Bye Bye MyFitnessPal

I recently tweeted that I was going to stop using MyFitnessPal, @pixeldiva asked me why.

I am overweight. Regular readers, hell even occasional readers, of this blog will know this and know that it’s something I’ve been battling on and off since… well since this blog started (gosh, that’s a bit depressing).

I’ve joined gyms, adoped diets, and being a little bit of a geek (oh shut up) I’ve turned to gadgets and tech to help me. I’ve had a Fitbit for a couple of years, a set of Withings scales and a blood pressure cuff (as I have high B.P.) which both hook up to the Withings app on my phone, and I use Runkeeper to log any runs (few and far between recently).

Since signing up with a local gym I’ve also been using Fitocracy as a way to track my time and effort there, and I had using MyFitnessPal to track what I eat and for a while everything was ticking along just fine, gym visits were logged (personal bests gained most weeks), and I faithfully logged everything I ate in MyFitnessPal.

And then it all stopped.

A slow realisation

I’d tried hacking my behaviours and it took me a while to figure out it didn’t work.

Why? Well I could offer up various reasons (excuses), my time at the Commonwealth Games knocked me out of my schedule, for example. But eventually I realised that it was because I just didn’t wanna keep logging what I ate every single day, it felt like an obligation, a “hafta”:

Unfortunately, too many well-intentioned products fail because they feel like “haftas,” things people are obligated to do, as opposed to things they “wanna” do. Schell points to neuroscience research showing “there are different channels in the brain for seeking positive consequences and avoiding negative consequences.”

When faced with “haftas,” our brains register them as punishments so we take shortcuts, cheat, skip-out, or in the case of many apps or websites, uninstall them or click away in order to escape the discomfort of feeling controlled. [source]

I know how to eat sensibly and healthily, I’ve read up on leptins as suggested by my Doctor, I know what to avoid and what to moderate, so the extra step of plugging it all into an app became a chore and, without realising it at the time, triggered exactly what the above quote describes.

Whilst I’d open MyFitnessPal I started to miss things out, or not bother measuring portions and guessing; nights out became an open entry of calories with a note of “meal and several beers”. I clearly wasn’t invested in using the app, my hack had failed.

Props to Fitocracy

If you click through and read the rest of the article you’ll also see why I’m sticking with Fitocracy, whilst I’m not big into the community side of it, having taken a step back I can see that getting Props (likes in Fitocracy speak) from people when I complete a work out or get a PR (personal record) does influence what I do the next time I go, pushing myself a little more each time.

Of course I’ve not been to the gym in a couple of weeks so I still need to crack that particular challenge but, for now, I’m choosing to make things easy for myself and focus on the things I wanna do, not the ones I feel I havta do.

 

Polywobbles

Poly Means Many: There are many aspects of polyamory. Each month, the PMM bloggers will write about their views on one of them. Links to all posts can be found at www.polymeansmany.com.

It was an odd time for the best of reasons.
 
I was happy with my life, embracing changes to my lifestyle and enjoying the exploration of new ideals, new friendships, a whole new scene. Kirsty and I had been together for a over a year and, having both come out of long term relationships we had started, tentatively, talking about polyamory, open relationships and the variations that are available. It helped that we know some people who are poly and had a basic understanding of how things could work.
 
We did some research and we talked a lot about what it might mean for us both, what direction it might take our relationship and more. It’s important to emphasis just how much we talked, it wasn’t always easy, but we tried to talk through the ‘what ifs’ as best we could. A short while after that, Kirsty started seeing a guy we both knew. 
 
I can still remember the first night when I knew they were together. It was not fun. At all.
 
I was ok for the first couple of hours, I distracted myself by doing some tidying up, pottering around my flat aimlessly. Normally Kirsty and I txt each other every couple of hours if we aren’t together so not hearing from her also added to my anxiety. How were things going? Were they sitting chatting? Were they listening to music? Were they kissing? Were they in the bedroom?
 
I remember going to bed, trying to sleep but struggling to think of anything else other than them, together. It was horrible. I couldn’t process it much beyond repeating that this was ‘allowed’, this was ok, and that it was just because it was the first time. 
 
