Underneath my yellow skin

Category Archives: Physical Fitness

Changing my mind is hard…and sometimes necessary

I’m a stubborn cuss. Once I make up my mind about something, I’m hard-pressed to change it. If I do, it’s usually after a lot of thinking, musing, and researching. I have to drag myself kicking and screaming into a new idea. To my credit, I actually will change my mind if enough good information is presented to me. It doesn’t even have to be a lot–just solid enough for me to understand a different point of view. In this case, let’s talk caffeine. I have given it up twice in my life. Once in college because I was drinking six to eight cans a day and I went cold turkey. That was hell on earth and I would not suggest it. I was cranky, irritable, and my sleep was fucked even more than usual. It was two weeks of pure hell and this time around, I knew better than to try it again.

I had a plan. I was going to wean myself off caffeine. At the time, I drank probably three to four cans of pop a day. It’s hard to know for sure because I poured it into a big (adult) sippy cup and just drank from that throughout the day. I cut it by an estimated one can a day until I was down to zero. This was a year or two ago and I had a cup of caffeinated tea/coffee once a month or so. One of the reasons I quit was because I was getting a bit jittery. The biggest reason, though, was because I thought I should quit. That’s it. Not for any real reason. But because I was getting the jitters and thought maybe it would be better for me to cut out the caffeine.

However. Here’s the thing. Caffeine is both a trigger for migraines and a prevention for them as well. No one knowns why or in what quantities. It’s different for each person as well. A few weeks ago (election week), I was struggling with migraines and popping my pills as much as I felt safe doing. The main ingredient is caffeine and I thought that maybe my abstinence of caffeine was a hasty decision. I decided that one cup a day (8-12 oz.) would not be a bad thing. I started with oolong tea, which was not my favorite, but I happened to have it on hand. I found a box of green tea with pomegranate that I much preferred and substituted that. Then, I saw that Califia Farms who makes very tasty cold-brew coffee drinks had a peppermint mocha blend (with almond milk) so I’m drinking that every day.

Cold-brew has much less acidity than regular coffee and its caffeine content varies. I feel like there’s less in the Califia than in tea because I feel the migraine bubbling under the surface at the end of a day when I drink the Califa but not the tea. But! Both have been able to stave off a full-blown migraine so I’ll take that as a win. Still. I’m careful to keep it under control and not go back to drinking a six pack of pop a day.

Going full steam(er) ahead…and double sabres

I’m old. I know myself well enough by now that there are two ways I can make changes to something in my life. One is to think about it for a lengthy amount of time before suddenly doing it–like with my cats. I pondered it for years, looking at it from every angle, looked at hundreds of black cats, then just went and got them one day. It’s a lot of internal churning which is eventually matched by outer motion. Sometimes, the internal churning is less, but the outer activity is just as abrupt. See me cutting out dairy and gluten on the same day.

The other is a 180 from that mentality. It’s taking small, almost invisible steps one at a time until looking back months later, there is real progress. I’m in the middle of this with my diet. In the past, I ate all premade food and junk food. I struggled to get in my fruits and veggies as part of an overcorrection from my childhood when I was forced to eat them every day. Look, I would never deny they’re important, but having many power struggles over eating as a kid didn’t make me amenable to chomping on them as an adult.

It’s more important now because I’m finding I have a reaction to more and more foods. I’ll get to that in a minute. In addition, I decided to cut back on meat for ethical and environmental reasons. I wasn’t trying to eat healthier per se but to accommodate my many dietary restriction. I’ve cut down my eating meat to once a day at most. I’m aiming for more meat-free (chicken) days which means more veggies!

I’ve had my issues with veggies for a long time. I’ve eaten more fruits than vegetables in the past because I liked fruits better. But, unfortunately, I’m finding more and more fruits that are not good for my digestive system.

Side note: I’m pretty sure it’s IBS. I’m not going to get it tested any time soon, but the symptoms are pretty consistent. Also, I learned that allergies to things in nature can correlate to food allergies.


