A Diet is Forever

The second day of a diet is always easier than the first. By the second day you’re off it. — Jackie Gleason.

Large Fellow

Time for a diet?

There are only two rotten aspects of this miserable “diet” thing: making the commitment, and then sticking to it. This week I have to recommit myself. Do I really need to diet? If you look at me with the right lighting, say on a night with a new moon, I don’t look half bad. Sure, it’s getting harder to suck that gut in, my knees are creaky, my feet are killing me and let’s just not talk about the back. Still, isn’t that just normal aging?

The damnable thing about the Internet is that there’s just too much information. And almost all of it sounds gloomy for those of us who live for the all-you-can-eat buffet. And yet, how can we really commit to changing pretty much everything we’re comfortable with – without a lot of unseemly whining? The answer, which really sucks, is that we just have to.

Every day brings some news about how being fat is not good for you. What a buzz-kill. If I asked you what the number one cause of liver disease is, you’d probably say alcohol. You’d be wrong; that’s so last year. This year, it’s overeating. Obesity can lead to cirrhosis, fatty liver disease and ultimately, liver cancer. There’s a bacterial angle too: microbes that are implicated in obesity may also cause inflammation, stressing your liver and causing disease. And that is just one damn organ. Multiply that times all the squishy tissues in your body and you start to get a feel for how nasty this can get.

Your heart would like you to diet

The heart is particularly susceptible. Not only do those of us who are more rotund have extra mass to pump blood to, but fat compresses the vessels and makes the whole chore a lot harder. The third strike is when cholesterol builds up in those poor overworked vessels and puts an even greater squeeze on the whole system. The heart has to work harder to compensate for all the resistance it encounters. Not one part of this is good for you.

Even your skin gets affected. Obesity alters the skin barrier, sebaceous and sweat glands, collagen structure and circulation. Obesity is also implicated in several skin diseases, including lymphedema, cellulitis, acne, cysts, skin infections and psoriasis. Wounds take longer to heal.

This is a sobering litany, all stemming from obesity. And it doesn’t even address type 2 diabetes, the social stigma, sleep apnea, osteoarthritis and many more nasty issues involved with corpulence. It’s enough to scare you thin.

So the very first thing I need to do is make a firm commitment (my flabby commitment obviously hasn’t done the trick). I have to really mean it. I can’t just cross my fingers behind my ample back and pretend. Even if my goal is only a ten pound loss, I have to be serious.

Worse yet, it can’t be a short-term fix. There is a reason I’m overweight: I make the wrong choices every single day. Nachos, it turns out, are not actually health food. Who knew? All of my cherished noshes and notions need to be reevaluated. I hate that.

painting of diet food man

Are you eating enough veggies?

I’ve been doing this for a few weeks now, and I have to admit that it’s just fine. No, I’m kidding! I’m really nostalgic for my old sedentary face-stuffing ways. Food is a comfort; restraint is not. This isn’t easy. But at the same time, I’ve found that it isn’t nearly as hard as I feared. In fact, there are some good things to come out of this, like exotic flavors (spices like turmeric, chilies, nutmeg, ginger and others can help lower the inflammation associated with obesity) and feeling more fit (yes, they’re making me walk). Those things would be worth it, I suppose, even if I didn’t lose a pound. I don’t want to oversell this, but it is marginally not too awful.

A week-long diet should do it, right?

I’ve avoided diets in the past, because I’ve seen so many of my friends yo-yo and end up fatter than ever. Diets are often billed as a short-term hassle, where you lose weight and then carry on with your life. Those typical diets may not work, but at least they’re temporary. Unfortunately, so is the weight loss. Within a week or two, you’re back up to where you started, usually with a little bonus for playing the game.

Once you really face up to a weight problem, you can’t just “go on a diet.” In reality – and this pains me greatly – they say you must change what you do forever. When I first heard that, I just rolled my eyes and went back to my well-larded ways. What kind of a chump do they take me for? But with the threat of heart disease (that ultimately took my dad) and the promise of diabetes (that got his sister), I just had to own up to it. I didn’t need a diet, I needed a life change. What a hassle. Eating better forever? Talk about dedication! For most people, getting married is less committal than that. ‘Til death do us part? Hah! I’ve seen people break up over how they squeeze the toothpaste within days of making that vow. I still haven’t learned to put the toilet seat down – and I expect to permanently change my eating habits? I’m doomed.

