Karen’s Warped Theory of Relativity

Let’s talk numbers today.  And science.  Sort of.

Have you ever noticed that when the weather changes, the feeling of a certain temperature is totally relative to what season it is?  Going up and coming down feels so different.

For example, right now where I live the summer temps are hanging on.  As we head into fall, we might suddenly get hit with a 50 degree day.  Brr.  It feels unbelievably cold.  But just a few short months from now, when winter is in full swing, if the temp were to rise to 50, we’d be dancing outside with no coat on, feeling like it’s downright balmy.  Relativity.

Not long ago when the temperatures here dropped to a delightful 60 degrees from our summer heatwave in the 100s, we scrambled for long pants and long sleeves.  But in February, after the cold has been chilling our bones for what seems like many long months, when we get an unexpected day in the 60s, we are running around in our shorts capri pants instead!

It’s all relative.

Just like the number on the scale.

Going down, a certain number feels great.  Smaller.  Successful.  Worth celebrating.  But another day, maybe months later or a year later or just weeks later, the weight is creeping up, and that same number that was so motivating on the downward slope, suddenly is depressing.  Makes one feel “fatter.”  Totally different than it did when it was a milestone of loss.  Going up versus going down.  As a reformed (note the past tense!) yo-yo dieter, I have experienced this all too often.

Have you noticed the same thing?  Or are you immune to the numbers and immune to the concept of relativity?  Is a 70 degree day a 70 degree day no matter what the season?  Do you feel the same at a certain weight when you are gaining as you do when you are losing?

Not me.




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55 responses to “Karen’s Warped Theory of Relativity

  1. love this as it totally made me recall college in ohio and how we’d laugh at the fact we’d STRIP when it hit 50 in the spring and hang out in the quad 🙂 and dash indoors when it *droped* to 50 in the fall and make hot chocolate…

    • Karen

      Oh that makes me think, fondly, of my freshman roommate who would lay out in the sun the first day that was even remotely warm! I went to college in NH.

  2. Michele T

    I’m definitely on the relativity side of things… and one of those people who dash out to Walmart or B&N or wherever I need to go on a balmy late February day in capris and sandals… and one who can crave a warming bowl of lentil soup or chili on the first cool day in the 60s as fall approaches.

    Weight. I’ve seen certain numbers repeatedly in the past year or so, and I’ve not been convinced of another theory of relativity — that what goes up must come down. What seemed a tremendous milestone the first time I saw a number on the way down now seems on occasion like a complete moral failing. Fortunately, the number is going down slowly again. And thank goodness I’ve learned many lessons during the passage of time that should prevent the numbers from rising to present heights ever again.

    • Karen

      Clearly you got what I meant:) As for February, that is the month my son was born so for that reason, I guess, I’m aware that every year we get at least one or two days in the 60s. I remember taking him for a walk in his stroller one year in February… and I am not one to be out walking in the winter!

  3. Hi Karen! I weighed myself yesterday and was inwardly critical of the results. I always think I should weigh at least 10 pounds less.

    Yet, I weigh 15 pounds less than this time last year. If this had been last year, I’d have been jumping for joy at my weight! It definitely is relative!

    🙂 Marion

    • Karen

      And when I weighed my current weight many years ago, I was trying to lose a bit more. So I guess my “goal weight” is also relative, given age:(

  4. Ah yes, the phenomenon of the rising/falling temps. I blame the weathermen. In March they say temps will “get up to the 70s”; in October, they say temps “will drop down into the 70s”.” As with most things, it’s all in how we look at it. 🙂

    • Karen

      You know what? Your comment makes me realize that I did NOT look at it as an opportunity to practice optimism:) Yes, it is all how we look at things.

  5. KLA

    I can’t even remember the last time I was truly satisfied (which means I had no opinion whatsoever) regarding the number on the scale. I’m guessing I was about ten.

    I think about the heaviest weight I was at before I had children; I hated it, and hated myself. Now I’d be thrilled to be at that weight. After two pregnancies, I’m a good forty pounds heavier than that weight.