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Spicing up my life

I want sex. It’s been more than a hot second since I’ve had it, and now is exactly not the time to seek  it out. There is no way to copulate with six feet between me and another person, and the idea of wearing masks…well, that’s not my kink. I know there’s Skypesex and sexting, but neither are what I want right now. I had no point with that, but I just wanted to throw it out there.

Let’s talk sleep. My schedule has taken a drastic turn for the worse. I’ve been going to bed as late as 5:30 in the morning, which, how the hell did I used to do this on the regs? Part of the problem is Spiritfarer, I’ll be frank. If I start playing it any time after midnight, all bets are off when I’ll actually end up sleeping.

There are deeper reasons, however, and they’re the same as they ever were plus exciting new Covid-19-related reasons. One, the longer I stay awake, the longer I put off having to get up for the next day. No, it doesn’t make sense, but my brain doesn’t care about that. Two, I just don’t sleep well. At all. The weighted blanket has helped as had taiji, but it’s still fraught with all kinds of bullshit.

With all that being said, what I actually want to talk about is cooking. I don’t cook. Or rather, I didn’t cook. I didn’t see the point in it because it’s a lot of work for someone who lives alone. Yes, I know about batch cooking and freezing and whatnot, but I simply didn’t want to do it. I don’t like to cook–yes, yes, I know that’s heresy in this day and age–and I resisted any urge to do so. There’s a whole lot of gendered expectations wrapped up in all that, but mostly, it was just too much trouble.

Here’s the thing about depression as I experience it. I live with a triage mentality every day. What absolutely has to get done and what can be punted down the line. For example, I’m doing laundry today. I should have done it at least a month ago. It’s a bit more acceptable because I don’t go anywhere, but I’m down to skirts and ripped t-shirts. Even in the Before Times, I pushed laundry until the very last moment, but this is beyond ridiculous.

If I make something a routine such as my wake-up taiji regime, then my brain just takes it as an immutable. Again, don’t ask me how it works because I don’t know, but it’s my way of tricking my brain. I get up, take my thyroid pill, feed Shadow, clean the litter, brush/floss my teeth, and then taiji routine. This is sacrosanct, and I don’t question it. Something like laundry, however, which is not done every day, it’s much harder to force my brain to do it. I’ve been meaning to do it for the past two or three weeks, but my brain has overridden all my intentions.

How did I make myself do it this time? Not entirely sure. I just started throwing things down once I woke up, but I had done that a few weeks ago as well. I simply wouldn’t allow my brain to detour from it, which is something else I can do from time to time. Yes, it’s like my brain is a computer that I have to override, which is annoying as fuck.

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Weight of my world

I’ve been wanting to lose weight for quite some time. Pretty much my whole life, actually.  My mom put me on a diet when I was seven, saying that I had ‘such a pretty face’ that it was too bad I was so fat. Those might not have been the exact words, but that was the underlying sentiment. For the next quarter of a century, that was something that came up all the goddamn fucking time. She rattled on and on about my weight, and she couldn’t even pretend it was about my health. Well, she could try, but I was smart enough to notice that when I was in my anorexic phases, the only comments she made were of jealousy–such that I had a smaller waist than she did. It was very easy to see that it wasn’t about health–it was solely about looks and weight. I had to tell her in explicit terms in my…wanna say early thirties that she was not to mention my weight at all. She did not take kindly to that, but I didn’t care.

In the past few years, I’ve become painfully cognizant of how fat I am. I mean, I know I’m fat. It’s not a surprise. As much as I try not to look in the mirror, I still catch myself on occasion. Most of the time, I quickly look away. However, once in a while, I stare in horror before looking away again. I hate the way I look except for my hair. Love my hair. Which is still growing. It’s a hoot and an amazement given that it didn’t grow for two decades.

I will state that I don’t give a shit about my health. Well, not overtly, anyway. It’s a big by-product of doing taiji, but I never paid it no mind. I only cared about the martial arts aspect, and if it was good for my health and mental health, well, then that was an added bonus.

