Monthly Archives: December 2013

Catching Up

man-160440_640These past few weeks have been a busy time for me at work. It felt like I barely had time to even breathe. I’ve not had time to check the DOC, and missed a couple or three of DSMA’s weekly tweet chat. Thus, I’m grateful for this season’s 9-day Japanese New Year holiday period (now on day 3) to sleep and recharge. That said,  despite the busy work schedule, I had a few non-work related events to share with you. Nothing profound or deep. Just a few more info on my otherwise mundane life.

Half-Marathon in Fukushima

I signed-up for the Aizu Higashiyama Onsen half-marathon, in Aizu Wakamatsu, for May next year. Aizu Wakamatsu is a traditional samurai town in Fukushima prefecture and was the location of a recent popular historical drama on TV. Yes, it is in Fukushima. To those who are worried about radiation, the town is 100 km west of the Daiichi nuclear power plant. The radiation levels there are very low and pose no health risk. No, I will not start glowing in the dark after the race.

I’m looking forward to this half-marathon. One, training for a race is a good incentive to go out for a run in winter. The colder it gets, the more our bed and duvet tempt me to stay in. I’m now building my running base before my half-marathon training begins in February (the coldest period of Tokyo winter). Two, I am hoping that May will be a pleasant time to visit Aizu Wakamatsu, which is north of Tokyo. At least, it probably will not be too cold to be outdoors but cool enough to have a pleasant 21 km race. Three, it will be my first visit to Aizu Wakamatsu, and I’m excited to visit such a lovely town. Four, I want to support parts of Fukushima that are suffering by association because people assume that the whole of Fukushima is under a cloud of high and dangerous radioactive level. I’ve always had a distaste for guilt by association, and I refuse to let uninformed fear override logic and facts and find guilt where none exists.

New camera lens

My husband surprised me with a new camera lens for Christmas. I’m still getting used to it, as I’m still getting used to my camera. I know, I know, I’ve had the camera for a few months now, but I still haven’t mastered its features (well, no rush). I’m excited to explore my camera with my new lens, though. I plan to use it for a photo project I’ve signed up for with fellow diabetic members of an online diabetes board (more info on this sometime next week).

I took the photo below on Christmas Day with my Christmas present. What do you think?

Christmas tree 2013

Christmas tree 2013


Did I just put in “work”? I did, didn’t I? Well, I left work at the office and it will stay that way. So, no talk of work today.


I’ve been using the Endomondo app for a couple of years now to record my running, walking and other activities, but I’m not very happy with it so I am in search of a new running app. I’m now testing Runmeter. I’ve just started using it so I do not know yet if it is the replacement app that I’m looking for. Any opinion, advice or thoughts on Runmeter would be most welcome, and of course please feel free to suggest other running apps.


I recently bought a Fitbit. I thought that it would be a fun way to track my daily steps. I had a pedometer before, but I had to record my steps by hand and I always forgot to do it. With Fitbit though my iPhone or my computer records my steps for me.

Anyway, do you know how difficult it is to walk 10,000 steps a day? I found that it’s not that easy to rack up 10,000 steps daily, even for someone who lives in a city such as Tokyo where everyone generally walks everywhere. The busier I am at work, the more bound I am to my desk, the fewer steps I take in a day. Although I do yoga or other exercises on non-running days, I still prefer to walk as closely as I could to 10,000 steps a day as possible.


Speaking of 10,00 steps, have you ever wondered who came up with the number? Is it arbitrary or does it have a scientific basis? From what I can find on the internet, it seems that the goal of walking 10,000 steps a day is a promotional ploy by Japanese companies to sell pedometers. Apparently, there is no research to support this number. Yet, it has caught on. In any case, as far as I’m concerned, it seems to be a good round number to aim for each day. Even if we don’t reach that number on a daily basis, it is the effort that counts.


I also managed to arrange our first ski trip this winter season. Hokkaido! I’m a bit nervous because I broke my leg last March skiing, but Hokkaido should be the perfect place for me to get back on to my skis. I’m so looking forward to it! Snow, here I come.

On a sad note, this morning I heard of the ski accident of Michael Schumacher over the radio. I’d like to take this opportunity to send our prayers to Mr. Schumacher and his family for his full recovery.

Feet up

Right now, it’s time for me to put my feet up, with a glass of wine on my hand and  a good film (The Conjuring I hope qualifies as one) to relax.


Surviving Christmas buffets

Buffet-style parties are so popular, especially during the holidays. I’m sure you’d agree that they are dangerous to one’s waistline and blood sugar levels. So far I’ve survived (I’d like to think) three such Christmas buffets this month.



I cannot eat everything.

I used to try to eat everything at every buffet I went to. Friends and I used to compete to see who can eat the most. I’d go home with a stomach ache and several pounds heavier. I learned to dread buffets because of what they did to my waistline until I realized that no one can possibly eat everything. I couldn’t possibly eat everything, and I didn’t have to. When I came to this realization, I felt a major part of the pressure to eat lift from my shoulders. Now, when I go to buffets, I no longer feel the urge to try to eat everything because I know that I simply can’t.

I check what’s on offer.

Before queueing, I survey all the dishes, from appetizers to desserts. This helps me decide what to eat, and more importantly what to leave on the serving trays. Choosing without knowing what are available is difficult to do. In addition, in selecting dishes, I prioritize dishes that I or my husband cannot make, or cannot make well, at home, and I ignore cheap high-calorie food like spaghetti, other pasta dishes, and potato salad.

