Saturday, February 13, 2016

Regression to mean

Flaxton Faun
It seems that the Goat is doomed to mediocrity. His body absolutely refuses to lose enough weight to get his Body Mass Index below 30. The Goat believes that using BMI as the sole arbiter of overall fitness is flawed. However, it would still be nice not to be labelled as ‘obese’ by the ill-educated Ticky-Box Police. Despite a carefully calorie-controlled diet since the summer of 2013 and steady loss of now over 20% of his body mass because he really was a great lardarse, the Goat has plateaued. Every time he approaches BMI = 30 it’s as if his body recoils in horror and weight gains ensue This despite his consuming ever-decreasing numbers of calories, and despite exercise.

Beloved Wife says that the problem lies with cortisol, which is a hormone released in response to stress and – long story short – pushes up the weight.

The Goat maintains a balanced diet, consumes sensible quantities of healthy vegetables, and generally avoids burgers, crisps, and similar junk. But everything pushes up the Goat’s weight, including air.

Stress -> cortisol -> weight gain
Diet -> hunger -> unhappiness -> stress -> cortisol -> weight gain
Depression -> stress -> cortisol -> weight gain
Starvation -> famine mode -> weight gain

It says here in the University of Interweb’s Faculty of Wikipedia that music therapy can reduce cortisol levels.

As is now well documented, the Goat plays flute-like wind instruments. A six-hole ocarina, recorders, and the recorders’ electric ally the EWI. He was also given a blues harmonica for Christmas, and has been struggling with this one too. Yesterday, the Goat spent all day in front of his home computer with the EWI, some music notes, a load of electric string, and a video capture device. He tried and tried. And tried and tried and tried. And tried. After nearly 100 takes, he had a couple of tunes recorded and posted on Facebook. They are still littered with misfingered notes, completely wrong notes, and horrible ‘how do I finger that again?’ pauses. As the Goat has been at this music playing thing on and off for about 40 years, and has been playing almost daily for the past three or four, it seems disappointing that he seems to have plateaued at this still mediocre level.

Oh, he has improved. He’s no longer scared of the ‘black notes’ and will have a pop at anything in most key signatures. However, some keys are appallingly difficult on a recorder, or anything with similar fingering, and he prefers C,D, F, G and their relative minors. (Technical note for any actual musicians who may have blundered into this blog.) Not that the Goat can sight-read music at anything like the speed required.

But, when it comes down to it, the Goat’s ability falls far short of a live public performance. He occasionally goes along to Open Mic nights with intent to play. These might be essentially Karaoke without a backing track and in front of a benign audience, but the moment the other performers start it becomes extremely obvious that the Goat is catastrophically outclassed and he’s too embarrassed or intimidated to get the instrument out of its bag.

Back to cortisol. The Goat’s music therapy, far from reducing stress, actually boosts it with the frustrations of his inability. And having blown his entire one-day weekend on this exercise in futility, he’s back to work specifically and solely to subject himself to six more days of stress.


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