30 day check-in on 2019 resolutions

The first month of 2019 has passed. Let’s see how the ol’ resolutions are doing. Remember, I have 11 more months to make “course corrections” in the event of resolution recidivism.

  • Drop to 150 pounds. Realistically, I was not going to drop 17+ pounds in a month. I did drop 0.2 pounds, though. At that rate I will hit 150 by 2026. I may need to re-examine my current diet.
  • Write something every day. I am 100% on this so far, though some days have been a struggle. I don’t have any momentum yet, but feel I am on the verge, so I expect better in February.
  • Run at least once per week. 50% on this, so room for improvement. But I am running!
  • Read at least 52 books. I’m close to finishing my third book, so a bit behind. On the other hand, I went an entire week without reading, so I handicapped myself.
  • Eat better. Definite improvements here, especially with evening snacking. More improvements to come.
  • Learn and practice meditation. I have not started this yet. I kind of feel like I need to get a few other things sorted first, but maybe I’m just stalling.
  • Stretch. I finished reading a book on stretching, but have yet to stretch. Some preliminary “stretching” left me mildly alarmed at how incredibly inflexible I am.
  • Redo the Complaint Free World 21-day challenge. I haven’t formally restarted the challenge, but I am being a lot more mindful about saying negative things to others. I want to make myself and things around me better, and I know that bellyaching–though satisfying–is not the way to do it.

Overall a mixed bag, but nothing I would consider an outright failure at this point. I am cautiously encouraged.

January 2019 weight loss report: Down 0.2 pounds

Good news! As predicted, my weight dropped this month.

Not as good news: It dropped the equivalent of a rounding error–0.2 pounds–and body fat was actually up 0.4%.

But somewhat better news: Body fat as a percentage has been trending down over the last few weeks overall.

The trend, then, is slowly moving in the right direction. For the month overall, I improved notably in several areas, especially in terms of post-dinner snacking, which has been greatly reduced. I’m also drinking more water and taking in fewer calories at lunch, while still having small snacks to tide me over.

I am thus far donut-free in 2019. 11 months to go for the full year!

February is a short month, so less time to lose, but I am going to be bold and commit to not only losing more weight, but losing enough that rounding errors are not a possibility. Woo.

Here are the stats for the month and year which are conveniently the same thing right now:

January 1: 167.5 pounds
January 31: 167.3 pounds (down 0.2 pounds)

Year to date: From 167.5 to 167.3 pounds (down 0.2 pounds)

And the body fat:

January 1: 19.2% (32.2 pounds of fat)
January 31:
19.6% (32.8 pounds of fat) (up 0.6 pounds)

Book review: Stretching to Stay Young

Stretching to Stay Young: Simple Workouts to Keep You Flexible, Energized, and Pain FreeStretching to Stay Young: Simple Workouts to Keep You Flexible, Energized, and Pain Free by Jessica Matthews
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When I was a kid I was nearly double-jointed. I could bend my thumbs back to touch my arms with ease. Today I could do the same if I surgically removed the thumbs first. I am, in a word, inflexible.

As this can have negative effects for both runners and those getting older, two groups I am a member of, I picked up Stretching to Stay Young to see if I could return to at least a little flexibility in my body vs. the immovable board it is now.

I can’t say how effective the book is as I haven’t applied its exercises yet, but I will say that the presentation is thorough, accessible and clear. Jessica Matthews starts with explanations and background on stretching, its benefits, the various muscle groups and so on. She moves on to instructions for a multitude of stretching exercises, each accompanied by a clear color illustration of how to do it. They look simple, even fun.

The bulk of the book then covers sets of stretches tied to recovering from or preparing for specific activities, everything from walking, running and cycling, to sitting for hours in an office chair, talking on a phone and more. She further includes sets for conditions like sore shoulders, necks and more, ending with tips on customizing your workouts.