Society beats us over the head with the world view of monogamy, of finding the ‘one’, of exclusive partnerships. I knew that I didn’t hold with that view, I knew that Kirsty and I had discussed it and both of us agreed that we were choosing polyamory for the right reasons, we both believe that one person can’t be everything to another. People may try but there will always be a part of them that falters at something, they may then try and fake it but ultimately there will be things that just don’t quite work. Why not admit that and accept it as a reality?
 
In my past I’ve pushed aside the things I was failing at, accepting them as compromises, as things that ‘just were’. During our chats about being poly, Kirsty and I both realised we’d done the same thing, put part of ourselves aside for the good of our relationships, or so we thought. Chatting through the possibilities of polyamory made us both realise that it could work for us and that we owed it to ourselves to try.
 
As I lay in bed I comforted myself with those thoughts, with the fact that this was part of the journey and that it’d change over time, we’d talk about things and figure out how to make them work and, if they weren’t working, we’d talk about changing them, one way or another.
 
But that first night, alone in the dark with only my thoughts and fears for company, wasn’t fun. Comparisons popped into my head, is she having more fun with him than she does with me? Is she more relaxed? Is he better for her than I am? What if they have sex? Will he be better at that than me?
 
The next day we talked. And we talked a lot more in the coming weeks as Kirsty explored her new relationship, we discovered limits, communications issues and it became easier for me each time she was with him. 
 
A couple of years later and Kirsty and I both have partners and the wobbles come back from time to time, thankfully not as strongly as they have in the past. These days I know they are temporary and likely caused by my own insecurities or fears, just as I know that talking them through with my partners will help all of us be stronger. 
 
Part of me wonders if the polywobbles ever stop, and then I realised; if they did that’s when we should be worrying because it signals a time when we no longer care as much as we should for the people we love. So bring on the polywobbles I say, they remind us we are alive.

 

My beautiful Geisha

Many years ago my Mum, an avid crafter, completed two large tapestries depicting Japanese Geisha. From the moment I saw them I loved them and they kick-started my fascination with Japanese culture. I loved the style of them, the scenes they depicted and the era they represented. They hung in my parents living room for many years and I’ve always coveted them.

Recently, my parents sold the ‘family home’ to downsize and as part of the decluttering my Mum asked if I’d want the tapestries. I’m still not sure she realises how much it means to me to have them; memories of my childhood, the house I grew up in with the ever present needles and threads in one corner of the living room (she always has something on the go), and the daydreams they inspired (what was the story behind the scenes? what was life like in feudal Japan?).

Geisha tapestry

Around the same time I was swithering over what to get as my next tattoo, I’ve always got a few ideas in my head and a geisha was on my list but receiving my Mum’s tapestries confirmed it. The hunt was then on for an artist, although I already had half a mind on who I wanted to tackle it.

Given how pleased I was with the work he did on my arm, my first thought was Kevin, but then his new apprentice Rachel started posting some of her sketches and designs on Instagram, I loved her style and wondered if she’d be the right person for the geisha. She posted this sketch of a geisha a while ago and I knew I wanted her to tackle mine.

I popped in to Lucky Cat*, mostly to let Kevin take some photos of my now healed arm and as Rachel was there I ended up talking her through what I’d like and without a second thought I booked in for the first session.

Sidenote: Once you’ve gotten past your first tattoo nerves, it becomes almost a little TOO easy to just book up for another one…

About a week before the first appointment Rachel emailed me and after a little back and forth to tweak the design it was all set. Six hours later (two sessions of 3 hours) and it’s finished and it’s almost healed.

I am absolutely thrilled with the result.

Geisha Tattoo

** It was a lovely coincidence that Jane, who introduced me to Kevin in the first place was in getting more work done by him at the same time!*

 

Deconstructing my tattoo

Some people get tattoos because they think a certain design or image looks good, some tattoos are about collecting art from an admired artist, and some tattoos are chosen because they have meaning or intent. Most of my tattoos fall into the latter camp but I’ll admit that the first two tattoos I got, many years ago, were purely because I thought it was cool and ‘different’ (which, to be fair, it was at the time). More recently though I’ve considered my choices a lot more.

I hadn’t planned on getting a half-sleeve tattoo when I went in to Lucky Cat. I was there on the recommendation of a friend who already had some of Kev’s work on her arm, I’d checked out the website and loved what I saw so I made an appointment for a consultation.