Anyway, I’m trying to cut down on meat as I mentioned in my previous post. I used to eat two to three servings a day, and I’m down to one or two. My ideal is two to three a week for now, but it’s still early days yet. I just had the last of the Beyond Italian Sausages, and I’m sad that I don’t have any more. They were so incredibly juicy and had a nice spice to them. They tasted exactly like Italian sausages, and I would gladly sub them for meat any day of the week. I have a package of ground ‘beef’ (also Beyond) in the freezer that I’ll fry up later in the week.


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Mental and physical health in the time of you-know-what

It’s May. I’m having a hard time grasping that little fact. I’m also having a hard time remembering when my personal lockdown started. I want to say it was…March…early? Late? Not sure any longer. I know it was before my birthday which was nearly a month ago. Time has lost all meaning, and I know I’m not the only one who feels that way. It’s also interesting how many people are having vivid dreams, which was something I assumed was only happening to me. There are reports of people dreaming about people who ignored social distancing, making the dreamer panic. Mine have had nothing to do with COVID-19, but they are very intense. It’s weird because I used to have extreme anxiety dreams and before that, outright nightmares. Now, however, my dreams are intense but not anxious dreams–well, not in the classic sense. They are the least-troubling aspect of my sleep at the moment, which is saying a lot.

I’ve given up on trying to regulate my sleep. I go to sleep whenever I go to sleep, and I get up whenever I get up. If I snooze at any given point, then I snooze. I’m of the mindset that whatever gets me through at this point is fine. Within reason, of course.

Side Note: I read all these people joking about drinking 24/7, and I don’t find it funny at all. I already thought people in America drink too much (let’s not talk about Britain), and I don’t like that the pandemic is being used as an excuse to get plastered. I do sympathize with self-medicating, but….Yeah, I’ll just leave it at that.

I mentioned last time that the one bright side to this mess is that my allergies and sinus issues have been drastically reduced, which strengthens my theory that nature is trying to kill me. I mean, it makes perfect sense that if I’m allergic to everything in nature, keeping it at bay will be better for me. Now that I’m able to test this hypothesis, I’ve found that it’s true. What does it mean for life after this pandemic clears (if it does)? I don’t know. It’s not realistic for me to not ever go anywhere ever. I mean, I could do it, but I don’t think it’s feasible for the long run.

I’m also thinking about what to do about life in general once the restrictions ease. People in my neighborhood are pretty lax about best practices, and it’s tripping me up whenever I see it. I can’t remember the last time I saw someone wearing a mask in my neighborhood, including when I went to the pharmacy. It’s bizarre, and it makes me angry. I’m working on letting it go and reminding myself that I’m hermetically sealed for the most part.


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I just upgraded to my 2.0 version

I’ve been having a rough time lately with, well, lots of things. The low grade depression I’ve been experiencing for over a year–it might be two at this point–is more noticeable and yet….It’s hard to explain. I’m not outwardly depressed, but my body has been wrecked for a while now. The last week, I’ve been sleeping seven to nine hours a night except for two nights, and that’s a lot of sleep for me if I’m not sick. Am I? I don’t know. My nose is a bit prickly and my throat is a bit gummy, but nothing more than that. Oh, and I’m exhausted, but that’s par the course for me.

In addition, we’re renovating the house, which means I have to clean the bedrooms. I’m a slob. This is not an easy task. Well, one of the three rooms is clean, so that one is fine. My bedroom is a disaster area, and my computer room is worse. I’ve been working on my bedroom employing different strategies. The first was to do something every time I got up to do something else. Throw the clothes on the floor down the chute. Pick up papers from the floor. Or, in the case of my computer room, gather up all the stuffed animals. Then, I started to be more specific and take on larger chunks. Fill up this storage box with books from the bookshelf in my room. It’s a small bookshelf, but it’s already filled two medium-ish size storage containers. Today, I’m going to focus on cleaning out the top row and making sure everything is off the floor. Tomorrow, I’m going to tackled my desk. Which means getting more storage containers. Which means going to Target. I also need to get masks because there is a lot of dust I’m stirring around. A LOT.

