Skinny Daily Post


Spa schma. You want to arrest your unhealthy habits, become more active, sleep well, eat well? You don’t need a spa vacation, dearie. Just place yourself in the heart of a major metropolis for a week or two. Live like a city dweller for a spell.

I’m visiting New York for a few days, and I’m reminded again how vast the differences are in food availability and intrinsic activity from one living environment to another. I live in the middle of the country in a not-densely populated area with some cultural diversity, but not much. Living in the Midwest means I live on my butt. And my food choices are not very varied. Where I live, we consider anything that puts us on our feet too much bother. So it’s good for me to visit a city now and then, to remember what those flat things on the ends of my legs are for.

We are staying in an inexpensive hotel undergoing renovation, meaning a hotel without room service, without enough towels or blankets, and without boiling water. We must walk for a cup of tea. Walk for a paper. We must walk for everything, forced to behave like New Yorkers. And we’re feeling better for it.

Saturday morning we hit the farmer’s market at Union Square. A market that welcomes dogs is a vital and real market to my way of thinking. This one does, and we swooned over the produce and the pooches, the organic cheeses, whole grain breads, and one Jack Russell, one Bull Mastiff, one gorgeous long-haired Daschund. We walked until we worked up a sweat, collecting foods as we went. Between the open air market and the Whole Foods Market just beyond, we pulled together a couple of the healthiest veggie-prolific meals we’ve ever enjoyed for very few dollars. We walked for miles sometimes with purpose, mostly aimlessly, trying to keep pace with the natives, working up a sweat.

We saw shoe repair stores. And it occurred to us that these city people actually wear out their shoes! Where we come from, shoes don’t need repair, they just go out of style.

We saw people walking for work, walking for play, walking to market, walking for their errands. They walk and walk and walk. Quickly, too.

At home, I have to schedule time to walk, and it’s hard to squeeze it in. Walking is taken, like medicine, in an effort to get in my required miles or steps or time. No, we drive. It’s miles of trees between my house and any other thing I’m likely to do. I drive to market, drive to play, drive to work, drive to visit friends. I replace the tires on my car far more often than I repair my shoes.

And we can’t have dogs at our farmers’ market.

Clearly, I’m living an inhumane sort of existence. Any kind of life that doesn’t readily support human health and wellbeing must be labeled as inhumane, yes? I need to explore ways to reduce the amount of driving I do for every little thing. Maybe live closer to my groceries? Closer to my job? Closer to my friends? I need to put air in the tires of my bike. I need to find a town that welcomes dogs. Paris?

So. Need a vacation sure to put you back on your feet? Forget the spas, and find a city with a strong cultural center. Pack comfortable shoes. Buy your food where the locals do. Meantime, do consider how your environment affects your activity levels and the nature of the food you eat. If it’s not a friendly environment for human health, either work to change it, or move. You’re worth it.

8 thoughts on “The New York Cure

  1. jonquil says:

    Awww, man, I really, really wish this were The Answer. Move to a Walking City, where people are fit and skinny.

    But I live in the Portland, Oregon area, supposedly one of the best planned cities in the country, with a whole urban forest, no less, and a strong walking/biking/running culture. And you know what? Oregonians, on the whole, are some of the fattest people west of the Mississippi.

    You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it order the diet plate.

  2. magic1 says:

    I’ve lived in NY for almost 15 years now, and I haven’t owned a car in all that time. (I’ve only owned a car for two years out of my life.) I’m in an outer part of Brooklyn that has lots of fat food places, many with drive thru windows, and it occurred to me recently that unlike most of the American public I’ve never used a drive thru for anything.

    HOWEVER, when I first moved here from my midwestern college town I gained a HUGE amount of weight. Real bagels, pizza on every corner, believe it or not Snapple (it hadn’t gone national yet and I don’t think they were making Diet Snapple yet, or it was hard to find). Chocolate covered halvah. Falafel with lots of tahini. A dozen Chinese delivery menus in my front hallway everyday. I was still a poor student but I somehow managed to find the cash to sample the international buffet.