After reading, I unrolled my exercise mat, recently found buried behind some junk I got rid of, and tried a few simple exercises. Imagine taking a log and laying it down on its side, then asking it to stretch. I am that log. But Matthews addresses this, regularly advising the reader throughout the book to never push to the point of pain, to take it slow, and to allow time for results to appear (she has a chapter devoted to debunking myths, including the old “no pain, no gain.”)

For anyone looking to incorporate stretching into their daily or weekly routine, this guide provides everything you need in a stylish, straightforward format. Recommended.

View all my reviews

Slow-burning ADHD

I not infrequently fall down the rabbit hole when I sit at the computer. What happens is I’ll read something (The original iPod Shuffle came out 14 years ago), then see something specific to latch onto (a mention of a SanDisk MP3 player, of which I bought one some years back when I first started running), which further prompts me to investigate further (looking at current SanDisk offerings, then what Sony and other companies are offering for MP3 players) and in the course of this, moving onto other things that pop into my head and checking them out.

Hours pass and I look back and I don’t regret the time spent, per se, but it does seem a bit of a waste in that I’ve not accomplished anything other than scratching a faint nostalgic urge (I never had a Shuffle, though I still have two iPod nanos) and confirming things I already knew (the current MP3 player market is pretty bad, filled with brands you’ve never heard of selling products that look suspiciously like Apple’s discontinued designs).

Somehow tonight I ended up on the Wacom site, looking at their Intuos tablets (I have one). And I was thinking, I should draw more. I could draw here at the computer using the Intuos, but I’d have to dig it out of a drawer, plug it in and neither requires any great or special effort, but I just can’t be bothered. So I see on their site that there is a model that uses Bluetooth, so you don’t need to plug it in. That takes away a step, making it 50% easier to use! Is it enough for me to go for it? I think and honestly, it would probably make no difference. I don’t need more convenience, I need more discipline.

Which gets me back to the rabbit hole. I am distracted and allow myself to get pulled into these little online expeditions too easily. I don’t think I have ADHD, though my brain does perhaps spin a little faster than I’d like (this is where learning meditation might be handy), but maybe I have some low-grade variety of it, where I don’t flit from one thing to another, I just flit from something and in the end have little to show for the time spent having flitted.

Anyway, that’s enough pop pysch self-analysis for tonight. But hey, I wrote again.

December 2018 weight loss report: Up 3.1 pounds

These results are not unexpected. December is never a good weight loss month.

And still I’m disappointed, as the last week of the month saw me go from holding steady to holding fat.

My 2018 goal of getting to 150 pounds meant I needed to lose 12.3 pounds this year. Instead, I gained 5.8 pounds. Now I need to lose 18.1 pounds. This is like math gone wrong.

Yet I remain cautiously optimistic and even feel bold enough to make a prediction: My weight will be down in January. January 2019, that is. Like, the month that starts in less than two hours

But in the meantime,. here are the grisly stats for December and the year to date. I blame the December results on the following:

  • Ferraro Rocher
  • Ritter Sport bars
  • Breaking the “no snacks after dinner” rule about five thousand times

December 1: 165 pounds
December 31: 168.1 pounds (up 3.1 pounds)

Year to date: From 162.3 to 168.1 pounds (up 5.8 pounds)

And the body fat:

January 1: 18.5% (30.2 pounds of fat)
December 31:
19.2% (32.3 pounds of fat) (up 2.1 pounds)

2018 kind of sucked

I started my 21-day “complaint free” experience in January of this year and after a couple of tries, I managed to go the full 21 days without verbalizing a complaint to another person. I became much more aware of how often others complained–often, I suspect, without them even being conscious of it–and I became very aware of what came out of my own mouth. Since I have a preference to not prattle on unless prodded (prodding me can lead to excessive prattling), the transition from “complain about the weather along with everyone else” to “just smile and not say anything” was easier than expected.

But it didn’t last.

I tried again. I even got the official purple Complaint Free World bracelet. It’s the child size, as I have strangely thin wrists. I could blame my lapsing back into a semi-complaint-filled experience because of the weather–not that it’s bad, but that when it gets cold I’m wearing long-sleeve shirts and jackets, so the bracelet isn’t visible most of the time to remind me not to complain about stuff.

