Sunday, August 21, 2011

6 month later...

Exactly 6 months ago, today, I bought my gym membership and went to the gym for the first time in ages. Just like everyone else who buys a gym membership in January, I was enthusiastic, full of energy and completely convinced I would be able to start a healthier, leaner and stronger life. So, what has happened since then?
I'm leaner, stronger and I can only assume I'm healthier as well. I still carry some extra padding, but it's more like I'm wearing a windbreaker now, rather than a down anorak. I've lost 20 lb and 8 inches around my waist and this have had some consequences in my life.
It would be much more profound if I could say that it has turned my life around. That I'm finally feeling like the true me and that I've never really felt comfortable in my own skin until now. But none of that is true. The truth is, I've never really had a problem with my weight (I've lost 30 lb since my heaviest). I wasn't miserable before. My self-confidence has always been, and still is, borderline obnoxious. I've kinda always liked being me, with or without the extra insulation.
So, the consequences of my leaner and stronger self is of a much more pragmatic nature. First of all, I no longer have the urgent need to change into my sweatpants as soon as I'm through the front door. Secondly, my new preferred look is wearing jeans and t-shirts. Some people loose weight so they can wear tight and skimpy cloths. I lost weight so that I could wear jeans and t-shirts.
Thirdly, I can wear maxi-dresses! I love maxi-dresses and have for years. Every year I try on a dussin maxi-dresses but it has been as flattering as putting a maxi-dress on a refrigerator (some of us are not blessed with a hourglass figure). But as the refrigerator shrunk, I've been able to find a few maxis that don't look horrendous on me. I'm actually wearing one right now.
I still have some work to do. This journey has been very pleasant this far. I thought it would be much more painful and difficult, but it has been great. I don't feel like I'm sacrificing anything, but I'm gaining a lot (except weight). My goal has been from the get go, to reach a comfortable weight within 12 months from the day I started. So I will report back in another 6 months and I'm certain I will have positive news to report, just as certain as I was when I enthusiastically started this journey.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The World of Chemistry

I wish I saw this when I was still in school. It makes so much sense!

Friday, August 19, 2011

I'm not a marriage counselor, but...

Considering the amount of time I spend at the gym, there is no wonder I encounter funny people at times and hear funny stories. While stretching yesterday, I was entertained by three older gentlemen in their 70s.

Two of the men were already exercising when the third man appeared. For the sake of the story, let's call the third man Bob and his friends Frank and John. Their conversation went something like this:

Bob: Guten Morgen! (Good morning, in German)
Frank: Guten Morgen! Wie geht's? (Good morning! How are you?)

Frank continues saying a few sentences in German.

Bob: I have no idea what you're saying. I don't know why, but I'm having difficulties remembering the words. The lessons are not helping. You're doing great, but Im hopeless.
Frank: You just need to practice.

A few minutes of exercise goes by.

Frank: Isn't your wife's birthday coming up? Do you know what you're getting her?
Bob: Yes, I saw this really expensive and high-tech bathroom scale. It will be perfect!
Frank: Wow, you dare to give your wife a bathroom scale?!? Isn't she going to be upset?
Bob: But she says she wants to loose a few pounds and that we need to buy a scale.
Frank: I'm no marriage counselor, but is it really a good idea to give a woman a bathroom scale? She might want to loose weight, but I'm sure she doesn't want you to want her to loose weight.
Bob: You think? Well, I don't want to upset her.

John joins the conversation

John: My wife loved the gift I got for her birthday. I don't know if you've seen them, but there are fancy aprons that look like dresses nowadays. She's always in the kitchen so it was a perfect gift.
Frank: Bob, don't buy your wife an apron. John, I don't know how to tell you this but your wife didn't like the gift. She was happy you got her a gift, but my wife told me she was upset that you only thought she was good for cooking.
John: But she told me she loved it... Well, Frank, you seem to know it all. What do you think Bob should give his wife?
Frank (turns to Bob): You could take your wife out to the theatre or to a nice restaurant. And don't forget to buy flowers! You must buy flowers, it's the flowers they remember.
Bob: A nice restaurant you say... Have you been to any good ones lately?