I’ve heard of the Pomodoro method which is setting a timer for fifteen minutes and then doing whatever for that amount of time. The theory being that once you start, you’ll keep going. Or, if you don’t, at least you got fifteen minutes done. It’s a good method, but it still felt overwhelming enough that I chose to do it my own way. The bottom line is that if I put any kind of stricture on it, I wouldn’t have done anything. Now, I’m nearly done with my bedroom, and it’s more work than I’ve done on that room in over a year. The trouble is that I can only do so much in a given day, and it’s not because I’m lazy. It’s because of all my health issues. Which I’m still having a difficult time grasping as ok. Or rather, I’m having a hard time not thinking it’s all in my mind.

My family is very pro-work yourself into a grave. Both my parents work way more than they should, and when my father was forced to retire, he withered until he started an association into which he pours all his time, energy, and heart. My mom will never retire and if she does, she’ll volunteer most of the time, anyway. My brother works fifty to sixty hours a week and seems to have all his spare time crammed with interesting activities. Me, on the other hand, spends most of my time plunked on my couch. The work I’ve been doing on my rooms has been difficult, and it doesn’t help that I’m chastising myself for not doing more.


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Being challenged physically and emotionally

Day three or four of waking up with a migraine. I’m lucky in that I can stand reading and writing when I have a migraine, but I have to keep all the lights off and any sound I have on low. Even then, I have a low level thumping in my brain and a general queasiness. Still, I consider myself very fortunate that I can function at all when I have a migraine; I know many people can’t. I just went to the store to stock up for Snowmaggedon (current prediction 7 to 12 inches, but it’s been all over the place), and I’m exhausted. That’s the downside to trying to operate while migraining–it takes everything out of me. Again, I’m lucky that I can function at all, but now I’m down for the rest of the day.

Is this my life? For the past few years, I feel as I’ve been operating at 75% or less* more often than not. I have a few days or weeks of feeling good, and then it all comes crashing down around me again. I know I need to get a thorough slate of tests, but I’m just…so tired. Going to the doctor is an ordeal for me in the best of times, which this is not. Why? For a plethora of reasons. Let’s start with the fact that I had thyroid troubles since I was young. I was hyperthyroid, though I didn’t know it at the time. I just new I was hot and cranky and couldn’t sleep. There were other reasons for it, of course, but the big one was discovering I had Graves’ disease when I was a tweener. Back then, it wasn’t really well understood (this was in the mid-eighties), and they treated it by shoving pills down my throat. I’m not sure what they were, exactly, but I was taking 27 pills a day. Nine pills three times a day. That didn’t work because my whatever levels were extraordinarily high. They decided they needed to go to the nuclear option (literally?) of radiation. They were quite forthright about the fact that they were giving me their best estimate, but that radiation wasn’t precise. Most likely, they were going to give me too much and destroy my thyroid. This is exactly what happened, and now I have to take a pill every day for the rest of my life.

During that time and thereafter, I had to get my blood drawn quite often. It was on a monthly basis for a while, and I have terrible veins. Again, this isn’t something I knew before I had to have my blood drawn so regularly, but I came away from it quite wary of anyone poking me with a needle (except my tattoo artist). I have many negative memories of that time, including the (male) nurse who insisted he could find my vein from inside my arm and kept wiggling it. It hurt like a motherfucker until I wanted to punch him. He kept saying he wanted to not poke me again (to prevent further pain), but at that point, I would have welcomed a thousand extra pricks. I mentioned that he’s male because the other time I had a really difficult poker was after I was in a car accident. The person doing the MRI was a man, and he was pissed that I hadn’t been poked already before I got to him. He was grumbling the whole time he poked me, and I ended up bruised and sore.

Side note: I am keloid. This is yet another thing I learned through experience. This means that I scar twice as bad as other people, and any time I got my blood drawn, I ended up with a massive bruise that lasted several days if not a week. I still have to get my blood drawn every year, and I tell the phlebotomist to use a butterfly needle and take it from the back of my hand. I don’t know when I learned this was a thing, but when I did, it was a life-changer. I remember a feeling of awe as my blood flowed with ease from the back of my hand. And, the prick was nothing–I barely felt it at all. I still have a few phlebotomists who insist on doing it the old-fashioned way first, but they always come around to the butterfly needle in the hand trick.