But that’s an excuse, because I did get through the exercise successfully when the weather was cold and wet. It was January, after all, as I mentioned in the first paragraph.

So what happened? Well, a few things. The problem is they were spaced just far enough apart that it felt like, as the old saying goes, “if it’s not one thing, it’s another.”

My health was kicked in the junk this year. Speaking of my junk, I did not have a testicular cancer scare like last year, so that was good.

Instead, I got a tooth infection in a tooth that had been broken for years. That it hadn’t gotten infected much earlier was pretty much dumb luck. Once it did get infected, it had to be dealt with immediately, so I had to pretend to overcome my existential fear of dentists and get what remained of the tooth yoinked.

It actually didn’t go that bad, though keeping stuff out of the resultant gap while it healed was tricky.

But just as I recovered from that I experienced an odd “too hot/too cold” sensation at work. This was May, so neither condition really made sense. I would shiver for ten minutes, then sweat like I was in a sauna for the next ten. I looked up the symptoms and found they could apply to almost anything, but I know my body and its sordid history, and this smacked of YAI. Yet Another Infection. I was right!

I guessed bladder, but it was my kidney. They’re pretty close, so it was a good guess. I waited a couple of days to see a doctor, because I slipped into Guy Mode (don’t need doctors, don’t need maps, don’t need instructions–you know, basically DUMB). I spent a night running a high fever, felt utterly delirious, and was so weak that when I did go to the nearby clinic it took my hours to work up the energy to make the three block trip.

On the plus side, the antibiotics killed the fever amazingly quickly, and I recovered fairly quickly after. The kidney has been a (literal) pain a few times since, but the most recent blood work (which took two arms to obtain successfully as my left arm apparently contains no blood) indicates it is on the mend.

Did I mention that the antibiotics I got for the tooth infection turned out to be another I’m allergic to? Another all-body rash and this weird sensation that my face was glowing (it was, as confirmed by co-workers).

Then my knees gave out. For years they have been getting worse when I crouch or kneel, but I don’t crouch or kneel a whole lot, and running (and walking) was unaffected, so I really didn’t pay much attention.

This spring I paid attention because suddenly my knees really didn’t like it when I went jogging. And when I say suddenly, that is not hyperbole. It just happened, like a tipping point was reached and now my knees were Sore Knees. I watched my running pace get worse and worse. It was discouraging and depressing. I thought I might have to stop running, which has become my go-to Zen relaxation thing since I started back in 2009.

But then the knees…well, they didn’t exactly improve, but they did seem to hurt less. Was I just getting used to it? Whatever it was, my pace began to improve and by summer’s end I was pretty much back to normal, speed-wise. The knees still get sore, but they recover, and it’s never so bad I need to stop. So thumbs sideways there.

My weight loss has been more like weight maintenance. The problem is I’m maintaining at about 15 pounds higher than I want to be. My partner and I are going to suffer diet together for the new year, so I’m hoping there’s more progress there.

Work has been a bit of a trial for various reasons. It’s not terrible or anything, and I don’t want to go into detail on a public blog, but suffice to say it has had its share of frustrations. I don’t see it improving much, unfortunately, but you never know.

I only made it 22,222 words into my 2018 National Novel Writing Month novel. On the plus side, I am committed to continuing it, and did an actual outline, a major change for me. Other than the blog and NaNo, my writing has been pretty quiet this year. This was not my plan.

BC voters voted by over 60% to keep the first-past-the-post system for provincial elections. The referendum ballot was a muddled mess, so I think people probably would have voted for whatever was listed first, no matter what it was.