The three men walk away discussing restaurants.

There are so many things I love about this conversation. Without knowing, I imagine that they have been married to their wives for a while. Still clueless and still trying to figure them out. Even Frank. The way he mentioned the flowers was not because he understood why his wife loved flowers, but he had learnt throughout the years that when he buys flowers she responds in a positive way.

Also, cudos to anyone who picks up a new hobby, skill or language, especially when you reach a certain age. These men go to the gym, are learning German and go out to new restaurants and shows. I'm sure they will live a long, healthy and rewarding life, for many years to come.

Monday, August 15, 2011


I've been going regularly to the gym for the past 5 months. My overall fitness is better and I feel stronger and exercising is not so much a chore anymore, it's something I almost enjoy.

One very unexpected benefit of the gym that has been very interesting and entertaining is the opportunity I've had to observe other people. In many ways, the gym is like a society, with different groups being represented. Here are some examples:

Pushy, slightly aggressive go-getters
In real life, they are the ones who don't know how to stand in line or wait their turn. They usually come across as being pushy and they have a weird sense of entitlement. In Gymland, (and in life) they can be summed up as the East Asian ladies.

The Clueless people
In real life, they tend not fully grasp the concept of being appropriate. Sometimes it's about table-side manners and sometimes it's about conversation topics. In Gymland, they are represented by the people who exercise in jeans and by those who use weight machines for completely different muscles groups than the machine is build for.

People who just want to fit in
In real life, these would be the people who just want to blend in, be average. In Gymland, these would be the people who just want to be a little stronger and a little fitter. They would typically have been described as scrawny or chubby. They don't aim at being Mr/Ms Fitness, they just want cloths to fit a bit better.

The superficial guy/ The vain girl
In real life, they drive the right car, have the right job, wear the latest fashions and live in fabulous pent houses. It would all be great if they did it for their own benefit. But we all know a few who do and have all that just to impress other people. It's no different in Gymland. The guys with super muscular upper-bodies but with chicken legs. Not naturally slim legs, but no muscles at all legs. I guess it makes sense if you always wear jeans and tight t-shirts. Or the girls who wear full make-up with their hair undone who are more pre-occupied with the movement of their mane than with form and exercise.

The popular crowd
In real life, these are the people who have it all. They seem very content and happy. They are often popular, not because they have all the right things, but because they are nice people. They are the in-crowd that everyone wants to be around, both the superficial people and the people who just want to fit in. In Gymland, they have great bodies and they have worked hard at it. But they can still afford to smile at people and encourage others.

The business men
In real life, they are all about efficiency. Time is money, people! In Gymland, they are always on the phone, talking to their assistants, answering clients or on a conference call.

People going through hardship
In real life, people struggle through personal hardship. It can be the loss of a loved one, a sickness, custody battles etc. Many will conquer their personal issues and come out stronger on the other side. In Gymland, these are the people with physical challenges and they will literally be stronger, sometime through rehabilitation and sometimes through strengthening the physical abilities they are equipped with.

The perfectionist
In real life, they run their life by their calendars. Every aspect of their lives are prepared and executed to perfection. The same amount of effort is put into a business presentation and a dinner with friends. In Gymland, they have perfect bodies, not so they can show off, but because perfect is the only option. They are very focused and sometimes slightly intimidating.

Senior Citizens
In real life, they are recently retired. They suddenly have more time on their hands. They are also becoming aware of their age and that this is the time to do all the things you wanted to do but didn't have time. It's time to get a new hobby. In Gymland, their new hobby is going to the gym. Always with a friend or two.

Gossip Girls
In real life, these ladies (almost always ladies) don't care about time and place, it's all about the gossip. A never-ending chitter-chatter about life's "OMG-moments". In Gymland, they will talk (to another person or on the phone) throughout an hour of Zumba, they gossip on the treadmill and chatter while stretching. They will also limit their physical exertion to a minimum, to enable easier talking.

