It was Friday morning, just after nine, and I was standing in a room on the twenty-second floor of the Hilton New York. A friendly gentleman was measuring my lower torso as two of my best friends looked on. They were to be my Groomsman in my wedding in October, and the friendly gentlemen, a tailor from overseas who we’d hired to custom-make our suits at a discount. I was willing to bet it wasn’t the first time a group of three dudes paid for someone to feel up their crotches at the Hilton. I had my shirt tucked into my pants, which I normally never do, as it frames my beer gut like a tarp pulled too tightly over a winterized boat. I asked the tailor to subtract an inch or two as he measured my waist, as I intended to lose some weight before the wedding. Only, it didn’t come out like that. What I actually said was probably closer to, “hey, I’m pretty fat right now, but hopefully I won’t always be this fat.” He asked me how much weight I planned to lose, and I told him ten to fifteen pounds. Then he said, “no, really. How much weight do you think you’ll lose?” Fine, five to ten — but hopefully ten! He looked at me with an abundance of doubt, like a mother does a child who just promised to do the dishes before bed. I often told myself I’d get into better shape for the sake of my health, my appearance and my general wellbeing, but if I didn’t make good on my promise this time, I’d risk losing something far more important: money wasted on this custom suit. That, and my balls if my fiancée came to find out that I didn’t fit into it once the wedding rolled around. I was going to have to do the impossible: lose weight while living in New York.
My problem is that food is everywhere in this city, and it all manages to find its way into my disgusting face. I’ve documented my love affair with Dunkin’ Donuts before for New York Natives. Readers’ comments in that article ranged from “oh, you’re not fat” to “you’re a piece of shit.” The truth is somewhere in between. I’m not by any means obese, but being the 5-foot-2 hipster-hobbit of a man that I am, any excess weight I accrue hangs off my midsection like a Kuato-from-Total-Recall vestigial twin that requires Boston cream donuts and coffee rolls for sustenance. But Dunkin’ Donuts isn’t even the real problem. I can learn to avoid it, as well as Chipotle, Five Guys, Five Napkin Burger, Shake Shack, Sylvia’s, Dinosaur BBQ, Crumbs, Katz’s and any other evil temptress of a restaurant that beckons me to suckle on its greasy, life-abbreviating teats. In New York, fattening food isn’t just found on every block inside storefronts, it’s actually, physically, on every block in the form of hot dog vendors, food trucks and “street meat” carts. They’re impossible to avoid. Last week my fiancée and I made a pact to cut out meat from our diets for seven days. I made it three days before a traveling street fair materialized in the middle of 43rd Street, two blocks from my office. A fucking street fair in the middle of the week, in Midtown. I felt like “Doc Brown” at the beginning of Back to the Future when he realizes the Libyans had tracked him down: “They found me. I don’t know how, but they found me!” I inhaled the contents of a gyro platter from one of the no-name food booths while shaking like a crack addict getting his first fix after a long jail sentence. In fact, street meat is exactly like a drug deal — you’re buying something that will destroy your body from a shady man on a street corner, for cash only. And the money’s probably going to support terrorism, too.
That’s not to say eating right is impossible in New York. Yeah, I’ve been to Chop’t. I have to hand it to a company that’s managed to convince an entire metropolis to spend 20 minutes waiting in line for salad, not to mention put up with an extremely awkward ordering process. There’s no more stressful experience than choosing salad toppings while a riot-sized mass of hungry New Yorkers waits behind you, each one more furious than the other that they’re getting salad for lunch. The unwritten rules are clear: no hesitating, no small talk and absolutely no asking questions. I get so overwhelmed, I just point to any random four toppings and hope for the best. One time I ended up with some kind of beans, or at least I hope that’s what they were. After the toppings station, your salad is sent to the chopping area. There doesn’t seem to be any order involved — employees seem to just arbitrarily pick whichever salad “moves” them at the moment. You need to watch your salad like a hawk or else yours will get mixed up with someone else’s kale and walnut nightmare. It’s like watching your car move through a carwash, only you don’t give a shit if it ever comes out the other end. After paying for the salad, then comes the worst part of the salad lunch process: eating the salad. I don’t get full on salad as much as I just get bored. Salad would be so much better if they were like Tootsie Roll Pops where once you eat all the lettuce and vegetables there was something great at the bottom, like a slab of bacon…or a Tootsie Roll.
Pipe dreams aside, I needed to find a diet that worked for me. So, at the behest of my fiancée, and with nothing else to lose except the last micron of my self respect, I did something drastic. I joined Weight Watchers. I’m going to say that again, just so I can remind myself that this is actually real life…I joined Weight Watchers. I didn’t even know men could join Weight Watchers, nor am I really sure that we should be able to. When you try to sign up on the website and you select “male,” it should just automatically redirect you to Omaha Steaks, or something else really manly, like a Google Image search of Burt Reynolds. For those of you unfamiliar with the WW, it’s like fantasy football for people who have given up on being happy. I have to log into a website every day, there’s points at stake, and I’ll probably lose interest in it after the first week and forget I ever signed up, just like real fantasy football. The only difference is instead of the Giants defense screwing me on points on a Sunday afternoon, it’ll be a giant meatball parm hero. So, that’s where I’m at, New York. I have no idea if it’ll actually work, but I’m promising myself I’m going to give it a fair shot. And if I fail…well, it’s not hard to let out a pair of suit pants.
Just don’t tell my fiancée.