But 2018 has not been all bad. On the positive side:

  • I have developed (ho ho) an interest in photography and now take all kinds of photos with my smartphone. I don’t know if I will graduate to a dedicated camera again, but it’s already changed how I view the world. I’m always looking for a good shot. You can see some of them here. Looking for shots has the side effect of making me see (and appreciate) detail than I skipped over before. The world is a richer place now.
  • It hasn’t snowed this winter and none is in the forecast. (Technically I think we got a little wet snow while I was in bed a few nights ago, but it was gone by the time I woke up, therefore NO SNOW).
  • After buying a bunch of mechanical keyboards, I finally found one I really like, the CTRL from Massdrop, with Halo switches that are clicky, but not clacky, if you know what I mean.
  • I started baking bread.
  • I finally learned to love the treadmill. Well, maybe not love. More…not hate. (Also, the treadmill is now way easier on my knees than the elliptical.)
  • I remained donut-free after renewing my vow.
  • Um. The world didn’t end?

I may add more positive things later. While the year mostly sucked, I continue to be more optimist than pessimist, so I do not dread 2019. Next up: my New Year resolutions list, because everyone needs a good laugh.

November 2018 weight loss report: Up 0.2 pounds

The bad news is my weight went up again. I am getting really bad at this weight loss thing.

The good news is it only went up 0.2 pounds for the month, so it was more a case of not really moving up or down, though body fat crept up a bit more.

I am up three pounds on the year. :sadface: But I have remained donut-free, so yay for that.

But I have not remained oat fudge bar-free. Boo for that.

I have been getting better at post-dinner snacking, though. Yay again.

December is not exactly a month known for great weight loss, but who knows? Maybe if I start running/walking again and stick to the no-snacks-after-dinner thing it may just happen.

The fat figures:

November 1: 165.1 pounds
November 30: 165.3 pounds (up 0.2 pounds)

Year to date: From 162.3 to 165.3 pounds (up 3 pounds)

And the body fat:

January 1: 18.5% (30.2 pounds of fat)
November 30:
18.8% (31pounds of fat) (up 0.8 pounds)

Flu shmu

The past week I’ve been on this weird up and down thing with the flu. Normally when I catch a bug it takes a predictable course. For the first couple of days I feel progressively worse, then I start to steadily improve after.

This particular bug started last weekend, when I just generally felt tired for no apparent reason. I skipped my run and generally didn’t do much. I went to work on Monday and again felt tired. I woke up around 1 a.m. Monday night to find myself shivering, even though I was tucked under the blankets and felt warm. Later I did feel warm, as in sweating profusely. I was officially sick.

I stayed home the next two days, then returned to work on Thursday, feeling better, but not great. Strangely, on Friday, I felt a lot worse again and once more stayed home. Saturday was worse, still, and I didn’t go outside the condo the entire day. I ended the evening sitting here with a desk fan blowing air at my face to keep me cool. Finally, we come to today, which started much the same, with naps, followed by tea, followed by more laying down and doing very little. I finally went out, to the store, and by the time dinner was over I began to feel a tiny bit like my normal self. It’s almost 9 p.m. as I type this and I once again sip in tea. I’ve turned the fan off now because I no longer feel like I’m broiling in my own skin.

I am hoping I finally have a little energy tomorrow.

Tonight, I look at my output for the weekend re: NaNoWriMo and the word count is easy: zero. I wrote nothing, because every time I sat to write, I was too tired to muster anything before going back to laying down some more. I also left almost all of my usual weekend chores undone. Still, cleaning the toilets can wait until I feel better. I would be more alarmed at the lack of writing output for NaNo, but I have an actual outline this year, and a bit of a buffer, so I should be able to get back on track fairly quickly (ho ho).

Anyway, my only real wish for myself for 2019 is to have good health, because this year has been rather the opposite. It seems a reasonable thing to wish for. I hope it is!

November, shmovember

I am starting the month with the flu, which is sub-optimal for my health and for National Novel Writing Month, which began yesterday.

Last night I attempted to write after revising the earlier work I’d done on what is now going by the bland working title of The Journal, but by 9 o’ clock I had written nothing, had no energy, then went to bed, where I burned up and had literal fever dreams.