    • Karen

      My current weight is also a weight that made me unhappy in the past. As too heavy. But times and hormones and bodies change and now I am trying to be realistic.

  6. I know when I am losing weight, because I can feel it. Like right now. I am joyfully losing weight (down almost 4 pounds this month)! My body just feels different and I guess, well lighter.

    I think the issue with the idea of “relative” weight gain is when it is really a gain. Our body’s naturally go up and down. This fluctuation is usually between 2-3 pounds as our body metabolizes and dispenses with our food and water intake. A weight gain of more than three pounds is not, generally, this fluctuation. I wish people would not be so concerned about this 2-3 lb general fluctuation. If we keep our weight within 5 pounds of either side of our target goal weight, we will have good and even excellent health.

    • Karen

      I agree, for the most part. And was really thinking of a bigger swing in number. But I will say that for me, since I am pretty petite, 5 pounds is a full size. Kudos on your great month:)

  7. Very true. We used to smile at the people who came down to Florida in February and jumped into the ocean as if it were the middle of July. We knew if they stayed around that the next February they would be wearing their jackets and saying it was too cold to swim. 🙂

    • Karen

      This brings back memories of when I went with my two cousins as young girls, visiting our respective grandmothers/aunts. We would be in the pool and laying out in the sun and the “residents” all commented on how crazy it was.

  8. Karen – you are absolutely right. I think about the temperature thing all the time….how 60 degrees can either feel like a totally chilly day in the fall or a heat wave on a late winter day.
    I have never thought about it in the weight sense though and you make a interesting point. Being close to my heaviest weight ever, I have the doom and gloom sense about any number right now that isn’t under 200….

  9. I travel to “Land without Scales” when I gain weight. Problems decidedly unsolved.

  10. That’s the case for me! Right now I’m around 200 but since I was 188 at one point I feel fat 😦 Even though at one point I was over 220! Go. Figure! Literally…

  11. Nope, not at all so I completely agree. I love how you made this connection, because it is totally true. I used to be ecstatic when I saw the 150’s… last year. This year it is “How dare you show your face 150, how dare you!”

  12. I’m with you totally on the #s on the scale. Gain a couple and I’m sure everyone can tell and I feel gargantuan. Down a few and I’m imbued with hope, well being and a palpable sense of “thinner-ness”.

    As far as outdoor temps, I’ve always had an internal thermostat that keeps me always feeling warmer than most. Except when it’s dead of winter and in the 20s or below! Even I get cold then – but so many of my friends, as well as my husband, comment that when I’m cold, it myst REALLY be cold!

  13. First of all, I feel old enough already without your second cartoon tormenting me by being completely unreadable!! Geez, it doesn’t even get bigger when clicked on.
    Time for another trip to the optometrist.

    And as far as relativity… I’m so there with the numbers. I am so happy right now at 218 and last time I was here it was the most horrifying fat number I could imagine. Now, I’m feeling sassy and like I want to work out, etc.

    I’ve tried to apply that lesson this year. Even at my high of 250, I tried to remind myself that if I had let it go on any longer and I’d gotten up another 30 pounds… I’d be grateful for 250. That did help me start losing.
    It’s about feeling optimistic and that energy makes all the difference.

    • Karen

      Well, clearly my computer screen is bigger than yours, I taunt. But, truthfully, it is pretty tiny. Didn’t need to drag out my magnifying glass though, like I do for some things:(

      Love that you are feeling sassy.

  14. It’s so true. I remember when we got back to Canada after two years in Africa. It was only early September and we were freezing!

    I’ve never thought about weight in that way but it is true. Same with age. I thought I looked old when I was in my 40s and now I’m in my 60s, I don’t think I look too bad.

    • Karen

      Oh you are so right about the age thing! I wish I’d thought of it and added it here. I remember at 18 thinking I was so grown up:)

  15. Roz

    You are so wise Karen. So right that the number on the scale is all relative. When I was younger, and at my thinnest, I thought the number on the scale was SOOO high. NOW…I think that would be goal. Thanks for putting things in perspective. Have a great Monday.

