AAApril: Retrospective

So here we are, May 1st. AAApril has come to an end (in fact, perhaps not spirit). How did it go?


Pretty good, noticeably faltering in the last week.

Habits App calendar Note that the app did not have a no-refined sugar habit tracked, but did have "read a book"

Absolutely no alcohol; Caffeine within parameters, other than one accidental ordered-by-habit-mocha when I meant to get hot chocolate (on the 26th).

Absolutely no meat. No fried food before the 27th (and then "just" 27: potato chips, 28: tortilla chips, a few fries a friend wasn't gonna finish, 29: more potato chips, 30: a veggie pakora and a veggie samosa). Refined sugar caps fell down a little earlier, starting with a donut as I walked home from work at 3:30am on the 20th. Was not a good vegan: only had eggs once (22nd), but greek yogurt pretty quickly found its way into breakfast (Tatte Muesli, also honey -_-) about the time I ran out of my one carton of Almond milk; and cheese snuck its way back into both lunches (pre-mixed salads) and dinners (pasta, even quesadillas, and on the 28th nachos). Managed to cook at least 7x and eat the leftovers for a ~50% hit rate on self-cooked dinners. Only ordered delivery myself twice (both vegetarian Indian); ate some dinners at work; ate like carrots and hummus or apple and almond butter a couple times.

Managed to stay off social media (FB, Twitter) & social news (HN, reddit, other than responding to a couple FB event RSVPs. Did a good job on the twice per day cap on NYT, Washington Post; well but less well on Techmeme.

Did a pretty good job of adherence on YouTube (<20 min, day) and TV (<90 min / day or 1 movie 120 min or less), again with a fall down in the last ~half week. Had timers set up but only used them occasionally at the outset. I'd say there were ~frequent a few days where ballpark math ran me over YT allocation by 1-2 minutes. I think I only said fuck it and self-consciously blew past the allocation (by ~8 minutes) once on my own, toward the end of the month.

It became clear that while I do watch youtube on my own ~daily, its also a not-infrequent social activity and it was hard to know how and whether to count videos other people put on while I was in the room, or that I put on primarily for the benefit of others. Similarly with TV, the times (including both the first day and pretty much all the last few days) that I blew past the limit it was always including or even entirely with TV that one of my roommates put on that I would not have in their absence. Early in the month I was pretty observant about leaving the room in these events, but as time wore on I couldn't as much be bothered.

Trend Outcomes

  1. I lost about 15 lbs and about 2-4% body fat (impedance measured by Fitbit Aria... so like ±8%)

    weight graph

    body fat graph

  2. I slept like ... more, but I'm not convinced well. And definitely still on a stupid schedule.

    sleep calendars from Apple Watch / AutoSleep

    I would say on average I've probably felt a little less consistently tired, but by no means like bursting with energy

  3. I'd say my anxiety was noticeably better, but still definitely something to work on. In the 2nd and 3rd weeks of the month, I don't think I had any real, acute panic attacks. In the first it was still tailing down and I definitely had a pretty noticeable one about 6 hours after drinking my one mocha on the 26th.

    I've been less hypochondriacally worried about my cardiac health, but by no means am I free of hypochondriac worries

  4. (keeping it brief cause people don't like to talk about it: 💩) my IBS has been better, different. I have spent less time in the bathroom / probably generally had habits of bathroom usage more like most people. But I have acquired a pretty consistent localized mild but really annoying/distracting abdominal pain/pressure; especially on my right side, especially when laying down evenings and mornings. It did no favors for sleep; I saw my doctor and she didn't seem especially worried (about appendix, liver, etc.). It has been probably my largest source of health anxiety nevertheless

  5. My right eye twitch seemed to go away for a while, but it came back. I think it might be staring at screens too long related. My doctor thinks it might be allergy/sinus related.

Goal Outcomes

In my original blog post I split into health goals and material goals.

Health goals are mostly addressed above. In general pretty okay: less anxious, lost weight, probably less tired, didn't resent past-self for doing this, more comfortable (but still not super enthusiastic this week about) cooking. I did not manage to exercise at all (other than normal walking commute, etc), and I still feel kinda old and more depressed/anxious than I am satisfied with.

Material goals: eh.