I use small plates.

I avoid big plates for obvious reasons. It is easy for me to overload on food when I use big plates. Big plates encourage me to eat more and faster and to return to the buffet table even faster. By the time I realize that I’m full, it’s too late – I’d already have eaten one week’s worth of food! Hence, I use small plates, and one plate  (not two or three) at a time. I also do not make a mountain of food on my plate. This way, I give myself time to digest my food before going back for seconds or thirds, and if I want to eat more, I have to go back to the buffet table and line up all over again.

Small plate

I socialize.

At networking events or office parties, socializing means fewer opportunities to eat. It’s really hard, not to mention rude and unprofessional, to talk with your mouth full. By spending less time eating, I end up meeting new people or reacquainting with people I have not seen or been in contact with for a while, which is what these events are for in the first place. This applies to home parties and dinners as well. Instead of focusing on food, I try to focus on the people I am with.

Other things I do

I also have a small snack before going to a buffet party. This helps me from raiding the table, and makes it easier for me to follow the plan I outlined above.

I drink a lot of water. In these events, drinks (and I mean alcohol) are usually overflowing as well. If I drink too much, I get the munchies and of course I get drunk (not good at a business event). Drinking water not only helps me feel full, it also keeps me from making a drunken fool of myself.

I wear fitted clothes to keep me from overindulging. A bulging stomach on a fitted blouse or over tight pants is not a pretty sight.

Oh, and I dance if there is dancing involved.

Will this work over the New Year holidays?

So, so far, I think I’ve survived the Christmas buffets this year. The question is whether I will survive the buffets I am scheduled to encounter soon. Hubby and I will be at Club Med in Hokkaido for a few days of skiing. Club Med has buffets for breakfast, lunch and dinner, not to mention snacks in between. Oh boy! Check in with me in a couple of weeks to see how I survive my coming great buffet test!

And a Merry Christmas to everyone!

Winter fitness plan

Wintry Mt. Fuji

Wintry Mt. Fuji

Winter has finally set in, although many will say that it landed in Tokyo a few weeks ago. In any case, I know that winter has finally set in because this morning I decided to stay in bed, under the covers, instead of doing yoga and ski conditioning exercises. This underscored the challenges that winter always brings when it comes to maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Winter always encourages me to eat more than I want, not just because of the holidays but because it takes me longer to get full or quicker to get hungry. The cold weather makes it difficult to get out of bed in the morning, or go out for an evening run, or sometimes even to go out for a walk at lunch time – and it’s not even that cold in Tokyo compared to snow-covered Hokkaido and many other parts of the Northern Hemisphere. Hence, every winter, I need a plan to give me an edge over cold weather.

I know that there are many blogs and articles on how to beat the winter weight gain. Let me share my humble plan.


Winter run

Winter run

I have to confess that this plan is a variation of my plan to get me running the rest of the year.

  1. I prepare my running clothes, socks, neck warmer, winter cap, and gloves the night before, so that I don’t have to spend time rummaging through my drawer, which usually gives my warm bed enough time to coax me back. In fact, I often sleep with my running tights on.
  2. I sign up for a race, even a short one, and pay the registration fee as soon as possible. Then, I tell others about the race. This keeps me from finding excuses to back out of it, and “encourages” me to train.
  3. I pay myself when I run the whole year round, but in winter, I pay double what I pay myself the rest of the year. It encourages me to run or exercise and fills up my piggy bank a lot faster.
  4. I concentrate on something to improve on in my running. So, I take this opportunity to focus on something I have to work on – speed, uphill running, breathing, or stride length. Or, just enjoying the run on a crisp cool morning.
  5. I promise myself that I’ll exercise for only 10 minutes. I know it’s a mind game, but usually if I go out for a 10-minute run or yoga practice, 10 minutes is never enough. And certain promises are indeed made to be broken.
  6. I bought myself a fitbit.


Small dishes

Small dishes

This is a bit trickier because of the Christmas holidays and New Year holidays. In Japan we have what is called bonnenkai (“forget the year” parties) and Christmas parties in December, and shinnenkai (“New Year” parties) in January. But also, during winter, my appetite increases. Not only that, but it is the tradition in Japan for people to bring back omiyage (souvenirs), usually in the form of cookies, chocolates and other sweets, from their out-of-town or out-of-the-country trips. Here are some things that I try to observe at this time of the year.

  1. I have an afternoon snack so that I am not so hungry before I go to any dinner party. As I’m sure you can see, this keeps me from being a starved party-goer gobbling everything in sight.
  2. I keep a bag where I immediately stash the Christmas cookies and sweet omiyage, and keep the bag where I can’t see it.
  3. If someone brings a home-baked cake, or even a store-bought cake, and shares it in the office, I take a bite of my slice and then put the rest of it in the bin. The person who baked or bought it doesn’t feel slighted and I will have little to complain about my blood sugar or weight.
  4. I wear body-hugging shirts underneath my sweaters and jackets. Sweaters and jackets often effectively cover weight gain, but body-hugging tight clothes are gentle reminders of what the spring will reveal if I don’t moderate my winter eating patterns.
  5. I drink plenty of water, tea and coffee, which keeps me full and far from dehydrated (which is easy to achieve since the cold does not usually encourage hydration).

My plan may not work for everyone, but I hope that some of it may encourage others to keep exercising and eating healthily during the next two to three months.

AND, I’d love to hear your secrets to keeping fit and healthy during winter time.