Today–or tonight, to be more precise, I have a little more energy and a new thermometer confirmed I only have a mild fever, but I am still lacking the energy to really put out words. Tomorrow’s weather is The Rains, so I’m thinking I’ll have a good go then, especially if I’m over the hump of this latest beating to my health that is the year 2018. Not that I’m complaining! It’s been, uh, interesting. Yes. Interesting. Grist for the mill, fodder for my writing. Or something.

Anyway, on with November and the official start of the two month Christmas blitz. Ho ho ho.

October 2018 weight loss report: Up 0.4 pounds

I started the month with a bit of a bump over September and by the end of the month was very nearly in the same place, though the trend for the last week is at least in the right direction–down (helped by a few days with the flu).

For the year to date my weight is virtually unchanged. This is good in one sense, as it’s better than ballooning up beyond all reason, but it’s also depressing. In 10 months I have achieved no actual weight loss. Ten months!

So in November I’m cutting out snacking that isn’t offset by exercise on the same day and I’m not eating after dinner. If I stick to this, my weight should drop, even without actual exercise (which I still plan on doing).

And I am still sticking with the no-donuts, so a small glimmer of light in a dark tunnel of stubborn fat.

The stats for October and the year to date:

October 1: 164.3 pounds
October 31: 164.7 pounds (up 0.4 pounds–basically a [generous] rounding error)

Year to date: From 162.3 to 164.7 pounds (up 2.4 pounds)

And the body fat:

January 1: 18.5% (30.2 pounds of fat)
September 30:
18.3% (30.2 pounds of fat (unchanged)

September 2018 weight loss report: No weight loss (or gain) to report

My quest to get below 160 pounds remains elusively out of reach, with my weight in a holding pattern, completely unchanged from August and barely changed for the year to date. I am really good at neither gaining nor losing weight, it seems.

Several times I started getting close, dipping down to 161.5 pounds, but my weight trend ticked upward in the second half of the month, due to less exercise and unchanged snacking.

I did continue to stay donut-free, so yay for that.

Last October I was 153 pounds. It was then I began to gain weight, bloating up past 170 pounds. My main goal is still to get below 160 first, then down to 150, but my super-secret goal is to not see my weight start getting out of hand and into fat as it did one year ago.

To quote Dan Rather, Excelsior! (I think he actually said that once or twice. Maybe.)

September 1: 162.9 pounds
September 30: 162.8 pounds (down 0.1 pounds–basically a rounding error)

Year to date: From 162.3 to 162.8 pounds (up 0.5 pounds–unchanged from August)

And the body fat:

January 1: 18.5% (30.2 pounds of fat)
September 30:
17.9% (29.1 pounds of fat (down 1.1 pounds)

The Float

For my birthday Jeff got me a float and massage at Halsa, which sounds like a brand of Swedish shampoo, but is in fact one of those spas where you can enter a sensory deprivation tank to have an out of body experience or whatever it is that happens when people do these things.

The place was very clean, very white and for the most part, very dark. When I got into my room, Ocean 1, I had to use the flashlight function on my phone to read the instructions on the wall regarding the provided earplugs.

The float was an hour and a half and was a little weird. The first room I entered was a low-lit antechamber with a place to leave your stuff and at the other end a shower, as they ask you to shower first and provide plenty of foamy soap to do so. The shower water took awhile to warm up but once it did it seemed to stay at Very Hot no matter how I adjusted it. I showered and then opened the door to the ocean (room).

This is a chamber that’s tall enough to stand in and large enough that you can lay down without touching any walls. This is important. It’s filled with enough water to get you buoyant, but not enough to drown you to death, should you be inclined to drowning to death. The secret spice is Epsom salt, and enough of it is in the water to keep you floating serenely on top of it, so much so that the top half of your body never gets wet unless you roll around like a panicked dolphin.

Spooky New Age music plays quietly in the background. It fades away when your official start time kicks in.

