Sunday, November 28, 2010

Subways of the World!

I enjoy watching trains, and love riding in them. I have a special fondness for Metro systems or subways, and I suppose this dates back to my childhood when a ride on the Toronto subway was a special treat. Legend has it that a three-year old Mooncattie was intercepted at Toronto's Davisville subway station, having wandered off from home with notions of heading downtown! Well, many years passed before I got a chance to visit another city's subway (1975 - London). Now I make a point of taking a journey on the Metro of whatever city I visit.

2010 was a banner year for Me and Metros! This year I managed to board trains in Toronto, Montreal, Chicago, Cleveland, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington DC, Berlin, Munich, Nürnberg, Hamburg, and Warsaw. Below are a few highlights from past travels.

Here's a station in Nürnberg, Germany. The newest line features automatic "driverless" trains, which means you get to sit up front if you like and enjoy the driver's point of view.

Below is a scene from a much older system (with much older stations!), in Chicago. The Windy City is famous for its downtown elevated Loop trains, but this particular line reaches out into the western suburbs.

Another long-established American subway can be found in Philadelphia. This is the Market Street line, which features a nice outdoor stretch to the west of the downtown. Stations here are, well, pretty old looking!

Many of Europe's major cities are very well-served by Metro systems. Vienna is an excellent example, and here a U-Bahn enters the outdoor Stadtpark station.

Berlin has a huge railway system, integrating the regional S-Bahn lines with underground U-Bahns. Below is the recently-opened U55 line stop at Brandenburger Tor. It currently shuttles back and forth between this station under the Brandenburg Gate and Berlin's main railway station. One day, it'll be extended eastwards to Alexanderplatz.

I enjoyed riding the subway in Warsaw, Poland. Here is an entrance at Centrum station, with the gigantic Palace of Culture and Science looming above.

Having finally been bitten by the camcorder bug, I've joined the hordes of nerdy folk who post YouTube clips of whatever they are interested in. For me, that meant videos of subways and Metros, and you can see my work posted under the name of "murrener". Or just click on if you're REALLY bored and go from there! I'm looking forward to 2011, when I hope to add more Metros to my collection.
Yes, it's true! I've now lost 25 pounds, and I've got the Weight Watchers ribbon to prove it! I've hit the 27 lb. mark as of November 22nd, and hope to whittle away another few pounds if possible by Christmas. I've got more energy, and I'm fitting into clothes that I haven't worn in many years (in some cases, NEVER!). I'll keep you posted!

NEXT: Going away in 2011!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Weight To Go!

I've been overweight for about thirty years now. Adding on a few pounds each year, every year, led me to where I am today. Early on I began to love food, then I discovered the joys of beer, and with a job and some cash and time off I had the means in time to indulge and enjoy.

I have now reached my Fifties, I've endured a decade of living with Type 2 diabetes, and as the many posts on my blog have illustrated, I've tended to ignore my health and enjoy eating and drinking (and traveling to eat and drink). By the summer of 2010, I was the heaviest I had ever been in my life. Moving around was exhausting, it was all I could do to stay awake during the workday and make it home to fall asleep. And although being heavy bothered me, I didn't really care or like myself enough to do anything about it.

Take a look at the photo below. There I am at my favourite German beergarden, happy as can be, and look at that stomach!

Here's a self-portrait from this past July. I'm on board a train bound for Warsaw, and when I saw how this picture turned out I took another with my arms folded across my stomach. Of course I'm not fooling anyone - see the Mooncattie-sized bag of chips?

My family has faced a number of health challenges in 2010. Both my parents have had extended periods of ill health. I fractured a bone in my foot in the springtime. No wonder - imagine the stress it would be under every time I took a step! Seeing my holiday photos from this past summer, and thinking about my probable life span, I realized that it was time to do the hardest thing of all, to make a change in my lifestyle and try to be healthier. Perhaps better health would lead to a different kind of happiness, not dependent upon the consumption of calories. I knew dieting would be difficult, and I have such a long way to go to attain my proper body weight - but why not give it a try? Maybe I'll actually like myself a little more in the process!

So I joined my local chapter of Weight Watchers in early September - about two months ago. I resolved to attend the meetings, to do the tracking of food intake, to be honest about the weigh-ins whether I have a week of success or a relapse into past habits.

The folks at the meetings are very supportive, and all seem to be cheering each other on. The parts of the organization that I don't really support (such as the WW products like Power Bars and Smoothies and various recipe publications) are easily ignored while I concentrate on the daily tracking of what I eat.

The change of diet has been dramatic for me. It means pushing away snack food, fast food, beer and milkshakes. It means deliberately keeping track of physical activities and planning walks when I normally wouldn't bother. I'm a devotee of 1/% milk nowadays, and I try to make a point of doing the 40-minute walk to get it instead of the 5 minutes there and 5 minutes back by car. It means eating more fruits and vegetables and cereal. Lunchtime is now generally my main meal of the day, and during the weekdays that means soup of some description. I found a "soup-erb" spot ten minutes' walk south of my office, and most work days now I bring back a tub of tomato, or hot & sour, or mulligatawny, or jambalaya to my desk.

Weekends means forcing myself to walk in the neighbourhood somewhere, and avoiding the activities that led me to high-calorie experiences. I've stopped going to movies, for instance, because I know I don't want to see a film without popcorn. I've actually saved a bit of money that way, so the Weight Watchers program isn't necessarily costing me that much extra!

Well, so far so good. Here's a photo of me taken this afternoon.

Yes, that stomach is still there! So is the chin! But I'm wearing jeans that are two full sizes below what I wore in the summer, and I need the belt tightened an extra two notches to keep it from falling down to my ankles! I'm fitting into that shirt for the first time in years - maybe a decade. I'm down 18 lbs since joining, and I plan on continuing to work at this. I'm determined to be down a total of 25 lbs by Christmas. It won't be easy - cold weather is coming, and I'm definitely NOT a winter person where exercise is concerned. The festive stuff is going to be a big challenge as well. Well, bring it on! I got through Halloween without succumbing to the temptations of candy, and the support of family, friends, and work colleagues have convinced me to keep it going.

I'm looking forward to 2011 already, and thinking about travels that will allow me to keep moving forward in every way possible. Oh there will be treats, but they will be accounted for and be special occasions to enjoy instead of daily cravings to be accommodated. I'll keep in touch re: my progress or lack thereof!

NEXT: Subways of the World!