Monthly Archives: January 2017

New Year’s Resolution(s)

…or does the apostrophe go after the ‘s;’ I’m never sure.

In any event, yes, I’m one of the millions of people who have vowed to become healthier/more fit/lose weight/blah blah blah, but this year so far I’ve been successful for 8 days, which is probably 5 days more than whenever my last successful streak occurred.

This time around I’m trying something different–I’m using moderation and mindfulness. Here are some of the ways I’m attempting to be successful this time around:

  1. I don’t have a “goal weight” or anything like that. I haven’t and I don’t weigh myself. I personally don’t care about the number (until I go to the doctor for something, of course; then I’m obsessed with it for like a week). I care about how I feel, how I see myself, and how my clothes fit. In the last six years, I’ve gone up approximately 2 sizes (depending on make of clothes, I can be anywhere from a 7 to a 10). I mentally place blame on a variety of factors, but I’m not in the interest of declaring those here. So now I’m trying to change that. And I can say that after a solid week, I already feel a difference. Maybe it’s due to these strategies and maybe it’s all in my head, but either way, noticing seems to be helping keep me on track.
  2. I drink more water. I’ve always tried to drink more water, but once again I’m being extra mindful about it. When  I get a headache, first I’m trying to drink a full glass of water before assuming I need ibuprofen or Excedrin. I pay attention to my urine, which I learned should be a light yellow color, and how often I’m going to the bathroom. I recently read somewhere “if you’re not urinating once per hour, you’re not drinking enough water.” I try not to let it get to hourly because that’s like torture, but I do try to manage every other hour. I’m not thrilled about it, because I hate water (yes, even water with fruit in it), but it’s slightly easier in the winter when having heat on all the time completely dries out the air, making me more thirsty overall.
  3. I count calories and I document them. When I notice something is a ridiculous amount of calories, I can’t justify writing it in the book. I then do one of two things: I have a much smaller portion of it or I refrain from having it altogether. My book is structured to allot one page per day and at the top I write the date, what time I woke up, and what time I actually got out of bed. I then document the time and what I eat throughout the day as well as the approximate calories and keep a running total. I measure portion sizes rather than grabbing a bag of potato chips and eating 60% of it in one sitting. So now I’m eating single portion-sizes instead of six of them at once. In the book, I also write what time I went to bed and what time I believe I fell asleep as well as any naps I took.
  4. I don’t deny myself things. If I want a cookie, I calorie-budget in a cookie (or two). If I want Fritos, I eat a serving of Fritos. I pretend like I might “run” it off later, but I hate that system (because I never do it and then I wind up having way too many calories!), so I typically just trade other calories out or keep the intake low (e.g., only one serving).
  5. This system, however, includes alcohol. It wasn’t until I started counting alcohol calories that I realized how many calories I was drinking. Five ounces of white wine is 125 calories. Most beers are around 200. Vodka is one of the lowest-calorie alcohols, but I’m really not that interested in having a glass of vodka at the end of my long day (and I typically don’t do mixers other than water). So not only has this helped lower both my alcohol and calorie intake, but it’s reduced the alcohol-induced munchies and it’s been helping me to prepare for my 2nd annual “no-alcohol February.” I certainly won’t be replacing wine and beer with non-alcoholic substitutes though this year–just think of all the wasted, empty calories!
  6. I am doing two 30-day challenges: plank and cardio, and the easiest level for each (beginner level 1). After numerous failed attempts at working out over the years, I realized that incremental steps is probably the most likely way to get me to do more extended workouts. I’ve nailed the first week of both (up to a 35-second forearm plank & 3.5 minutes of various cardio exercises, from a 10-second plank & 3o seconds of cardio), but I know it will get hard and I will want more than anything not to do it. I hope I stick it out. I do them when I feel like I have energy or, failing that, while watching something on TV that I like enough to provide the biggest distraction. Have I mentioned I hate workouts? Oh, and I also don’t calculate negative calories or document exercises. That may just be because it’s so little right now, but ideally I’m not looking to trade exercise for food. Running for 20 minutes doesn’t mean I can have a slice of cake. I’m not deducting the calories burned from the running total, but I may if/when it becomes a more substantial number.
  7. If I make it through January with those, I’ve decided to try out the local YMCA in February (I figure all the January failures–hopefully not including myself–will be gone by then). I have a 3-day pass and I’ve checked out monthly memberships (doable and worth it if I’m going to go regularly). I also printed out the group fitness schedule and posted it on my fridge as a motivator and reminder.
  8. I threw out everything that was going to be tempting, even if I would allow myself to have small portions in moderation (e.g., pancakes, cheese, pasta, rice)–things in the fridge, by the way, not uncooked in the cabinet. I imagine that if I get to a place where I’m satisfied with my progress, I will re-introduce those foods in my diet. Plus, I can always donate them if I don’t.
  9. I buy things that are healthy and I also like. This is unlike the past because I used to buy things that I thought I could learn to like (e.g., strawberries, apples, other healthy things). Now I just stick with things I know I’ll eat and I find creative ways to use them (e.g., my recent cauliflower-tots). So I wind up eating cauliflower (bread crumbs not forbidden, just in moderation, see?) and I’m excited by a cool, tasty thing that I’m also proud of myself for making.
  10. I have a “cheat day”…sort of. Rather than being like “fuck it!” and eating and drinking anything and everything I want on once-weekly “cheat days,” I continue to count calories and I work to keep it as close to 2,000 as possible. This way it’s closer to a standard non-diet amount of calories and reduces the likelihood that I’ll be undoing my progress by adding weight.
  11. I’ve bitten the bullet and started to “unfollow” food accounts. Mac Mart, Spotburger, the myriad of other food trucks from back in Philly…I love you all dearly, but you make me hungry for things that I just can’t eat right now. Plus, like 80% of them are inaccessible from where I live these days anyway, so I’ve just been torturing myself for no reason.

