Staten Island Slimdown

Staten Island Slimdown – A borough-wide health initiative and weight-loss contest is picking up steam, even though it won’t officially launch for another two weeks.

Staten Island Slim Down, has attracted nearly 100 participants who heard about the free 10-week-program mostly by word-of-mouth.

The program mixes weekly exercise sessions at the College of Staten Island, online coaching, nutrition and cooking demonstrations, step-by-step lifestyle makeover plans for both men and women, and even a guided shopping tour of Shop & Stop to learn about making healthier grocery selections.

Contestants who submit before and after photos have a chance to win $1,000. The person with the most inspiring lifestyle transformation will be deemed the winner.

Those who don’t want to be photographed can opt out of the contest and join the program as a participant with access to all the program’s other offerings.

To register as a contestant or participant, log on to A group category is also available.

Slim Down’s official kick-off is Jan. 29 at 3 p.m. at the Joan and Alan Bernikow Jewish Community Center in Sea View. At that time, participants can be weighed, have their blood pressure checked and body fat measured.

“We’re going to be encouraging Staten Island residents to start to embrace healthy lifestyle practices, such as consistent exercise, healthy eating, sleeping well and other aspects that directly impact health, wellness and weight management,” said Tony Books Avilez, a personal trainer who runs Staten Island Boot Camp and co-founded Slim Down.

The program is the brainchild of Avilez and Dr. Maureen Becker, director of clinical education for the College of Staten Island’s physical therapy doctoral program.

They met nearly 20 years ago as volunteers at a career day fair at an Island intermediate school. For the last few years, Avilez and Dr. Becker talked about collaborating on a health-related project.

In August they founded Staten Island Slim Down Inc., which is awaiting approval as a not-for-profit organization.

The program’s borough-wide reach through weekly meet-ups and online webinars and coaching gives participants support from multiple sources, explained Avilez.

“I work with people day-in and day-out who are looking to improve their fitness and well being,” he said. “I’ve found that the best way is when people have social support. Very often we try to do these things on our own and it becomes really challenging.”

In addition to sponsorships from CSI, the JCC, and Stop & Shop, the program has also garnered support from city Councilman James Oddo (R-Mid-Island/Brooklyn), the Staten Island Economic Development Corporation, Wagner College, Richmond University Medial Center, Family Health Foods, Get In Gear Cycling Studio and Alpha Omega Protection Services.

“Our hope is that this will become an annual thing that we can promote and do on Staten Island,” said Dr. Becker. “We’re going to do this and learn from this one what worked and what didn’t and each time make it better.

© 2011 All rights reserved.  This story originally appeared in the Staten Island Advance on January 17, 2011 and is reprinted here with permission.