Pounding away on my damn diet

Until I am ready to lose weight, I cannot see how fat I am.
—Mason Cooley, City Aphorisms.

“Exercise more and eat less,” says Dr. Stern, my doctor, who is trim, athletic and has never been tempted by treats. In short, I hate her. If you met her, I’m sure you’d hate her, too. Nevertheless, my Mom brought me up to listen to experts, so I feel duty-bound to give it a try.

Must there be exercise?

Godzilla destroys Tokyo

Am I too big to exercise?

Getting exercise is much easier in the abstract than on the concrete. I feel like Godzilla stomping through Tokyo; the ground shakes and I send people screaming. I looked up the calories you burn when you run, but who cares? I haven’t run in years (thank you knees), and – should I ever get up to speed – there isn’t a street in my neighborhood long enough for me to come to a stop. I studied physics, and I know about inertia. I have a butt-load of inertia. Running is pretty much a fading fantasy. I believe this is why lions stalk the older animals.

So I walk, which is a ridiculous form of transportation. No wonder we invented the car. But even walking briskly I can only burn 350 calories an hour. To lose a pound of belly jelly, I need to burn 3,500 calories! Ten hours of exercise to lose one pound?! When will I have time to whine? I’m seriously doubting the ability of exercise to do anything other than frighten the neighbors. In fact, when you pin them down, most experts agree: you won’t lose much, if any, weight by exercising.

Isn’t there a pill for this?

So, why does everyone tell you to exercise? Probably because it is good for your heart, helps with arthritis, lowers the risk of type 2 diabetes, builds muscle, prevents weight gain, helps stave off dementia, improves your sleep, jazzes up your sex life and is generally good for you. Plus it feels great when you stop. Other than that, exercise has very little to offer.

The terrible lesson there is that, when you listen to doctors, you’re in for a world of hurt. All I wanted was to get a beach tan without the damn whale-rescuers trying to haul me out to sea. The next thing you know, I’m doing something called exercise, even though it doesn’t stand a chance of keeping me from beaching. I’m pretty sure there should be a pill for this.

Unless you are a bubble-brained bimbo, your goal should be to feel good as well as look good. Unfortunately for the professional sitters in the world, the healthiest way to lose weight is to diet and exercise.

So I should diet?

As for eating less, as Dr. Stern suggests? Well, I’m known far and wide (emphasis on the wide) for my will power. Unfortunately, I am not as well known for my won’t power. Eating less is a real struggle, and my job doesn’t help. We have a cafeteria at work, which is a French word meaning “chapel of cheese-whip.” This is a completely health-free zone that helps to pacify us throughout the day. We eat because we’re simultaneously bored and stressed. Junk food seems an appropriate reward for putting up with all the bullshit of the typical job. I feel like I’ve earned those Doritos.

Nevertheless, against this tide of junk food and funky vibes, I have managed to lose another pound! Woo-woo! I’m pretty much delirious about this incredibly modest achievement. I attribute it to the veggies and fruit that my distressingly svelte wife Candyce encourages me to take to work. She says you can’t have too many veggies, but I can imagine several scenarios where I die by vegetable. I believe Stephen King alone has invented a dozen horrifying ways to be vegecuted.

Despite all that, the prevailing theory is to eat your damn veggies. But I will pass along some hard-won advice to anyone out there who dares such a brazen act at work: eat the stuff alone in your cubicle. If your co-workers see you eating a vegetable, there will be no end of ribbing. “Did your wife make you bring that?” was the opening salvo from the Bunyanesque head of marketing when he caught me with a carrot. “You know that crap grows in the dirt don’t ya?” Technically, he is correct. Literally, he is also full of bologna.

The inevitable caveats

Of course the merits of fruit and veggies are situation-dependent. There is sugar in fruit, and some fruits are so sweet they can put icing to shame. For you diabetics out there, proceed with caution. And some starchy vegetables like potatoes and corn may alarm your pancreas as much as sugar does. Those, of course, are the vegetables you actually want to eat. Life is cruel.

Some judgement might be involved. There is probably less harm in a potato or an ear of corn than in a Twinkie. Apparently, the real benefit of all that natural crap is the unnatural crap it’s replacing, like Cheetos and Twinkies. Oh Cheetos and Twinkies, I miss you! It’s not clear why, but manufactured food may be unhealthy because it’s missing some things. Like nutrients.

Making that bounty of dirt-born nature palatable is another problem. Here, spice is a life saver. Candyce, who grew up in Finnish-flavored Minnesota, now craves Caribbean, Cajun and curry. She doesn’t need a diet – because she’s perfect – but she can live with my diet if it’s at least interesting. The teenage humanoids who inhabit my house have even stopped doing their graphic impressions of being poisoned during dinner. They actually request curry. I kid you not.

There is evidence that spices are actually good for you and may even help you lose weight. Some are purported to be aphrodisiacs, but probably on a par with candlelight and Barry White. This helps to make your diet more of an adventure, provided you’re not some sort of sensory sissy. Yes, middle America, that was a challenge!

This damn diet lasts forever

Here’s the thing: if I can lose a pound a week, I’ll hit my target weight in a year…

What!! A year of gnawing hunger and humiliation? Not to mention vegetables? Please help me here, for I have a very short attention span. Were we talking about vegetables? And fruit? For a year? The mind reels.

Okay, I don’t want to scare you: I’m never really hungry, I’m just missing my junk food. Some people say you get used to it. I’m not saying that, but some people do. And, as a quick sweep of this site will show, I’ve suffered through many diets far more humiliating than this before. So perhaps I protest too much.


Yes, you can lose weight too fast.

As I understand it from diet experts, you just can’t rush it unless you want to look like a shar-pei, a marvelously droopy dog who can chase his tail for five minutes before his skin catches up. That’s cute in a shar-pei, but truly horrifying in a 250 pound man. So, slow and steady wins this game. That’s why I call this erratic blog “Notch by Notch.” My belt is tightening, ever so slowly. This is the simplest diet in the world and it actually works: eat more fresh food and less processed food. Easy in concept, of course. In practice it builds character. That’s wife-speak for suck it up.

I’m not giving up

I will continue to humiliate myself with other dubious diets in the quixotic quest for quick fixes, but this low-junk diet is my new baseline. If you’re following along, this is the first diet I can give a thumbs-up to, slow and simple as it is. No two people agree on what a good diet is, but most are coming around to the idea that junk food may not be a magic bullet for weight loss.

I’ve surrendered to my awful fate. I’ve seen how chunky I am (that’s being charitable), and I’m going to lose this lard or die trying. There’s just no way I’m going to give up my health for a few deep-fried Oreos. But man, I could really use a basket of cheese-drenched nachos about now. With a corn-dog dipped in mustard. And, to wash it all down, a root beer float.

Diet root beer, of course. I wouldn’t want to disappoint Dr. Stern.


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