February 24, 2020

How I find podcasts to listen to

I've been doing this thing recently where instead of listening to episodes of podcasts that I already subscribe to, I get really invested in one or two personalities at a time, search the Apple podcast app, find all the podcasts that person (or those people) have recorded, ever, and binge-listen to them to over the course of as many days as possible while at the gym or walking around town.

Over the past couple of days I've been trying to listen to every single podcast episode that Ezra Klein and Ta-Nehisi Coates have recorded together. They're both brilliant, obviously, but what appeals to me most about their podcasts is how they have fantastic and really complementary conversational chemistry. And even when they're talking about super-serious, kind of dark stuff, they can be really funny, like laugh-out-loud-to-myself-on-the-treadmill-while-running funny.

Other people I've gotten kind of obsessed with listening to: Dr. Peter Attia, Malcolm Gladwell (on certain podcasts but not others), any "Random Show" where Tim Ferriss and Kevin Rose talk to each other for hours—I've gone back years on this series—anything Seth Godin, and I'll always seek out my friend Andrew Doyle's guest appearances on podcasts, because he's so brilliant.

February 23, 2020

I made a video about it

February 22, 2020

Weight Loss Journey: 7 Lessons I've Learned (So Far)

Since moving to Hong Kong last April, I've been on something of a personal wellness journey and I've managed to lose about 60 lbs so far. I'm still working towards future goals—and a more optimal fat-muscle ratio for maintenance, so I'm not done yet!—but this weekend I've been thinking about how I've learned so much about weight loss in the past few months. Here are seven things I've learned that hopefully might help someone else out there who's also on a journey. Please note: I am not a health professional or a nutritionist; these ideas are purely from my own personal experience and should not be taken as advice.

1. Find the diet that works for you: I've tried so many diets—including going to The Biggest Loser Resort (three times!), green juicing for weeks at a time, intermittent fasting, and even Prolon, the USC professor-developed fast-mimicking diet. Turns out that "finding the diet that works for you" means finding a customized plan that works with your lifestyle, is sustainable, and doesn't just help you achieve your goals, but also leaves you feeling satisfied at the end of the day. In my case, the diet that works for me is one that I can meal prep easily, is portable so I can take it to the office, and incorporates lots of flavors and textures.

2. Crunchy foods help me feel more satiated: I don't know what it is about crunchy foods, but for the first few weeks of this diet, I found myself lingering in the packaged snacks aisle of my local supermarkets fondling potato chip bags and searching nutrition labels for low-carb high-protein options. No go. To get a more satisfying crunch into my daily diet, I started incorporating sugar snap peas and foods like kimchi.

3. The tiniest things can make the biggest differences: After five months of great progress, my weight plateaued in November and didn't budge for three months. My trainer urged me to keep patient, but at three-and-a-half months, he could see I was getting frustrated: I was still consistently working out and hitting my macros, but the weight wouldn't come off. To keep me motivated and on track, he suggested I try cutting 100 calories from my daily diet. I sulked a little bit, but did it, and immediately my weight loss jump started again!

4. Stick to a daily routine:  Even when things are hectic at work, having a routine is a lifesaver. It helps me reduce anxiety, manage my stress, and maintain boundaries, carving out a fixed structure to my day that helps keep me on track with training sessions, extra gym visits, getting my 15,000 steps in daily, and meal shopping and prep. Without a very strict bedtime and wake-up I would be a mess!

5. The hardest thing will be finding the time: Speaking of setting up a daily routine, finding time to fit in everything you need to achieve your fitness goal will be one of the hardest things about the whole process. Do you know how much time it takes to get in 15,000 steps a day? A lot! Finding time to go to the store to buy fresh food, to prep food, to eat on schedule, and having the willpower to close my laptop and go to bed early... it's tough. And time is the one thing that is a non-negotiable—you can't barter or buy more of it, there are only 24 hours in a day. For me to make this work, I've had to prioritize this weight loss journey over everything else in my personal life for the past few months. It's been a really interesting shift in self-care prioritization for me, but it's been so worth it.

6. The journey can be extremely isolating: Part of the reason I even embarked on this wellness journey is because the protests kicked off last June and there wasn't really anything else to do (plus I was looking for some work-life balance I would be forced to comply with), but when you add up the hours spent at the gym, the very strict diet, the hiatus on drinking, and the very early bedtime, losing weight can be a very socially isolating experience. In a way, I think as an expat in a new city, this was the perfect (and only) time I could viably do this. And with the coronavirus situation, everyone is spending more time at home, anyway these day.