So that’s all I can think of for now that I’ve been doing (it’s plenty though, I feel). I told myself I couldn’t document my progress until it had been a month, but there’s always the possibility I don’t make it a month, and I want to be able to look back on what strategies I was trying to assess where I may have gone wrong. Plus, if it doesn’t all go to shit, I will be able to say that these tactics were successful! So either way it’s useful.

And now…to have a few ounces of chicken breast (50 cal/oz.) with some of my cauliflower tots (20 cal/tot) and a cup of tea with a teaspoon of sugar (15 cal/tsp.)! Tasty and healthy!

 

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“Go do a FUN thing!”

This was verbatim on my to-do list this weekend, because I spent part of my 3-day weekend working, part resting (to finish getting over a cold), and I needed to make sure I did something fun too. I had intended to go to First Night in Worcester, but after reviewing the schedule I decided that I’d rather just go grab a cheeseburger and a beer and get ready for 2017. I also found 100-strand lights in different colors (red, blue, green, and white) at Walmart for $.57 each so I got all excited for upcoming holidays since looking at my decorated windows through the french doors in my living room is my new happy place.

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Anyway, this isn’t about that. This is about my fun thing, which, by the way, I almost backed out of due to sheer laziness. With a New Year’s Resolution to do one recreational activity per week, I would have been starting out pretty poorly if I didn’t stick to my own plan for the weekend. At first I looked up some hiking trails, but figured they were probably kind of steep and snow-covered, and the closest is 30 minutes away. I definitely wasn’t in the mood to drive a half an hour to find out it was too snowy to proceed, so I just started Googling “things to do Worcester.” One of the things that popped up was “Old Stone Church” and seeing it somehow triggered the memory that my supervisor last year had sent an email about abandoned asylums in Massachusetts. Apparently, that email was about a book that features photos of the inside of old asylums in Mass. I was not interested in a book; I was interested in seeing what was in those photos firsthand. Back on Google, I looked for the closest former asylums that still exist. Fortunately, and as with most things, there’s a Wiki page for that. It didn’t take me long to figure out Medfield was the way to go. It’s open to the public during daylight hours AND was the filming location for the movie Shutter Island.

The sign outside the gate was a fairly ominous one, and matched the grayness of the day quite well.