You are advised to keep your fingers away from your face for obvious reasons. I apparently had a minor abrasion on my inner thigh that I became instantly aware of when it hit the water/salt. It settled down quickly, but I imagine laying down with an open wound would be a great way to achieve immediate agony.

Once in, I had three choices to make:

  • Did I want to kill the lights? There are two soft blue lights embedded in the bottom of the pool, creating a calm but very visible effect. You can’t have proper sensory deprivation if you don’t deprive all your senses!
  • Did I want to use the ear plugs? They’re optional, so it’s up to you.
  • Did I want to use the halo? This is a thin foam ring that you lean your head back into and is recommended for people with neck tension or pain.

I kept the light on at first to get my bearings and skipped everything else. After a few minutes, the spooky New Age music stopped, so my experience was officially on.

My body floated just fine (it normally likes to sink like a very heavy rock), but every time I laid my head back, my neck tensed up. I kept fearing I would dunk my head under water, which would be incredibly unpleasant, uncomfortable and not very sensory-deprivation-y at all.

I got the halo and put it on my head, like an actual halo. This was clearly not the right way to use it, but it amused me. I then used it properly and found if I laced my hands behind my head, with the halo, it seemed to work. Eventually I made it work with my hands hanging at my sides, but it never felt 100% right. I can only conclude that my brain is so densely packed with smarts that my head simply will not float like the rest of my body. But I did get to a point where it felt relaxing and I relaxed.

I closed my eyes and let my thoughts drift. As it turned out, I also drifted, which they warn you about. In the dark this could be disorienting, but I was too relaxed now to get up and hit the light switch, so I could get my bearings by just opening my eyes. Not that it mattered, really. But I drifted a lot, mostly because every time I moved my arms it changed my buoyancy and set me gently off. My head would oh-so-gently thump against the wall of the pool. I’d then course-correct because I had arbitrarily determined I must lay in a specific orientation to the door (I later gave up on this and just drifted like a log down the Fraser).

At one point I had to get up to pee. Hardly surprising for me. When I returned to the pool, I ended up tilting and getting water in one ear, then over-correcting and getting water in the other. This was when I decided to use the earplugs because the water in the ear was very distracting.

The ear plugs both help and hinder the sensory deprivation. On the one hand, they make it much harder to hear anything–though there is really nothing to hear, anyway. On the other hand, your own breathing becomes amplified about a hundred times. The alternative is to not breathe, which isn’t a good idea, so I just got used to it and breathed a lot through my mouth, which was quieter.

They kept the water out, though, so that was aces.

I did try to turn the light out several times by drifting close to the switch, but the force required to push in the big rubber button was too much to manage from a supine position and each time I tried I just pushed myself away from it. I could have stood up, but the pool is kind of slippery and injuring myself would not have enhanced the experience.

I did hit the button hard enough to kill the light one time, though, but the action caused me to both push off from the switch and roll at the same time. This was very disorienting in total blackness, so I scrabbled to turn the light back on and re-orient myself.

I’m not very good at sensory deprivation.

Once everything was in place and I relaxed, though, I didn’t mind the soft light being on. With my eyes closed I couldn’t see anything, anyway, which is my preference for how I not see things. I was surprised when the music started piping in 90 minutes later. The time went quickly.

I showered, put on my bathrobe and went to the lounge to wait for my masseuse. I don’t wear robes much, and struggled to prevent a Basic Instinct/Sharon Stone thing from happening.

The massage was an hour long and very thorough. A few places were tight, but I never experienced any actual pain, only a few moments of discomfort as the knots were beaten about lovingly. My neck was not surprisingly the worst. My mind didn’t drift as much here and you’re unlikely to fall asleep as something pummels your flesh, but it was relaxing in its own way. If I was rich I’d have someone do this every week or something.

Overall, it was a zany, strange but ultimately worthwhile experience. I’d definitely try doing a float again and knowing what I know now, I’d probably have more time to zone out and less given over to flailing.

Also my ears were crusty with salt when I got home. That’s not something you normally expect.