Goal one was to get through something of a trying month at work, owing to Tulip's participation in the Hannover Messe Manufacturing Industry trade fair and leading up to the starting date of my first intern. Trying it was. I did 12+ hours of work over each but this weekend, and had a stretch of days in the middle where I didn't leave the office before midnight 3 or 4 days running. I shipped an internal project that has been on the to do list for a while and am like, generally satisfied with what I accomplished in the month... I think. Idk I feel self critical, imposter syndrome-y and shit anyway. Conversely, I do think/worry that work "ate up" a lot/most of the energy and mental health benefits I might have otherwise had from the month. But on the flip side, I'm not 100% sure I like ... could have gotten through it otherwise.

I went to a talk/live podcast by The Minimalists but didn't actual get rid of any of my stuff (I did clean up room a bit though). I haven't sorted out anything about where I am moving (still waiting on the fate of the location of Tulip HQ 3.0), but we managed to get a month lease extension so thats good.

I did watch a good number of talk recordings from KubeCon/Cloud Native Con EU 2017 which happened in Berlin end of March. I did not succeed in watching talks from LASCOT or rewatching talks from Lean UX 2015 (which I attended in person). This is frustrating, as the stuff going on in these latter communities is in some ways where I really want to focus my intellectual exploration of like ... Lean thought & ~2010-era "DevOps" cultural systems thinking, and is I think maybe where I'd like to grow post-Tulip in an ~academic capacity— but its a bit out of my day to day wheel house (being a mix of like Business and Design and Philosophy and some Sociology, Anthropology) and it's hard to find the free time, energy and headspace at the same time.

Ditto I fell pretty flat on the non-fiction reading front. I did finish How Not to Die early on and made a little progress on The Machine that Changed The World + a scatter shot of ~thirds of two or three other less relevant to my life/core interests non-fiction books.

Deflection to Fictional Media

Something that I did do, which I didn't really anticipate, is dive a bit hard into fiction, reading on my Kindle all three books of Richard K. Morgan's Takeshi Kovacs novels (Altered Carbon—which I had read before a few years ago and is apparently gonna have a Netflix adaption next year, Broken Angles and Woken Furies; 1,316 pages in total) + non-fiction narrative in the form of all of comedian Moshe Kasher's memoir Kasher in the Rye (307 pages).

Ditto, in podcasts I listened to a good chunk (probably ~15+ hours) of the McElroy's Dungeons & Dragons podcast The Adventure Zone. Certainly this choice is motivated also by a desire for more (improv) comedic content after depleting my weekly mainstay podcasts (MBMBaM, Dear Hank & John, and The Bugle), but given that I certainly could have listened into (filtered down to "I might care") backlogs of like The Nerdist or You Made It Weird or WTF interviews for funnies, or Hardcore History, small backlogs of This American Life and Radio Lab or even the release of S-Town for mere narrative, it's interesting that I chose to instead go for the one fiction podcast I'm currently subscribed to (having given up a while ago on Welcome to Night Vale).

I think that impulse might be partially an effort to avoid thinking too much about the real world and/or politics in my down time. But I wonder how much it is also a direct reaction to cutting down on fiction intake from television. ¯_(ツ)_/¯

Reflection / Looking Forward

For the most part, I am not coming into this May with a strong hankering to jump off my wagon train. But nor would I say that like, my resolve is uniformly redoubled

I think my nutritional motivation has been slipping in the end of April w.r.t. sugar and fried food, but I am weirdly okay with avoiding meat as a rule, especially in my own kitchen (which not to say I won't end up eating some meat soon anyway). I don't want a repeat of the weight Yo-Yo of November/December 2016, not the least cause I have to get measured for a groomsman suit sometime soon and it would be good for it to fit at the wedding in June.
November/December 2016 weight graph

I think I am gonna try to stay about a pace on the vegetarianism/cooking front on May weekdays. I'll play weekends by ear

I don't know how to feel about Caffeine or Alcohol. I hung a decent amount of hopeful anticipation on my allowed tea and hot chocolates, sometime days in advance. Promising self that I could have a hot chocolate tomorrow was sometimes a way to talk myself into going to sleep. My one accidental brush with normal levels caffeine really didn't go well (experiencing a pretty noticeable high, crash, anxiety progression over the course of the next few hours). But like ... I really enjoy the ritual of going to a coffee shop, and coffee is delicious... I really don't know what to do here. It might be stay the course. It might be play the 3 a week game but allow iced coffee or espresso back in - but anxiety tho. That anxiety might be balanced if I actually got my ass in gear w.r.t. either exercise or meditation (or * gasp * both)

I am not especially eager to get back to drinking booze, from a weight management and liver health perspective, but I did feel left out of social events in which I was the only one not drinking (of which there were at least three I found myself at). Ditto at the office with long days and deadlines, people were going into the beer fridge at the end of the day not infrequently and there too I felt weirdly left out (though like... mostly able to cope without, which might be preferable). And there are more social events in May. And beer and whiskey are delicious. :-(. I can't see me actually not drinking as a rule in my current social circle.

