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On the seven sins (and why gluttony is my top-ranked)

Out of the seven sins, I feel like my top three rotate between gluttony, sloth and pride. Some days, I am one with sloth; I am the sloth; sloth becomes me, etc. Gluttony, on the other hand, strikes me in cycles.

(Note: Possible trigger for disordered eating here!)

I try to put guardrails on my life, with habits like meal prepping, or working out and hitting a specific step count every day.

This year… has been kind of rough, on all these aspects. I’m not sure what has changed, and if it’s just an accelerated version of burnout in the time of this pandemic, but it is somehow significantly worse than this time last year.

Instead of meal prepping, I either:

  • Skip a meal because there’s nothing I really want to eat, or;
  • Go on my phone and start (to the tune of Waving Through a Window) tap-tap-tapping for food to magically show up at my door steps, anytime from 30 to 50 minutes later

In Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologica, he outlined the five ways that gluttony is committed. These include food that is:

  • too expensive (I have two extremes with my cravings: 40 cents instant noodles, or a $250 buffet)
  • too elaborately prepared (Maybe not so much on this one? Score?)
  • too much in quantity (👀)
  • eaten too quickly (I guess? It depends. If I’m eating by myself, I tend to do it quite fast so that I can do other things)
  • eaten too early (my teammates might dispute this, because I eat lunch at 3pm, reallll healthily like, so… reverse-gluttony?)

Oooh, boy. Lots to unpack here. I also know that the only way is through, so I just have to identify my obstacles in meal prepping again to do it more consistently now.

“Just switch to your other body!”

(This happened a few years ago—)

I was laying in bed around two in the morning. There wasn’t anything extraordinary or unique about that day; if I’m being honest, I was probably just scrolling through my phone in the dark and trying my best not to fall asleep and exact my revenge bedtime procrastination.

That’s when it happened. The space between my lower right rib and my hip started hurting so badly, I couldn’t breathe without it throbbing. That amount of pain and being unable to do anything about it made me have an actual panic attack, right there in my own bed.

Anyway, between the stabs of pain and blanking out in cold sweat, my brain helpfully suggested “just switch to your other body!”

Things I would like to fix about my body:

  • The back pain that is debilitating my core strength
  • The neck that cracks at every angle I turn
  • My hyperextended joints
  • These cramps during periods which takes me out and leaves me wanting to just lie on my bed forever (but can’t)
  • These cramps during ovulation which often sends me wondering if I’m about to have a real shortened cycle that month
  • The soft muscle tone that doesn’t nothing, strength-wise or aesthetic-wise

Out of the list, the first one is something that bothers me the most.

These days I can’t lift heavy weights (my deadlifts are capped at maybe 15 pounds? I’m afraid to go heavier because I can feel my back at the edge), can’t lay on my stomach for more than ten minutes, and can’t sit in my chair comfortably.

There’s a lot of can’ts in my life right now.

I’m also at that point of my (im)patience where I’m thinking that there is no point to any of the core strengthening exercises I’m doing, because I’ve been doing them for a while now, and there have been no real improvement to anything.

Still waiting for my other body, if anyone is wondering.

(Writing this bummer made me a little sad!)

Meditating (or: I kind of suck at it, but that’s the whole point)

My mind is not a quiet place.

It’s full of thoughts; rooted in anxiety, in worry, over things I can’t control and things I can. More often than not, random lyrics and quotes are also bouncing in the ol’ noggin, in specific cadences and lilts as they were spoken in the medium I watched them in.

Late in 2019, I decided to give meditating a spin. I’ve heard the benefits of meditation many, many years ago, but have always dismissed it as a woo-woo new-age alt-medicine (is that enough hyphens yet?) practice. Yet, it has been shown that there are actual benefits to doing it: improving focus, decreasing anxiety, reducing stress, amongst others.

So, I did what I knew best: I read books 1Mindfulness in Plain English, 10% Happier by Dan Harris, Conscious by Annaka Harris, Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Awakening by Joseph Goldstein, Think Like A Monk by Jay Shetty, and used All The Apps 2Insight Timer, Calm, Headspace (thanks to my company coming through with a free subscription for our mental health), and most recently, the Fitbit app. I fumbled and wondered what I was doing wrong, and tried different things to see if this time, it’ll be the one that sticks.

How it started

I started with guided meditations.

Sometimes I fell back asleep if I did it as part of my waking up routine, which is bad because I would have turned my alarm off by that point. I’ve been lucky that I haven’t overslept by too much!

Meditating at night, too, helps me fall right asleep (except for recordings that have long pauses in between voices, in which case I would be on the precipice of sleep before getting jerked awake because of the unexpected voice in the dark). Now, if my aim was meditating for deep sleep, then this is a good outcome.

My priority was to build my focus and attention through mindfulness though, so the next thing I tried was using just the timer. I breathe in for four seconds, hold for four, and breathe out in – you guessed it – four seconds.

How it’s going (badly, right?)

Meditation seems simple, but it’s not easy.

Here’s the thing that I’ve learned: Like sets of exercise for your body for your body, each ‘loss of focus ➡️ awareness ➡️ focus’ rep is your brain working out. That goes for every time you catch yourself drifting away, and bring yourself back to the present.

Now, I’m by no means an expert obviously, since I’m still fumbling. Even with 376 consecutive days under my belt, every morning still feels like a really tough 10 – 15 minutes. I find myself trying to remember more of my dreams that are slowly fading away, the things I need to put on my things-to-do list, or the next steps I need to take once the session is over.