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I must say, weather wise, it was perfect. Cold and gray, with leaves and ice crunching beneath my feet. At times, all that could be heard was the sound of my crunching. More often, however, were the sounds of people–after all, this is open to the public and the public was off [of work and school] today. Oddly enough, this historic site has become more like a dog park than anything else, which certainly changes the ambiance of it. But in those moments where other people were just far enough away to be out of earshot, it was perfect.

I was unsure of the rules outside of DON’T GO IN THE BUILDINGS, which was pretty clear from the eight million signs on the grounds. Security patrolled, but not often, and the one police SUV I saw at the site had only stopped to speak with the Security officer and then disappeared. I kept my distance at first and felt an eerie chill of excitement as I walked up to my first red boarded-up building.

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You see what I mean about the grayness of it all just fitting so perfectly?

Once I passed that building, it wasn’t long before I ran into more. And more. And so many more.

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As you can see, I started to get a little more bold with how closely I approached the buildings. After all, the signs read DON’T GO INSIDE not DON’T GO ANYWHERE NEAR THEM. So I got a bit closer to inspect the wreckage.

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As I approached the clocktower-apparently a staple of any good historic mental hospital-I was taken aback when I noticed that someone had decided it needed a little holiday cheer.

Amused, I made my way to the front, not expecting that there would also be decorations there.

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I noticed a red snowflake ornament on the ground, the hook having snapped clean in half. I picked it up, re-bent what was left of the hook, and added it to the collection on the tree, feeling satisfied that I had done my part.

As I continued, I snapped photos of anything that struck me as interesting. img_4832img_4831img_4838

At one point I noticed a piece of red plywood and air vent on the ground and my eyes immediately shot up to determine if it had come from the building next to which it sat. Indeed, it had.

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This building was situated across from one whose porch I could access, and as I contemplated what kind of photo I would take, I silently cursed the giant boulders that appeared somewhat out of place. There were more of them around the grounds and they all seemed oddly placed. A moment later it dawned on me–they were blocking underground access of some kind. And there was no way they would ever budge. They had definitely covered all of their bases when they went no-access.

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It wasn’t until I had neared the end of my adventure when I saw what appeared to be an old sign informing visitors (and residents?) of directions to the buildings they may have been seeking.

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It had certainly weathered over time. The building in the background on the left was the only one on the grounds labeled with something other than a spray-painted condemnation designation, and it was called “A” Building. Ignoring the quotes I chuckled to myself, thinking, “indeed.” A building.

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As I made my way back to the car, completely forgetting that there was a hospital cemetery nearby, which I will have to return to visit, I couldn’t help but snap a few photos of this structure.

I couldn’t quite determine its purpose, but I’m sure it also would have paled in comparison to the myriad other buildings I had investigated.

I was there for a little over an hour and was saddened not to find any little corners to sneak into any of the buildings. The few doors I attempted to pull on had either been welded shut or didn’t have handles/doorknobs and refused to budge. When I encountered a group of college-age boys, I was tempted to ask if they’d had any luck getting into any of the buildings, but I’d left any kind of self-defense in the Jeep and I wasn’t willing to risk it.

There was only one identifiable “spiritual” moment, and it came towards the end of my adventure. I had doubled-back behind the building that I first photographed upon entering the site and as I approached it, I was hit with that scent of “old.” I’m sure you know it–it’s particularly strong in an attic, or an old book. I wondered if I couldn’t just be smelling what the inside of the building likely smelled of, but it followed me for a few minutes. It lingered as I inspected a few housing structures that were between the first hospital building and the gate. Of course it’s possible that the scent exists inside the buildings and wafted outside, getting “stuck” in my nose for a short while. I don’t particularly believe in spirits or ghosts, but I don’t not believe in them either. What I chose (and choose) to do is let it be as meaningful as it needs to be for me.

I also recognize that I titled this post “Go do a FUN thing,” and then proceeded to describe visiting abandoned asylum grounds. So welcome to my fun. And as Imagine Dragons sang through my radio as I approached the site, “I’m never changing who I am.”

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