7. Body dysmorphia is real: I've written about this in previous posts, but I'm really struggling with a body dysmorphic phase in my self-awareness and self-perception at the moment. I'm not really sure about how to break out of this, and I imagine it will happen in time, but losing weight really shakes up your self-identity in ways I could not have predicted. I hear it's pretty normal, though.

February 21, 2020

Internal monologue

This week, I finally broke through my (very frustrating) three-month weight loss plateau—applause, please, thank you. And while I mentioned I'm going through a body-dysmorphic phase in my self-perception at the moment, I realized this week that I've been slipping into a very specific internal monologue to keep myself in check. Sort of a quippy self-pep-talk? I'm not sure what to call it. Because somehow I can't see myself as healthier and slimmer, but I do know objectively that I've lost weight and gotten stronger. So here are some things I've secretly been saying to myself in my head (for better or for worse):

  • I've lost I-can-shop-at-Brandi-Melville-now weight
  • I've lost I-can-wear-Gymshark-size-small-leggings-but-maybe-not-in-public-yet weight
  • I've lost if-this-escalator-caved-in-I-could-probably-save-myself-because-I-have-upper-body-strength-now weight
  • I've lost leggings-and-a-T-shirt-are-an-outfit-I'll-go-outside-in weight
  • I've lost all-my-clothes-are-too-big-for-me-but-I-don't-want-to-buy-anything-else-until-I-reach-my-goal-weight-what-a-dumb-problem-to-have-I'm-so-embarrassed-better-not-tweet-that weight

February 20, 2020

Almost there

By Chater Garden, Central Hong Kong
What a week! What a month! What a year (so far)!

February 19, 2020

I have some thoughts on the Starbucks at Pacific Place

There are three Starbucks on the ground floor of the Pacific Place mall in Hong Kong, all pretty close to each other—two of them are about twenty steps apart. I go to PP a lot, pretty much every day, since it's a transit hub that's not far from my neighborhood. Oh, and I love malls. Whenever I go to a Starbucks, I'll order one of three things: a venti coffee of the day with skim milk; a venti cold brew, black; or a venti nitro cold brew, black. In Hong Kong, nitro is usually only available at Starbucks Reserve shops (exception in PP!). Conveniently, roughly half of the Starbucks I've been to in Hong Kong are Starbucks Reserve shops. They're... everywhere. Here are my field notes on the three Starbucks on the ground floor of Pacific Place. Each one has its strengths and weaknesses.

The eastern-most Starbucks at Pacific Place, near Shake Shack
Eastern-most Starbucks Reserve, next to Shake Shack

  • This is the Starbucks that you can't get to from inside the mall, you have to go outside, through the door by Theory, which makes this location inconvenient in inclement weather
  • It is, however, the only Starbucks Reserve in PP
  • This is the most reliable nitro outlet in PP, the staff here care very much about the art of the pour
  • The suggested food pairings here are... interesting
Starbucks food-coffee pairings suggestions, why
  • There are lots of window-facing seats, which makes this Starbucks a great place to go with a book or a laptop
  • This Starbucks doesn't serve normal filter coffee-of-the-day coffee, but they do have pourovers
View from the Eastern-most Starbucks at Pacific Place
  • For a long time, this was my favorite Starbucks in my neighborhood but...
  • Beware morning coffee people, between 7:30 a.m. - 8:00 a.m. there is a guy who hangs out at this location who is an amateur wind instrument player. I can't tell if he has a flute or a wooden recorder. I don't know what it is, but he plays it while drinking his coffee nearly every morning between 7:30 a.m. and 8 a.m.. I had to stop going to this Starbucks altogether because... who DOES that to other people? And no one stops him. 
  • OK rant over
Middle Starbucks, across from Adidas by the escalators to the Great Food Hall
  • This is the newest Starbucks location on the ground floor at Pacific Place
  • It has the best selection of utilitarian reusable mugs; this is where I bought my Stanley x Starbucks mug that I love
  • Even though it's not a Starbucks Reserve, they serve nitro. However, my experience has been that the nitro at the Eastern-most Starbucks (see above) is more consistent and tastes better. Sometimes the nitro at this location tastes a little bit off, a little plastic-y
  • Of all the Starbucks in PP, this location has the most complete range of drinks on offer (even though it's the smallest)
  • The seating area at this Starbucks is a bit crowded, but it's cozy; I wouldn't say it's a place you want to linger, since there's a lot of foot traffic and the turnover is quite frequent, with people going up and down to the supermarket; not my favorite reading spot Starbucks
  • This is my favorite grab-and-go Starbucks at PP
Western-most Starbucks, across from Bizou and next to IT
  • This is my new favorite Starbucks at PP
  • There is a staffer here who sees me coming from 50 feet away, makes my drink, and hands it to me as I approach the counter; this makes me so happy
  • The coffee of the day here is always on point and never burned
  • They steam my skim milk before adding it to my coffee without me ever asking
  • This Starbucks as the biggest seating area of all the Starbucks at PP; the tables and chairs are spaced out (there are even some sofas); and a lot of people read newspapers here in the mornings, so it's quiet
  • The tables here are made of upcycled coffee grinds
  • Because this Starbucks is in the Western atrium of PP, the light is much better here than the Middle Starbucks
That is all. Those are my thoughts.