The Decadents
In real life, they are driven by instant pleasure. They love to eat and drink. If they feel like going shopping, they go shopping. If they feel like gaming, that's what they will do. In Gymland, they are lost. Something in them told them should hit the gym, as they usually carry extra kilos as a result of their decadent lifestyle. However, they don't like to be uncomfortable so they will talk the ears off their personal trainer or they will walk 5 min on the treadmill and be done. But since they have been to the gym, they can indulge ever more when they leave the building.

In Gymland I'm most likely been seen as a pushy Chinese woman, which I am at times, but only when I need to fend off other pushy Chinese women. But in reality, I'm paying the price after many years of decadency. And in the end of the day, I haven't come far from high-school. I'm just trying to fit in and I dream about one day being a part of the popular crowd.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

20 things to know about Swedish culture

I just found this article about Sweden and Swedish culture on a friend's Facebook page. It's a few months old, but it is very accurate and will continue to be very accurate for many years to come. If you plan to visit Sweden, move there or are simply curious about the country, this is a good article to read.

If you can't remember all 20 things mentioned in the article, I, personally, would try hard to remember 1, 2, 10, 12, 14 (especially 14).

20 things to know before moving to Sweden - Follow Sweden - The Local

Another note, if you're moving to Sweden and planning to live in an apartment complex with shared laundry facilities, please make sure to find out everything there is to know about the booking system. Some places you book a time slot, some places you book half days, some places have allocated specific days etc. Just know that an empty machine does NOT mean it is free to use. Swedish people are generally not confrontational, but if there is one thing that can turn the most mellow Swede into the green monster, it's violation of the laundry regulations. If you would fail to comply you can expect angry neighbors, neighbors holding a grudge and angry notes (which is a Swede's preferred way to solving problems).

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

How do garlic grow?

Gilroy Garlic Festival was this past weekend. After feasting on garlic and parmesan stuffed mushrooms, garlic fries, garlic chocolate and delicious garlic escargots, my tummy was full and my breath was reeking.

On the way back from the festival it dawned on me that I've never seen a fresh garlic plant. I wasn't even sure how it grew. That in turn got me thinking about other fruits and vegetables with mysterious origins. I write this post for people as clueless as me. Let's learn together:


Monday, August 1, 2011

Skilled professionals

I just came home with two pairs of shoes. It might seem a bit excessive but they were both used. Used by me. I've had them repaired and sole protectors were added so they will last longer but more importantly, so that I won't be slipping around in them like I have since I bought them. The cobbler I found did an amazing job. I couldn't be happier. I will definitely be going back!

Last Saturday I went to the tailor to pick up two pairs of jeans that needed altering. I have the body proportions of a giant baby, my legs are surprisingly short. She did an impeccable job and I will be returning to her as well.

Tomorrow I have an appointment to have my eyebrows threaded. I've been going to Natasha for a while now. Right after my first appointment I knew I was hooked.

I don't even need to write about my beloved hairdresser. I've already dedicated a blog post to how awesome her skills are and what a a wonderful person she is. I don't see her often enough, (I'm too cheap to see her more than twice a year), but I can't convince myself to go anywhere else. I've passed on a handful of great Groupons just because I can't "cheat" on her.

I've grown totally dependent on the wonderful and skilled professionals around me and I don't even know when it happened! I used to apply me very limited DIY skills on everything! I've ruined at least two pairs of shoes by super glueing things that are not supposed to be super glued. I have managed to destroy a handful of trousers by failing to shorten the legs the same lengths. I've cut my own bangs once and there is a reason why I never tried it again. As for my eyebrows, it's a good thing I don't have bushy eyebrows and that I wear glasses, otherwise my lazy predisposition would be for everyone to see.

When I come to think of it, why didn't I discover these great services until now? It would have saved me a lot of time, money and some fairly intense pain (it really isn't funny or comfortable to clue your fingers together). Lesson learnt, trust the professionals.