Sunday, March 22, 2009

A Decline in Weight

I have lost almost thirty pounds over the last year. When I turned 40 in 2008, I made it a point to start visiting the doctor regularly (prior to this appointment it had been over five years since I saw a doctor). He ordered a blood test, and the cholesterol numbers that came back were high. With a glib note on the test results, he said "cut out dairy and meat fats."

My wife looked at the results, winced, then showed me exactly how much half and half cream I use in my coffee. Let me tell you: it's more than two tablespoons. "From now on, no cream in your coffee," she said. So...this was how it was going to be.

Since that change, I've made other adjustments, all of which I've accepted grudgingly. I've eliminated butter and toast for breakfast, favoring yogurt or cereal (and just a cup of cereal at that). I've stopped eating peanut butter. Every now and then, I'll enjoy a salad for lunch.

Just these few changes caused my pants to feel loose in a few months. We made other changes, including dropping out or greatly reducing certain take-out choices (good bye lovely Chinese food; good bye tasty sandwiches from Panera; good bye McDonald's; good bye Dunkin' Donut breakfast sandwiches). Over this period, I've become a fan of reading the nutrition label of anything I eat.

My next blood test seven months later showed a marked improvement, but the doctor still saw some high numbers, and he recommended a meeting with a nutritionist. This meeting was eye-opening. The nutritionist diagrammed how the body digests food, and how "bad" fat is created. He pointed me towards the South Beach diet for other principles. He introduced me to "heart-smart fats". He told me about the work of Dr. William Castelli and the Framingham Heart Study.

I didn't necessarily get "diet religion", but I have started taking Omega-3 pills, and redoubled my effort to eat more fruit instead of sugary or overly salty snacks (mixed nuts are good, in moderation).

My next cholesterol test will be sometime in late April or May. Who knows how these changes will affect those numbers, but the weight loss is undeniable evidence that these changes are having effect. The weight loss has been uneasy to me. I associate my weight with prosperity. Or maybe I justified it? Either way, tightening the belt is an easier thing for me today.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Boston in the Movies

By no means an exhaustive list, but here are my favorite movies that were shot in Boston. For the other great city of my life, Jersey City, New Jersey, I can't name one (other than a few episodes of "The Sopranos").

7. A Civil Action - This was a tough book to adapt into a movie, but the Steven Zaillian does an admirable job. There are some "beauty" shots of Boston Harbor, and as Jan Schlichtmann (the lawyer, played by John Travolta) walks through the backside of suburbia, the film evokes Woburn.

6. Field of Dreams - I saw this movie a second time at the Hatch Shell in Boston, right on the Charles River. It's the perfect outdoor movie, with lovely scenes in Kenmore Square, and a great overhead shot of Storrow Drive. The movie only stays in Boston for a few minutes, but we get to have a whole scene in Fenway Park!

5. Spartan - David Mamet's action/adventure movie rolls quickly through Boston's Beacon Hill as well through the Big Dig tunnels. It's probably one of the first movies to feature the Zakim Bridge.

4. The Departed - This is the muscular gangster movie by Martin Scorsese that earned him his Best Director Oscar. The Zakim Bridge is also in this movie, as well as Boston's City Hall, and the Massachusetts State House.

3. Mystic River - Clint Eastwood has a gorgeous helicopter shot of the upper deck of Boston's Tobin Bridge, to introduce the two detectives in this grim movie. There's plenty of South Boston in here too.

2. Gone Baby Gone - Ben Affleck's movie is the gold standard if you want to hear the infamous Boston accent. This movie features the picturesque Mt. Auburn Cemetary, a flyover of Chelsea, and background shots of Dorchester and Roxbury.

1. Good Will Hunting - Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, two of Boston's most famous actors, teamed up in this soulful movie about a "city tough" prodigy who discovers his talents and his love. Robin Williams is awesome in this movie. Watch this movie to see MIT, Boston's Public Garden, the Red Line going South after it leaves Boston, and an older Harvard Square.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Lunch Derailed

Around 11:30AM or so, after shoveling out our driveway and my wife's car, I took off for some lunch. I drove through our recently shoveled street, and then had to stop. A truck was stuck, blocking the entrance to the street that crosses ours. I live on a long dead-end road, and with the one entrance blocked, it meant no take-out lunch.

The driver of the truck was walking up the road, his ear pressed to his cell. "The road's blocked", he said, and I nodded, already thinking about what was in our refrigerator. On an off-day, I think I would have gotten very impatient, and even angry about this sudden change in plans. The driver walked by me after I executed a K-turn to head back home. "How about getting out another way?" he asked. "This is the only way out," I said. Then I put on a smile. "Well, someone's coming to help us out," he offered. "Good luck with it!" I said, as cheerful as I could. I didn't want take-out anyway.