Friday, May 30, 2008

Manhattanhenge Tonight!

Dude. Tonight, there will be a rare occurrence in New York City. As I read in today's daily Metro, according to Neil deGasse Tyson of the Hayden Planetarium (located at my neighborhood hotshot American Museum of Natural History) the setting sun will perfectly align with streets north of 14th. He says to look west from First Ave., and has dubed the event Manhattanhenge. 

This is a delightful side affect of the grid plan for the city, made more dramatic by today's skyscrapers. Check it out at sunset and maybe make an offering to the city gods of old. 

Monday, May 12, 2008

Losing Weight the Healthy Way: Weight Watchers in New York City

On a day of perhaps less than optimal self esteem, (and we all have them) New York City can be a challenging place in which to feel comfortable with your body. Its the fashion capital of the world, for Gucci's sake! Models routinely prance by you on the street, all thin and six foot towering, looking chic even in sushi stained tanks and yoga sweats. Add in a few movie stars and those awesomely gorgeous gay men with cheekbones to die for, and on a bad day you can feel a bit... thick.

After a reality check, you realize that New York City is filled primarily with beautiful, fabulous, everyday type folk, with real live bodies with real live flesh covering the bones. Every body is welcomed here, especially if that self - no matter its size - is embraced from within (and being clothed in couture never hurt). I've never felt more beautiful than I do in New York City, and I am no size zero, proving that New Yorkers really aren't as into 'appearances' as those living outside its borders are led to believe.

That being said, we all want to feel our best, and for me that has meant coming to grips with my long time struggle with weight and emotional eating. No, make that scarfing. I may never have been morbidly obese, but on my 5'3" frame even a five pound gain can make me feel ginormous. To feel really confident about moving to a city I'd forever been infatuated with, yet incredibly intimidated by, I would need to lose the weight I'd packed on since my mother's death and the end of a serious relationship. Diagnosed with an underactive thyroid, my 'stuff the face to stuff the emotion' approach to pain management led to my all time high puffy state of 163 lbs. As you can see from my before photo, I was pretty uncomfortable in my stuffed Vienna sausage-like skin.

When I finally was ready to plunge into the abyss of my own weight obsessions, the only place that made sense for me to turn to was Weight Watchers. I'd heard of so many successes from friends and colleagues, and I also knew it wasn't a 'magic pill' approach to dieting (if I thought a diet capsule would work, I'd be downing those puppies by the cereal bowl-ful!) No, I knew my weight gain had to be addressed on many levels, and Weight Watchers did that for me.

First, I had to understand my relationship to food, and the meetings helped me comprehend the emotional tie I had to Breyer's Mint Chocolate Chip ice cream. Hearing other people talk about that love affair gone wrong that is often our relationship with food made me feel less freakish about how I ate. Weight Watchers also was, like, the best nutritional class ever - I learned about food in a thorough way, and precisely how certain foods are processed by the body.

But the best thing about Weight Watchers? It gave me accountability. It helped me to see, by writing down what I was eating each day, just how much munchie munchie was making it into my mouth. Not surprisingly, it was way too much. And I was shocked to learn how the most innocent and beloved foods in my pantry (oh, let's be honest, at my corner deli) actually turned out to have the most WW points values (those are the little things that make it easy for you to track how much food/calories you've eaten in a day). Allotted 20 points a day, I learned quick that a six point bagel each morning was going to do me in!

Weight Watchers radically altered my perception of food, and my relationship to it. Through the knowledge I gained and the support I got in the meetings, coupled with exercise, the weight came off. And off. I lost 30 lbs. before moving the New York City. Once here, I was able to continue going to WW as there are meetings all across the city. As you can see from the after photo, I'm a much happier gal.

And now? I am still struggling with that last 10 lbs. But WW has make that even easier by offering a great online program - and their own cute-as-a-low-fat-cupcake blogger Faint Starlite. She started out keeping a video diary of her WW adventure on You Tube, and now she is a spokesperson for the program. Don't you just love how all high tech and hip Weight Watchers has gotten?

The best thing about being at a healthy weight in New York City? The town itself helps you stay that way. Not only do the clothes inspire you to keep it lean, but NYC is consistently voted the best walking town in the country. With so much to look at along the way, you walk everywhere. And now that the Mayor has ordered that restaurants list their food's calorie counts, you'll never look at a black and white cookie the same way again.

Update-a year later: Well, I've finally done it. Reached my goal weight of 125 lbs!!! It really is miraculous and I am thrilled. Losing the last 10-15lbs was incredibly difficult, however. My weight just kept going up and down-so frustrating. So earlier this year, I started eating lots of veggies and fruits, cut out the snacking, started a probiotic regime (I think that helped curb my appetite), and just stayed with it. And after years of trying, met my goal. Yay!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Pray the Devil Back to Hell at Tribeca Film Festival

Had the pleasure of seeing Pray the Devil Back to Hell at the Tribeca Film Festival, where it won Best Documentary Feature. Powerful on many levels, this exquisite, hits-you-in-the-heart documentary tells the extraordinary story of a small band of women who unite in the midst of a bloody, beyond brutal civil war. Determined to bring peace to war torn, war lord overrun Liberia, theirs is a tale of courage to the extreme. Also inspiring are director Gini Reticker and producer Abigail E. Disney, two female filmmakers on a mission, who gave a great Q&A after the showing.

The film will be released nationally soon, but get involved prior by asking for it to be shown in your town or by visiting the MySpace page.