I’m not gonna lie, I’ve been frustrated because I find myself getting distracted with tangential thoughts and having to pull myself back into focus. Sometimes the latter doesn’t happen, and I catch myself in the middle of a daydream as the ending bell sounds its gong.

How to meditate, if you want to

  1. Decide if you want to try it guided or unguided – I really like Insight Timer for both, especially for the latter, but Headspace is pretty cool for guided practice, with different lengths that you can choose from
  2. Choose when you want to meditate, and make that a habit. I do it in the morning when I wake up, but that means I have to fit that in my morning schedule. If that doesn’t work for you, at night works as well
  3. Close your eyes, and while they are close, lower your gaze (I learned this in Jay Shetty’s book, Think Like A Monk)
  4. Start with short sessions, and build incrementally
  5. You’re not doing it wrong, because there isn’t a right or wrong way

Here’s to building your brain muscle! 💪🧠

One+ month with the FitBit Charge 4

  • Wellness

Two months ago, I talked about my terrible sleep habits, and how using an app on the phone to track my sleep wasn’t the best solution for me at the time.

Since then, I’ve gotten my FitBit Charge 4, and have been using it for a little over a month. I got the Storm Blue Classic Band — to be more accurate, my friend Siew who placed the order for me got me that variant (I told her to surprise me) — but any of the other choices would have fit my dark and neutral wardrobe anyway.

This would be my first smart wearable, besides the one week I tried with a company-owned Apple Watch a few years ago. As far as wearing watches go, I’d consistently worn one until I was 17. Then, as phones got more ubiquitous, I ditched my watch.

By that count, that was almost half a lifetime ago.

Is it weird that I have something on my wrist again? Not really. It doesn’t bother me as much, but I have definitely forgotten I was wearing the Charge, and somehow slammed my wrist against a window frame after opening the window. But that is more of a ‘me’ thing, and not so much a ‘wearable’ thing.

Some things I really like:

Consistently wanting to hit my goal: Seeing my step count gives me the visual reminder that I need to hit my goal. It’s currently “just” 5,000 steps a day, and I’m working on extending that bit by bit. In fact, I usually try to get that before 9:30 AM aka the time I start work in front of my laptop, and it’s absolutely a new habit with wearing this device.

Previously, with just the tracking from the odometer on my phone, it’s out of sight and out of mind for me on some days when I was clocking in just a few hundred steps.

Also, it’s definitely good for me that it tracks steps while I’m running in place.

Tracking parameters I wasn’t before: I get to see my heart rate, which is cool because when I walk out with my mask on, it reminds me of my poor, asthmatic self when it goes +40 my resting heart beat rate.

The Charge also tracks my active zone minutes, which should in theory help me improve my cardio health.

Battery life is pretty good: I’m still figuring out the optimal time to charge, but I’ve been doing it in the morning right after my workout + aforementioned jogging session while I shower. You can see it in the picture in this post actually, and it is surprisingly consistently at 87% when I start charging it. I haven’t noticed how long it takes to charge exactly, but I would pick it up half an hour to an hour after, and it would be fully charged until the cycle continues the next day.

Gradually shifting my wake up time earlier: The Charge has the vibrating alarm that happens in a half-hour window for my wake up time, which works by tracking when it would be the least disruptive to your sleep cycle.

A month ago, I started off waking up at 8 AM, with the alarm window between 7:30 – 8 AM. Now, I’m waking up between 6:30 AM and 7 AM, and I want to see if I can shift that even earlier.

And some things I wish could be improved:

Sleep monitoring could use more stats: In addition to the sleep alarm, the device and app also come with sleep monitoring stats. I get to see how long I slept, how much time I spent in each category of REM, Light and Deep sleep (with a 30-day average, and a benchmark against women my age), a sleep score (I’m only getting 10% Goods, and Fairs the rest of the time), estimated oxygen variation which is supposed to detect breathing issues, and… that’s it.

Fitbit Premium is needed to unlock two more stats: my sleeping heart rate, and a restlessness score. I’m not sure that is worth ten bucks a month, to be honest. I’d also like to see other meaningful stats, like time taken to fall asleep.

Trapped dirt: Could be another ‘me’ thing, because my room does get really dusty. But between the detachable straps and the watch face, I have to wipe it daily to get the layer of dust off.

Responsiveness of touch screen: Compared to the Apple Watch – even the earlier Series that I was testing with – it seems a lot more delayed in reaction time, and the screen wake via a hand raise works 80% of the time.

It’s not a huge deal though, because I don’t actually use it as a phone accessory (I’ve turned notifications off because I don’t want it buzzing all the time when I already have vibration off even on my phone) so I don’t need to swipe through the screens all that often. Still a little annoying though.

Contactless payment: I can’t use it. My bank isn’t on it. End of story.

There are some other features on the watch and app that I don’t really use, like meditation/mindfulness (I already have one too many app for it, which are Headspace and Insight Timer), period tracking (thank you, Clue), food logging (been on My Fitness Pal for far too long), and I don’t have a fancy weighing scale to automatically sync my weight.

In all, though, I still think this was one of my best purchases of 2020.

Which isn’t a lot, because I didn’t buy too many things.

Being able to track sleep and getting that consistency to hit my steps are huge deals though! We’ll see if I will upgrade to a Sense or Versa in a few years, but I can say that I’ll continue to wear this for as long as it lasts.