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I got my weapons on my mind

Let’s talk weapons. Not the gun kind that has been making the news with distressing frequency, but the kind that doesn’t shoot projectiles at a high velocity. We’re talking swords, sabres, canes, and fans. We’re also talking escrima sticks and karambits. I mentioned this before, but I want to delve more into it.

I never wanted to try weapons when I first started taiji. While I was all about the martial arts application, I thought weapons were…uncivilized. More than that, they scared me. I was a ball of rage at that time, and I felt if I did weapons, I would just beat the shit out of everyone with said weapons. It wasn’t rational, but it was how I felt. I kept a tight rein on my anger, but when I slipped, it exploded all over the place.

I’ve told this story a million times, but I fobbed off my teacher every time she brought up weapons for an uncomfortable amount of time. It was only when she put a wooden sword into my hand that I realized what the fuck I had been missing. The second I closed my fingers over the hilt of the sword, I knew this was what I was meant to do. It felt like an extension of my arm, and I bought my stainless steel sword pretty soon after.

I would like to say that I practiced diligently once I started learning the Sword Form, but this isn’t a fairy tale, and I didn’t experience a radical personality change. I still dragged my feet, but I *did* enjoy learning the Sword Form more than I did the Solo Form. I learned it fairly quickly, and I loved every minute of it. When I was learning the Solo Form, there were several times I questioned what the fuck I was doing and why the hell I was doing this thing called taiji? I don’t mind saying (and my teacher doesn’t mind hearing) that I resented the hell out of taiji, and one of the reasons I went to more than one class a week is because I didn’t practice at home at all.

Side Note: I have a new classmate who is challenging to me for many reasons. The one I’m going to focus on this right now is because she’s so gung-ho about taiji, especially weapons. I am the weapons person in my class, and it’s a poke to my ego to see her learning them before knowing the whole Solo Form. Back when I started taiji, my teacher was told by her teacher that weapons could not be taught until after the Solo Form. That is no longer the case, and while I think it’s a good change, it’s hard for me not to feel resentful. I know I sound very much ‘back in my day’ about it, but it doesn’t help to hide it. I try not to have attitude around her, but it’s difficult.

Anyway, after the Sword Form came the Sabre Form, and that was a rocky road. It was nothing like the Sword Form, which shocked the hell out of me. Ignorant me thought, “Hey, it’s just a slightly bigger sword. It should be a snap.” It was not a snap. Not a snap at all. It was the opposite of a snap, and it upset me. There are very few things I’m proud of when it comes to myself, and one of them is that I learn things quickly*. Whereas the sword instantly felt at home in my hand, the sabre was just…dead wood. It never came alive. It never sang to me. It never thrummed with excitement, and I hated it.

I can say that now because I am past that hate and the resentment. Way past it, but I’ll get to that in a second.


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Chasing a unicorn

I’m fat. I know I’ve said this before, but it really hit home when I looked at the pictures of me from my niece’s wedding shower. Related, I looked up someone from college who I had a big crush on, and he looks fantastic. He’s two years older than I am, but he looks like he’s in his early thirties. I mean, I look younger than I am, too, but I’m still fat. Come to think of it, he’s also Asian, so maybe it’s partly our good genes. Anyway, I looked gargantuan in the pics. It’s partly because my niece is slim and gamine-like, but it’s also just that I’m fat. Have I said it often enough? I am fat.