In progress

On my left arm, near the shoulder was my second tattoo. It was of a two headed dragon/serpent curved in a circle. It had no meaning other than I thought it was cool and the person I had a major crush on was getting one that day as well so I was trying to impress her (I was 18 and yes, it was a stupid reason).

It was old and faded so when I asked about covering it up, Kevin said it shouldn’t be a problem but when I told him I wanted a Daruma he pointed out that it wouldn’t work. The shaping and colouring wasn’t right… he thought on it a bit and suggested I could place the Daruma lower down my arm on the bicep and have a traditional Japanese flower above it.

Kiku-no-hana (Chrysanthemum) *

Probably the only piece of my half-sleeve that was originally chosen purely for decoration, I loved the style that Kevin used to draw it and trusted his judgement that it would be in-keeping with the Japanese theme, turns out it is a used as a symbol for the Emperor of Japan.

Daruma *

I can’t recall where I first saw a Daruma, probably in a wander through Chinatown in London, but the bright colour caught my eye as did the various expressions and variations I saw.

Traditionally these dolls are given to people as a good luck charm. Once received the owner decides on a goal and colours in one eye, colouring in the second when they have achieved the goal.

I’m very goal oriented and I love Japanese culture so this seemed like a perfect fit for me. My Daruma only has one eye coloured to allow me to continue to strive for new goals.

Half-sleeve *

My original intention for the tattoo was just the Daruma but with it being quite a large piece, plus the flower above it, Kev asked if I was going for a half-sleeve and if so what else might I want? The first decision was what to put on my inner bicep, another large area to fill but an easy one as I already had half a mind to getting a separate tattoo featuring another piece of Japanese culture so why not just include it in now?

Koi *

I decided on a giant koi for my inner arm and with the main components decided I left Kevin draw things up.

The koi symbolises a lot of how I try and live my life, best summed up my Dory from Finding Nemo, ‘just keep swimming’. I’m old enough to know that life will always through you a few curveballs and all that you really need to do is keep going, doesn’t matter if you aren’t making any headway, as long as you are trying to go forward. Koi tattoos symbolise the battle upstream the fish undertakes.

I was starting to get excited about how it was all coming together and the minute I saw the first sketches I excitedly booked in for my first session.

Completing the design

As I hadn’t planned a half-sleeve, there were some gaps so after the first session we started to discuss what else to put on my arm. There were some obvious candidates.

Maneki-neko *

These cute little guys are told to bring good luck and have been a part of Japanese culture since the turn of the century. There are some great folktales about where they originated (check the Wikipedia link) but no-one is really sure.

In a nice bit of circumstance, the tattoo parlour that Kevin owns is called Lucky Cat so I was more than happy when he used his logo as part of my sleeve (hmmm maybe I should charge him advertising fees?)

Lotus *

Buddhist symbology states that the lotus represents rebirth; that can be a change of ideas or the adoption of new beliefs. In my ongoing quest to learn and adapt my behaviours to be a better person in this world, it was perfect to include in the design. Kirsty has one on her forearm for similar reasons, and as we’ve both learned a lot from each other it seemed fitting to get on too.

Kokeshi doll *

Whilst they don’t have the same symbology associated with them, Kokeshi dolls are an integral part of Japanese culture. My Mum has a small collection of Kokeshi style dolls, so there is an element of tribute to her in there as well. Plus, they look so cute!

Getting inked

We started the first 4 hour session and completed the cover up of my old tattoo and the outline of the Daruma. The next session outlined the lotus and koi, the session after that coloured in the Daruma and started on the koi, and so on. In total it took a little shy of 24 hours to complete the half-sleeve, and whilst I won’t say I loved every minute of it (inner-arm section was pretty close to my pain threshold, next time I’ll look to some of the pain-numbing gels I think) it was wonderfully to watch it evolve. Very much a collaboration, deciding what to put where, what colours each element should be and so on.

Finished Tattoo

I am absolutely thrilled with the results and, several months later with everything nicely healed, I continue to get compliments and questions about it. I was so happy with the service I got I’ve since gotten another tattoo by a different artist at Lucky Cat… more on that later!