Posted in Essays, Favorites, Features, Travel, Writing on 09/18/2011 03:35 am by Catherine
It was Friday night in Shinjuku, a Tokyo neighborhood famous for neon signs, subterranean shopping malls, and rent-by-the-hour lodgings known as love hotels. In crowded bars, people tipped back beers and sang karaoke. Young men with black jackets and gelled hair stood on street corners, offering menus of available escorts to passersby. In the midst of the action was a store window, covered except for a narrow strip of glass. If you were to have stopped and looked through it, you would have seen something strange: my legs, submerged to the ankles, with 600 flesh-eating fish feasting on my feet.
This is the story of how I got there.
I recently had the amazing opportunity to write a story for O, The Oprah Magazine about taking a trip in which I based all of my decisions, from what I saw to where I slept, on the recommendations of strangers. It’s out in the June issue, along with this slide show.
Posted in Essays, Favorites, Features, Health, Writing on 08/05/2010 04:00 am by Catherine
I’ve been meaning to start a daily mindfulness meditation practice for a long time, but thanks to this assignment from O, The Oprah Magazine, I actually started one. (And then got to participate in a full-day photo shoot that involved almost getting attacked by a bull.)
We’ve all had the experience of sensing time decelerate naturally when we’re not so thrilled about what we’re doing (think torturous spinning class or hour-long “synergy workshop” at the office). As my dear grandmother would have said, it takes only one colonoscopy to prove that time is relative. But what about the more enjoyable times in life? I hoped that practicing the popular and proven type of meditation called mindfulness—which focuses on bringing awareness to the present moment—might help me slow those times down as well.
Posted in Features, Food, Writing on 05/19/2013 01:29 pm by Catherine
For O Magazine, a story about a dinner party at Michael Pollan’s Berkeley home, in honor of his newest book, Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation.
Posted in Health, Writing on 01/03/2012 07:52 am by Catherine
I spend, on average, 128 minutes in REM sleep per night. I require a minimum of 1,400 calories per day to stay alive. My resting heart rate hovers around 57 beats per minute but spikes to 65 when I’m answering e-mail or talking to my husband on the phone.
I know all this because I recently spent two weeks following my body’s statistics with as many devices, Web services, and phone apps as i could manage at once. Inspired by a growing group of extreme self-trackers—people who attempt to quantify their everyday activities (everything from exercise to sleep to sex) in order to gain insight about themselves—I set out to answer two questions: Would monitoring myself inspire me to adopt a healthier lifestyle? And what would happen to my peace of mind if I turned my life into a data sheet?
For O, the Oprah Magazine, I find out whether keeping tracking every aspect of your health can actually drive you insane.
Posted in Health, Writing on 12/25/2011 07:00 am by Catherine
Is keeping track of every aspect of your health a good or bad thing? For O Magazine, I try to find out.
Posted in Features, Health, Writing on 05/12/2011 09:08 am by Catherine
It was a fortuitously timed assignment: a piece about decision-making that I researched just as my husband and I were moving to a new city. Choices abounded. Here are my conclusions, written for O, The Oprah Magazine.
I felt like punching Benjamin Moore in the face. My husband and I had just moved across the country, and after a flurry of big decisions, we were down to the nitty-gritty: what color to paint our new apartment. The previous tenant had gone with blood red, midnight blue, and tan—a look I referred to as “depressed Betsy Ross.” Hoping to achieve something more cheerful, we sat on the floor surrounded by dozens of paint samples—Classic Gray or October Sky? Silken Pine or Mystic Beige?—when all I really wanted was to be able to just flip a switch in my brain and let my rational self determine the perfect choice.
Posted in Features, Health, Writing on 12/24/2010 06:17 am by Catherine
I just had a piece come out in O, The Oprah Magazine about how to stop beating yourself up for stupid things (or, as they titled it, “How to stop being so damn hard on yourself”).
While I pride myself on being kind to others, I do not show the same compassion to myself. Instead, I have a gift for letting trivial things suck me into a vortex of self-loathing. A missed workout, a bad piano practice: Anything can churn my mind into an emotional whirlpool that gathers strength by pulling in unrelated failings—say, my difficulty choosing clothes or my lack of a steady paycheck. “Why can’t I dress myself? Why did I pick this career?” Eventually, I’m dragged all the way under: “Why am I so pathetic?”
Judging from the feedback I’ve received so far, I’m far from the only person who does this. It really makes you wonder: why are we so damn hard on ourselves?
Posted in Features, Health, Writing on 10/24/2010 08:39 am by Catherine
Last summer my husband, Peter, and I spent two weeks on a family farm in France—a sort of “working vacation” in which we exchanged labor for room and board. The farm was home to a menagerie of pigs, cows, dogs, cats, chickens, and pigeons, but lucky for us, we didn’t have to worry about any of them. Our sole responsibility was the family’s herd of goats, which we were supposed to milk twice a day. It was the easiest job on the farm. And yet one morning, halfway into our stay, we managed to almost blow it.
In a piece for O Magazine, I learn the benefits of single-minded focus — courtesy of a herd of French dairy goats.
Posted in Essays, Food, Health, Opinion, Writing on 01/04/2009 06:22 pm by Catherine
I’ve long thought that the body mass index, the oft-cited calculation of whether you’re obese, is flawed — after all, it doesn’t take into account whether your extra weight comes from muscle or fat. As an (equally meaningless) alternative, I propose a different measurement, one that reflects how you actually feel. I call it the Body Image Index, and I wrote about it for O Magazine.
What do feelings have to do with numbers? Most women know that it is possible to immediately gain 15 pounds by eating one pint of Ben & Jerry’s. And when it comes to your butt (which can enlarge six sizes in the wrong pair of jeans), the rules of physics no longer apply.
We need a better way to quantify these fluctuations — a formula that goes beyond your BMI and calculates the feel of overweight. So I propose the personal body image index (PBII).
The general idea is as follows:
• Start with your weight.
• Subtract seven pounds if you have just worked out.
• Add five if you’ve single-handedly finished a plate of guacamole and chips; four for macaroni and cheese; six for death-by-chocolate cake.
• Subtract 10 pounds if people nearby are fatter than you.
• If you’re wearing black pants, subtract two; if in a bathing suit, add eight.
• If you are more than seven years older than the group average or are surrounded by bikini-clad undergraduates with toned stomachs and cellulite-free thighs, add 20.