I have spent almost thirty years battling eating disorders of one kind or another. Actually, my disordered relationship with food started ten years before that when my mother put me on my first diet with the words, “You would be so pretty if you would just lose weight.” I’ve also recounted my mother’s disordered thinking when it comes to her body and food, but I can’t emphasize how much it’s seeped into my subconsciousness. There was a stretch of time when every time we talked on the phone, she would mention her weight. She, of course, insists it’s all about health (also the excuse she gives for nagging about my weight until I put my foot down), but I realized it was bullshit because she never once voiced any concern when I was anorexic (both times). The only thing she said was, “Now your waist is skinnier than mine”, and it was in a jealous voice. The first time I deal with anorexia and bulimia, I got caught throwing up in the bathroom, and my mother was brought in to talk about it. I don’t remember how that actually came about, but I do remember my mom was not pleased and did not want to do anything about it. I’m sure it was embarrassing for her and that I brought  shame to the family. But, it also was chickens coming home to roost or however that phrase goes.

Anyway. The second bout with anorexia/bulimia included me fainting at First Ave. for a Los Lobos side project concert. Which was very disappointing because I admire Los Lobos so much. After that, I gave up on ‘dieting’ because I just could not do it in a responsible way. No matter how rationally I started (I will be honest that I wasn’t all that rational at the start of the second round, but I had at least tried not to be crazed), I spiraled out as the weeks progressed. I clearly remember how I set a goal of 150 lbs, and when I got to 155, I dropped my goal to 145. I kept doing that until I passed out.

Here’s the thing. I can’t do numbers. I don’t mean I can’t do math because of course I can. I like math. I liked everything except geometry and trig 2, and the latter was because of the teacher. I mean I can’t do numbers when I’m dieting because I lose all sense of proportion. During my first bout with anorexia/bulimia, I weighed myself twice a day. Now, this isn’t good in general, and it’s definitely not good for someone with disordered thinking. It’s not good in general because a person’s weight fluctuates on a daily basis. All the health rags say you should only weigh yourself once a week if you weigh yourself at all. It should be more about the clothing fitting better is the new train of thought, and while it’s better, it’s still too much emphasis on the actual weight loss. The second time I tried to lose weight, I tried to rely more on tape measurements than pounds, but it didn’t matter. I knew an inch was equal to five pounds, so if I didn’t lose a half inch a week, I’d be very depressed.


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Leveling up my veggie game

though not quite as tasty.
Better for me than chips.

I need to stop buying chips; I really do. I had given them up at some point, then gave into the impulse to buy them once, and the rest is history. It’s funny because while giving up caffeine was a nightmare at the time, I haven’t really missed it at all. I bought a thing of mocha coffee (with almond milk) last week, drank it for three days, then didn’t miss it when it was gone. Chips, on the other hand, are my weakness. Which is weird because I never used to be a salt person. I’m still not actually a salt person. I don’t add it to anything, and I wipe off my chips before I eat them. Or I get low-sodium chips.

I know the conventional wisdom is to eat in moderation, but that’s just not possible for me. I think another conventional wisdom should be to know thyself. One of the problems with giving advice, especially on the internet, is that the giver tends to look at the ideal situation. Look, you know I love me some advice columns. I consider them my stories, and I read them every day. But many of the comments are very black and white without considering the nuance. So, ‘eat in moderation’ is sound advice, but insisting that someone can do it through simple willpower isn’t.

Yes, of course, I know it’s because most people are limited in their capacity to look outside themselves (one reason I get so frustrated with conversations) and have a hard time truly understanding that other people may react to something differently than they do. I saw that in the Ask A Manager comments once when someone was talking about not being able to have their favorite junk food in the house because they had no control. People made sensible suggestions like divvying it up beforehand and freezing the parts you don’t immediately eat (in the case of chocolate) or hiding it away (for chips), which were very good suggestions. The problem is for someone like me–I won’t do it. I just know I won’t. We’re not always rational beings, and it’s difficult to explain why.

For example. One time while my mother was here, she said if I folded the paper bags from Cubs correctly before putting them in the cabinet, they would take up less space. Later, I told Ian that she was correct, and that I wouldn’t be doing that. He gave me a look of pure puzzlement. He said, “You know she’s right, and yet, you won’t do it?” I cheerfully said, “Yep!”, which just blew his mind. I knew it was irrational, but in that case, I also knew the reason why. Pure childish spite.

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