My weighty problem really comes down to an insidious accumulation of tiny insults. To paste on those extra 50 pounds in 15 years, I only had to gain one ounce a week. That’s just a couple of plump olives each Saturday! How could I even notice such a tiny thing creeping up on me? On the other hand, it also means that if and when I dump my excess tonnage I should be able to do pretty much what I did before – provided I just ignore those beckoning olives and maybe take a walk or two.

The big bottom line

So really, it all amounts to living better, smarter and tastier. That shouldn’t be too hard. Really. But there is no easy way to say goodbye to all my comfort foods, like Cheetos, pecan pie, french fries, nachos, Oreos, ice cream and potatoes with gravy. Excuse me while I mop the drool from my keyboard. I’m sorry you had to see that.

The substitutes had better be damn good if I have to eat them for the rest of my life. I’ll keep you posted on my progress as I embark on my Forever Whining Diet, and I’ll continue to research the conflicting claims of all the experts. When researchers finally discover that Cheetos really are a health food, you’ll be the first to know.


REFERENCES

Preiss, David, and Naveed Sattar. “Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease: An Overview of Prevalence, Diagnosis, Pathogenesis and Treatment Considerations.” Clinical Science 115, no. 5 (September 1, 2008): 141. doi:10.1042/CS20070402.

Bellentani, Stefano, and Mariano Marino. “Epidemiology and Natural History of Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD).” Annals of Hepatology 8 Suppl 1 (2009): S4–8.

Hubert, H. B., M. Feinleib, P. M. McNamara, and W. P. Castelli. “Obesity as an Independent Risk Factor for Cardiovascular Disease: a 26-year Follow-up of Participants in the Framingham Heart Study.” Circulation 67, no. 5 (May 1, 1983): 968–977. doi:10.1161/01.CIR.67.5.968.

Yosipovitch, Gil, Amy DeVore, and Aerlyn Dawn. “Obesity and the Skin: Skin Physiology and Skin Manifestations of Obesity.” Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology 56, no. 6 (June 2007): 901–916. doi:10.1016/j.jaad.2006.12.004.

Vajro, Pietro, Giulia Paolella, and Alessio Fasano. “Microbiota and Gut-liver Axis: Their Influences on Obesity and Obesity-related Liver Disease.” Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition 56, no. 5 (May 2013): 461–468. doi:10.1097/MPG.0b013e318284abb5.

Welsh, Jean A., Saul Karpen, and Miriam B. Vos. “Increasing Prevalence of Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease Among United States Adolescents, 1988-1994 to 2007-2010.” The Journal of Pediatrics 162, no. 3 (March 2013): 496–500.e1. doi:10.1016/j.jpeds.2012.08.043.

Younossi, Zobair M., Maria Stepanova, Mariam Afendy, Yun Fang, Youssef Younossi, Hesham Mir, and Manirath Srishord. “Changes in the Prevalence of the Most Common Causes of Chronic Liver Diseases in the United States From 1988 to 2008.” Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology 9, no. 6 (June 2011): 524–530.e1. doi:10.1016/j.cgh.2011.03.020.

Woo, Hae-Mi, Ji-Hye Kang, Teruo Kawada, Hoon Yoo, Mi-Kyung Sung, and Rina Yu. “Active Spice-derived Components Can Inhibit Inflammatory Responses of Adipose Tissue in Obesity by Suppressing Inflammatory Actions of Macrophages and Release of Monocyte Chemoattractant Protein-1 from Adipocytes.” Life Sciences 80, no. 10 (February 13, 2007): 926–931. doi:10.1016/j.lfs.2006.11.030.

Rippe JM, Ward A. “Walking for Health and Fitness.” JAMA 259, no. 18 (May 13, 1988): 2720–2724. doi:10.1001/jama.1988.03720180046031.

Brownell, Kelly D., M.R.C. Greenwood, Eliot Stellar, and E.Eileen Shrager. “The Effects of Repeated Cycles of Weight Loss and Regain in Rats.” Physiology & Behavior 38, no. 4 (October 1986): 459–464. doi:10.1016/0031-9384(86)90411-7.