February 17, 2020

Come here go away

Central-ish, Hong Kong
It was super-warm two days ago in Hong Kong and today it's freezing, OK not really, but definitely in the 40s. Here are some other things I've noticed: In my 40s I'm way less tolerant of black coffee, now I always ask for my coffee with skim milk; I love Apple News+ and Apple Music; I subscribe to a lot of streaming entertainment things and I really want to subscribe to Disney Plus but it's not available in Hong Kong (yet); I thought I would never find a water bottle I like, but now I have four I love; My dream job is to be a full time blogger and YouTuber, because then I feel like I could fully come into my true introvert-extrovert self. Like: I'm an introvert but let me tell you something.

February 16, 2020

Things that aren't digitized

Radio Soulwax Presents: As Heard On Radio Soulwax pt. 2 from Radio Soulwax on Vimeo.

I wanted to listen to this album at the gym the other day, but I couldn't find it on Apple Music or iTunes. I also miss my DVDs, they're in New York. Although. To be honest I'm not sure I even have anything to play a DVD on anymore.

I was doing an inversion the other day when I thought about how years from now I'll think of that time I lived in Hong Kong—the year of the protests, the year of the Wuhan Novel Coronavirus, the year I lost a bunch of weight (maybe I'll have gained it all back, who knows). I'll probably Google some people I remember to see what they're up to, but I won't get in touch because it's usually better to leave the past in the past. I'll feel nostalgia, the same way I feel about the year I lived in Cairo, and I'll think about all the things that could have been different.

February 15, 2020

Walking around Hong Kong

I spend my entire weekends getting my steps in. Here's a video with mostly footage from today, but some footage from other days. I missed making YouTube videos so much! It's my favorite social media platform. Going to try harder to make more.

February 14, 2020

The dreaded plateau

It's raining and it's Friday. Wan Chai, Hong Kong - February 14, 2020
Losing weight is confusing—for, like, a million reasons, but the thing that's really weirding me out lately is not having any sense of what I look like, at all. I know what the number on the scale says, I know what people I see tell me, I know what the size label on my new clothes say, and I know what my trainer tells me (he's the only person who tells me the truth, I think—or, at least, I like to tell myself that I'm paying him to tell me the truth about how I look like shit first thing in the mornings). All these things are confusing and different—the number on the scale is a number I haven't seen in years, people I know tell me I've lost tons of weight, for the first time in recent memory I can wear smalls and mediums, and my trainer says I still have some more ways to go before I reach an optimal muscle-fat ratio for maintenance.

The truth, though, is that I feel like, to me, I look exactly the same as I've always looked. Objectively, I know I'm smaller than I was seven months ago, but I still think I look exactly the same.

I guess it doesn't help that I've plateaued. I've been the same weight since November, which is frustrating, because I'm still doing all the things. My trainer suggested to me that my calorie deficit has probably changed as I've lost weight, and I probably need to cut a few calories here and there and do a bit more cardio and/or walking to kickstart the weight loss again, so that's what I'm embarking on this weekend. Let's see how this goes. How did this become a weight loss blog.