  3. Laura says:

    I live in the same sort of environment, except in the south where the restaurants of choice are BBQ and most menus contain most anything battered and fried. I miss the days when I lived in CA where vegetarian restaurants abounded as well as great farmers markets. I spoke to my brother in Los Angeles and he was saying how he’d just been to the Wholefoods Market down the street. I sigh in envy.

    On Oprah, the guest who was talking about the book Why French Women Don’t Get Fat; she also said they walk everywhere, it is a way of life. Our too many conveniences here in the US are slowly killing us!

    But I do the best I can to eat healthy and remain acitive and there is always a way to do it. If there’s a will there’s a way, and thankfully I have the will at least for the moment.


  4. slm says:

    I love visiting NYC for just that reason! I walk ’till I drop. There are fresh fruit stands and salad bars everywhere. I also noticed there are very few obese people on the streets of Manahattan. Not a coincidence I’m sure! You sparked my interst to return for a visit!


  5. Meagan says:

    I recently moved from San Diego, California to Hong Kong. Southern California is definitely a driving oriented area, and I think I spent half my life in a car before I moved to Hong Kong! I don’t have a car here and I walk everywhere. I love it! It is so freeing! I have lost ten punds since I moved here, seemingly effortlessly, and all the while I have been eating more! Now, when I go back home to So Cal, I feel antsy because so much time is spent sitting.

  6. Debbi says:

    I live in the Middle of Nowhere — very rural, where I have to drive a minimum of 12 miles to get to a not-so-great grocery. But the post office is just .7 miles from my house. When I moved here, I decided to get a PO Box instead of a rural mail box at the end of the driveway, and I’m proud to say that in the last eight years I’ve walked to get my mail probably 95 percent of the time. It’s not much, but it’s something. Even in an area where a car is a necessity, there are ways.

  7. Sara says:

    I can walk. There are plenty of stores close enough to the house that I should walk to them rather than take the car.

    My problem is I am afraid of the traffic. Sounds silly huh. Through the neighborhood is fine, but there is this main street that I have to cross to get to the shopping center, and I just don’t like crossing it. Cars fly through the intersection even after the light turns red. I think with all the traffic in NYC I would be a shut-in.

    I have to plan my walks. I can drive to the beach and walk there, or drive to the mall. It can be done, just takes effort.

  8. aimesq says:

    I had the same experience as juju did which led her to believe in her “New York Cure.” I visited Seattle, Washington a month ago. Purposely decided not to rent a car, as the hotel I was staying at was right downtown and within walking distance (ok, I guess “within walking distance” is all a matter of perspective, as I made my boyfriend walk everywhere, too, and he took to calling me the “Walking Nazi!”) of everything I wanted to see (Space Needle, Pike Place Market, the Art Museum, the harbor, etc.). Plus, see, I’m training to walk a marathon, and rather than have to “schedule” my walks during my Seattle trip I decided to make my walks mandatory by having no car to use!

    What a wonderful experience! I actually SAW the city — noticed the architecture, learned the streets, found little shops and cafes and restaurants I would have never noticed had I whizzed past them in a car. I wore a pedometer, too, and on one day mid-week, I actually walked MORE THAN TEN MILES, altogether. It was great! In less than a week, I logged in nearly fifty miles of walking, quite a feat if I do say so myself.

    I am firmly convinced that this is THE way to vacation, if at all possible. Forget the car rental! Take the shuttle from the airport to transport your luggage, and then if you must rent something to get you around faster than your feet, rent a bike. Or use a combination of walking and public transportation. You will, I promise, end up seeing the place you’re visiting in so much more depth and you will remember it so much better this way. Plus, you might actually LOSE some pounds/inches, which (for me at least!) would be a first for any vacation. I came back with sore feet but was completely happy about what I had accomplished exercise-wise and by what I had actually gotten to see during my trip. Try it — you might just love it.

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