Muscular male torso

Provocations in Poundage

Yeah, I know. Better I make fun of about 10 religious faiths at once, right?

We’re not supposed to mention the other f-word, it’s not PC at all. (I’ll just spell it so we don’t scare the chubby children: f-a-t.)

Somehow in the States, it’s considered better to “not say anything.” Rather than embarrass someone or “hurt their feelings,” we’re encouraged to allow our friends and loved ones to eat themselves to death. I’m still searching for the kindness in that. I mean is, “Darling, you look 15 pounds heavier than you did the last time I saw you” really that horrendous to say to someone you care about? Apparently.

Do I have statistical renderings here to demonstrate to you that, as a group, the writerly congregation may be pressuring the pews more this year than last? Are you kidding? We can’t even get an ISBN on every book out there.

But I’m at these conferences a lot, you know. Well, of course you know. And for a while I thought the meeting rooms were getting smaller. Then I figured it out. We’re getting bigger. We the People. We, the Writers Unweighed.

I had a particularly busy round of conference events in the first six months of this year, lots of time on the road, and found myself part of our expansionist movement. My exercise routine went south, young man, not west, and I’m now enjoying the special pleasures of reducing my weightier contributions to the field. And I couldn’t help but notice that I was hardly alone.

Do I have statistical renderings here to demonstrate to you that, as a group, the writerly congregation may be pressuring the pews more this year than last? Are you kidding? We can’t even get an ISBN on every book out there.

But I’ve got eyes, as my maternal grandmother used to say. (She did indeed have two of them, she was unassailable on the point.) And nobody knows the truckloads I’ve seen of what does not look like muscular development among our bookish brethren. Male and female, mind you, the scales jump for the just and the unjust.

I’m concerned about the issue on the wider range, meaning beyond publishing and in terms of our American experiment — which was not intended by the Founding People to be about face-stuffing.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (yes, “Centers,” plural) can sober you right up with their Obesity and Overweight collection of facts and figures. Pear-shaped figures, as it were.

Among US adults 20 and older:

  • 35.1 percent are obese
  • 69 percent are rated as overweight

I’ll bet my Omron pocket pedometer that the writerly sector trends heavy. So I want you to at least think about it with me. Might burn a calorie or two in the cogitation. Even in this summer of our discontent (boy are we hearing from some hotter heads), let’s look at the pale and paleo realities, and think together about what we could do to avoid collapsing those podiums when we pick up our literary awards.

I’m going to give you one alternative and then I want you to share your best idea with us.

“We have to sit to do our jobs, Porter, so shut up.”

No, we don’t have to sit. 

Provocations graphic by Liam Walsh

Provocations graphic by Liam Walsh

You might remember that during the spring, there were reports about the dangers of sitting. As Kathleen Doheny at WebMD wrote it up in April in Sitting Too Much: How Bad Is It?:

Just since January, researchers have reported that sitting for long hours is linked to:

  • Worse mental health
  • A higher risk of death from heart disease and other causes
  • A higher risk of being disabled

The new studies add even more weight to earlier research suggesting that too much sitting is bad — even if you get regular exercise.

And about getting fat?

You might think that sitting would make you less hungry. Braun’s research has found it is not true. [This is Barry Braun, PhD, director of the Energy Metabolism Lab at University of Massachusetts/Amherst she’s drawing from.] His team assigned people to sit a lot one day and to stand a lot on another day. Each time, the researchers studied how it affected their appetite. ”Going from active to sitting doesn’t lower your appetite or your energy intake,” he says. Prolonged sitting, he says, may trigger us to eat more than we should, leading to weight gain.

As it happens, a few years ago, I tried standing up at my desk for the first time. It was a revelation.

My back felt better. And I was more alert. When I walked away to get coffee, I still had my train of thought when I got back to the desk — because I hadn’t had to perform that getting-up-out-of-a-chair and sitting-back-down-in-a-chair thing.

I find that getting my routine at the gym in place first helps me get my routine at the desk in place, not vice-versa. So which comes first for you? The chicken or the chocolate?

I started standing in the CNN.com Live control room on my supervisory shifts. Much to the consternation of some of my colleagues, I kept what one called my “stand-y uppy desk” over in a corner and just put it into place when we were on the air. Did the same at my desk in the newsroom. Where I confess, I enjoyed towering over my seated cohorts. (There’s a reason the bridge of a ship is up high, O captain, my captain…never mind.)

Should you like to try this, and before you shell out for one of the remarkably comely creations at StandUpDesks.com (no, I get no commission but I’d like one), I recommend an inexpensive, trial period to see if it works at all for you:

  • Find a low bookcase or box you can put onto  your existing desk.
  • You want the surface on which your keyboard will sit to be at about the height of your elbow when you stand.
  • Make it easy to put this desk-booster up and take it back down. I can change my desk from sitting to standing in about two minutes. Same for returning to sitting mode. Anything more is too complicated and you’ll talk yourself out of it.
  • You may get tired from standing, yep. I find that about eight or nine hours is it for me. Then I’m ready to sit. Some folks stand exclusively, which is great. But I’d guess that — just as when we’re on the balance beam and sticking our landings off the high bar of literary genius — it’s a little tiring, especially when you’re getting used to it. So take it in small periods first. Thirty minutes. An hour. See how you feel.
  • Some folks like using treadmills under their desks, too. They’re not only standing but also walking. Our WU colleague Jane Friedman (“Porter’s brain”) has done it and lived to write about it right here.

And I’m standing right now as I write this. I’ve found standing at my desk to be the single most effective thing I can do.

So there you go. Now, you tell me.

What are you doing to be sure that we word masters are the best-looking bunch of literate souls around? I find that getting my routine at the gym in place first helps me get my routine at the desk in place, not vice-versa. So which comes first for you? The chicken or the chocolate? Your turn. And we’ll weigh your every suggestion with gratitude.

About Porter Anderson

@Porter_Anderson, BA, MA, MFA, is a journalist, critic, and speaker specializing in publishing. A Fellow with the National Critics Institute, Anderson's "Porter Anderson Meets" live Twitter interviews are conducted weekly with the hashtag #PorterMeets on Mondays and run in London's The Bookseller magazine on Fridays. He is also The Bookseller's Associate Editor for The FutureBook, a sister site focused on developments in digital publishing, with #FutureChat live Twitter discussions on Fridays. Anderson works with BookExpo America (BEA) to program the uPublishU Author Hub, which had its debut at the 2014 BEA. And he is working with the Frankfurt Book Fair on special programming for its new Business Club suite of events and facilities, a first in the 2014 Buchmesse. More: PorterAndersonMedia.com | Google+