Posted by: thediygeochemist | July 8, 2010

the problem with going to grad school when middle-aged

I think I am handling grad school pretty well, all things considering. In many ways my “advanced age” (cough, cough) has been an asset, not a liability. But there is one thing that bothers me.

Today I looked in the mirror, as I have several times over the last few months, and said: “Hello, fat lady. Who are you and what have you done with my body?”

People put on weight as they get older. For me, the magic age was 31–something irreparable broke in my metabolism and my weight jumped 20 pounds. I expected to be heavier at age 40 than I was at age 20. Just not 60+ pounds heavier.

Since my weight gain at age 31, my weight has increased a little bit each year. Until this year, that is: I’ve put on at least 15, maybe 20 pounds this year. Why?

(1) Less exercise–I used to walk 20+ miles per week. Not so much here.
(2) I eat when stressed. And boy, am I ever under stress.
(3) Plus the real kicker: free food. There seems to be an awful lot of this in grad school! Refreshments at 2x/weekly seminars during the school year. Free pizza on various occasions. Plus all the leftover food from committee meetings, thesis defenses, etc. which gets deposited in the department office…the secretary frequently blasts a mass email saying, “Free Food in the office!”

Being relatively tall for a woman, I hide the weight a lot better than many people would. But that doesn’t stop me from having to buy new clothes, which I can scarcely afford right now. Or looking at my labmates and thinking, “I used to have a body like that…” Alas.


  1. Could be worse: for me, the magic age was 21! And I’m very short, so if I gain even two pounds it’s immediately broadcast to the world. đŸ˜¦

    • There are some ways in which being tall is advantageous, and this is definitely one of them.

      I also hid my pregnancies well, despite gaining 60+ pounds with each one. Oh wait…that is how much weight I’ve put on in the last 7 years. Hmmm. I think I’d rather be pregnant.

      • There are very, very few advantages to being short. (All I can think of: metal fans will usually let you stand next to the stage because they can see over your head, and airplane seats always have enough legroom.)

  2. unlikelygrad, I found you on Isis’s website. You sound just like me!
    I am also very tall for a woman (6 ft), and have gained some 60+ pounds through tenure track… It started about the same time as what you mentioned, 31 or so.

    Also no one believed me how far along I was with any of my pregnancies, they were well hidden even though very big babies. Good thing about being tall.

    Good luck with your studies!

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