I didn't miss Facebook like nearly at all -_-". I have ~100 unread notifications and like... cool? I missed HN + + Twitter when I was in active want of distraction. With twitter, I do like worry what information about both my subindustry (cloud infra / technical operations) and the world I am missing out on. That said, I would say I feel generally calmer about the political shit show having only stared into the void twice or three times a day. I'm not sure calmer is actually the objectively healthy way to feel - but given my ability to remain anxious about work and my own health regardless, idk. A funny thing happened towards the end of the month where I ended up spending a few hours browsing GitHub (issues and repos for ~plugins) much like one generally does reddit - it was weird. I dare say I will glance at Twitter some in May. I'm not gonna say I won't look at any of the others (and obviously I posted this on FB), but ... I'm not excited/anxious to

Finally, TV + YouTube. This wasn't as hard as I worried, but damn if it wasn't noticeable. I was basically daily pre-planning which TV shows I was gonna watch the next day. 90 minutes turned out to be an interesting limit, as like most dramas these days are 60 minutes. As a result I am currently at least a week behind on most dramas I watch, but not any of the comedies. This is a function of both prioritization and length. As I already knew, but well reconfirmed, I am much more inclined to watch comedy over drama.

As I touched on above, the most stressful thing with limiting TV was what to do about my roommates wanting to watch stuff I didn't want to "spend time" on. I am very bad at ignoring TV playing near me (though better with subtitled anime), so there definitely is a real, as well as artificially created cost to staying there. I don't think it really is, but it feels rude to me to leave when other people want to watch something you don't; ditto it feels by extension rude-ish for people to put on stuff you don't want to watch. Idk. I am weird. I am looking to live alone soon if I can manage and this problem goes away (with new ones sure to come along).

I'd say my relationship with YouTube became more tenuous, but probably more healthy. I watched vlogbrothers videos, Extra History, Honest Trailers, CineFix content, Zero Punctuation, some Idea Channel, This Exists, Seth Myers' "A Closer Look" segments, a smattering of music videos (which if I'm honest I sometimes counted against the 20 minutes and sometimes didn't). I don't think I really missed out on much by not compulsively watching random Looper and WhatCulture round ups of movie trivia suggested in my feed. I also consumed much less of Stephen Colbert's modern output.

As I said my less compulsive attention to YouTube was likely a healthier way to be. But honestly I feel robbed of some enthusiasm for the platform - which is odd, given that I probably had a consistently higher signal to noise. This might just be random vs consistent reinforcement psychology in effect. Anyway, I can probably afford to stay this way but be a bit looser in the concern over time spent with the occasional YouTube party that springs up in my social circle.

The End?

It wasn't as hard as I expected. Nor was it as noticeably rewarding as I'd hoped, I guess. I do think I feel better - I'm not 100% sure its exactly the kind of thing I can notice with confidence. I also feel (physically) bad in new ways. I think I was more productive, for what that's worth. I don't think that productivity was necessarily emotionally fulfilling

I'd kinda like to keep doing some to most of these habits, but maybe a little less strict. I am not sure I can really do that. I am not sure that (mostly) passive social influences allow it with my current life situation. It all (especially the lacks of meat, sugar, caffeine, alcohol) feels like going against the grain. I don't know why, but that feeling tests my resolve more than any specific inborn craving for any of it.

I think that I should work on making sure these or similar habits are re-asserted if/when I get my own place (hopefully in a couple months). I think it will be easier for lack of social pressure from roommates then and symbiotic to establishing a healthy, productive sleep schedule & evening/morning routines. I think that the healthy living framework I strove for this month is probably incomplete without some combination of regular exercise, meditation, and maybe therapy for the more clinically neurotic aspects of my mental health.

★★★☆☆. Would probably try again.

Donald Guy

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