  16. Definitely don’t feel the same with either temperatures or weight. I remember when I hit 168 right before I delivered my full-term twins … I was appalled that I could weigh that much, despite the pregnancy. Now I’d definitely be ecstatic to weight 168.

  17. Great post, Karen. The numbers are all relative and what gave me bursts of joy in the past now sometime feel like a let down. 🙂

    • Karen

      I need to work on just having my glass half full no matter what is going on in my life. Repeating it to myself over and over now.

  18. Yes, so so so get this!!!! Amazing how I can run outside at 58 degrees with no sweatshirt & then be freezing ass cold if I was just heading out at that temp during the day! AND yes, I get the scale! Right now, I am having a major age hormone attack which means the scale goes up no matter what I do & yes, it ,makes me feel UGH & fat even tough I know it is the hormone stuff. Last time this happened. it went on for 6 months & then one day, disappeared. I hope that that it will & it is not that hormone time when it just will not budge ever – makes me feel yes, fat & old! 😉

    • Karen

      Someone else had a comment about age being relative too. Wish I’d thought to include that. I remember when my dad died, how everyone said he was so young but to me, not so much. Well, now I’m almost that age myself!

  19. Oh, age is definitely relative! Either that, or I’m still a hip 20-something.

    Interesting thoughts on the scale. 10 years ago I was killing myself to see a number a few pounds lower than I am now. 5 years ago I was struggling to get back down to a number a few pounds higher than I am now. I seem to have found the healthy balance in the middle, but I still approach the scale with fear and trepidation!

  20. I totally agree. 200lbs as I am gaining is a horrible number, but see that same 200 as I am losing and it feels like a major triumph. *sigh*

  21. Yeah, your theory makes sense to me! Einstein’s when I was taking quantum mechanics as a first year college student, not so much. It’s all relative I guess 🙂

    • Karen

      I realized when my boys were in HS that I never even took a physics course. I’m not a big science person:) Okay, worse in history!

  22. i know what you mean about 4months ago after shedding 50lbs i hit this wall where i’m yo-yoing up and down the same 10lbs. it seems strange that just 4 months ago i was excited about these numbers and now i’m depressed and frustrated

  23. I love relativity and have used the fall/spring temperature analogy many times!

    As for the scale, back when I was weighing myself, I remember an interesting phenomenon when I regained about 25 of the 55 pounds I had lost: because I was still exercising consistently I was in better shape and wearing a smaller size than I was when I had hit that number on the way down! I wasn’t happy about the gain, but I was glad to be in better shape.

    Now that I don’t weigh at all, it’s no longer an issue.

    • Karen

      Interesting! I actually have been taking periodic measurements for the past couple of years. Wish I’d taken them way back when so I could see if the same holds true for me too.

  24. I can so relate to this on all levels!

    My happy weight now is just a few pounds from a weight I thought I was totally fat at when I was in high school. I would never have thought that one day I would think a weight around that number would be my happy weight.

  25. Very interesting and so right! I have noticed the weather changes and how different they are in different seasons.

    No doubt about it, if the scale moves up though…I am miserable and if it goes down I am blissful.

  26. This was such a smart post Karen. I completely understand this because I too find myself watching the scale fluctuate and sometimes it annoys me.

  27. Julie

    Vickie at Baby Steps V has an interesting post today which sort of connects to this. I actually quoted this post, although at the time I couldn’t remember where I had read it – sorry. Hope you don’t mind me referring but the connection was too great not to point it out 🙂

  28. Julie

    I find I feel colder all the time now compared to when I weighed more than 123lb heavier. Guess the insulation has gone too 😉

  29. This is so true! I’m now a 14, which is the same size I was when I graduated high school (almost 30 years ago!). Of course back then I thought I was huge, and now I’m happy with it. I’m still losing, but even if I don’t lose much more I’ll still be happy. I’m so much better off than I was a year ago. You’re always so eloquent.

  30. Oh, yes, numbers are definitely relative for me, too! Especially when it comes to temperature, and I feel much warmer in spring than I do at the same temperature in the fall!

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