dozen superworms, and, compared to its size, a mountain of cat food.

Now, being a biologist, and not an idiot, I recognize that a shrew's body is not actually an exception to the laws of physics. What I am saying, however, is that metabolism, cell biology, and biochemistry is a hell of a lot more complicated than calories going into and out of the body. Some bodies burn up every smidgen of energy that enters the system. Other bodies store some energy while using some energy. The processes involved are autonomous, however, and we do not have control over them, no matter what we may wish for. I can no more burn more calories per activity than Brian can will himself to burn fewer.

Yet, this completely autonomous process, which is set at different rates for every human being--and for every species of organism, has become a reflection of character. We are guilted and shamed into running ourselves ragged trying to use up more energy, just because our bodies are more efficient than is fashionable. Laws of physics, my ass; this pseudo-scientific bullshit excuse to look down on fat people will NOT fly with me, nor should it with anyone.

1 comment:

mumboj said...

It's funny that you say that your hubby defies the law of physics and you don't, I would posit that it is the other way around, it is people like your husband that use whatever they eat that truly make sense in terms of physics, if you take in more energy, you use more energy to process and use it.
To me it is fatness that requires explaination, in terms of physics. Of course people that use this gambit start with 'science' but then move on straight away to 'moral philosophy' and very quickly trash talk and hate speech. What they do not do is continue with science, if they did they would probably be unable to maintain their precious contempt.
Although one has to wonder about their grasp of physics, to break a law seems to refer to a law of the land, i.e. common law, a Law of physics is not the same, it is the verified truth, not an attempt to police the cosmos, If you 'break' it, you will fail or you will add to the truth.
Similarily when they use the term, 'violate' the laws of physics.