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The Diet Blues

© TALKING TO MYSELF: 29 May 21, 2012 Under the stern gaze of my doctor, I’ve been dieting with more discipline than usual for the past three weeks. To be honest, it seems longer than that, but I know it isn’t because I resurrected my mother’s old habit of weighing first thing each morning – even before the first cup of coffee -- and recording the dismal number in a “Diet Journal.”  Mother kept a daily log of her weight for decades on her big calendar  - the kind with over-sized white blocks of empty space surrounding each day on the chart. It also served as her appointment book, and hung on the back of her basement door at the farmhouse and later, when she moved to an apartment, in her laundry room. She could whip out a calendar on a moment’s notice and tell you exactly what she weighed on a certain day 10 years ago – and where she went that day. Mother was not into writing dairies, but she was an Olympic record keeper.

But I digress. The point is that I weigh EXACTLY the same this morning as I did three weeks ago, to the fraction of a pound.  The positive spin is that I haven’t gained any weight in three weeks, and since I’ve been known to gain five pounds overnight if I stare at the food section of Southern Living magazine too long, “holding” is an achievement for me. Still, I think I deserve better given the amount of lettuce and broccoli I’ve consumed. Obviously, I have to increase exercise (calories out) and drop to a lower calorie range on this particular diet (calories in.) Still -- this seems a good time for me to re-visit my own, ahem, wisdom. "The Decades Diet" is anthologized in my book YOU CAN GO ANYWHERE (Wind, 2008.)

The Decades Diet

          On and off, I’ve been following the Decades Diet for -- well, decades.   I was even a Decades Diet lecturer/group leader for a stretch of time.  As an insider, I learned some surprising things.  For example, few people know that the Decades Diet was first tested by the CIA on war criminals to make them crack.  It’s all about deprivation of any food that tastes really good, you know, and one fourth ounce servings of most everything else.  Except for the unlimited amounts of cabbage soup.  That’s in the “all you care to eat” category, and I hear it’s well-thought-of by the torture lobbyists.  

          As a Decades Diet leader, I was the designated registrar of the weekly weigh-ins.  I don’t mean to be sacrilegious, but as keeper of the scale, I learned that “the program” evoked responses that were near religious for many folks.  One after another, they would enter the curtained cubicle, stare guiltily at the floor, and begin their confession.

          Forgive me, Georgia, for I have committed murder in my heart.  I’m a schoolteacher, and this morning I was required to attend a system-wide committee meeting chaired by my husband’s mistress.  To avoid shooting her, I was forced, as it were, to eat a dozen doughnuts.  (If I keep crying, will I weigh less?)

          Forgive me, Georgia, for I have stolen.  I ate the candy in my daughter’s Easter basket while she was napping.  But only the good stuff.  I left her some Marshmallow Peeps.  (Do you mind if I take off all my clothes and weigh in the nude?)

          Forgive me, Georgia, for I have lied.  I used all my food points for the entire week on the first day, but told my diet buddy when we went out for lunch that I had plenty of extra points leftover.  (Can she weigh-in for me?  She says she’s had a good week.)

          Forgive me, Georgia, for I have coveted other people’s calm babies.  My two month old had colic for three straight nights, and on the fourth, I strapped him into his car seat, and kept driving him around and around the Dairy Queen.  He finally went to sleep, but I consumed five Blizzards and a deep-fried chicken strip dinner with white gravy and garlic toast on the side. (Does this gain count?  I was just being a good mother.)

          And so it would go, week after week, year after year.  Oh, there were always some who succeeded.  They were the ones who dipped their multi-X slacks in bronze, and mounted them over the family room fireplace because their weight loss truly was a prized trophy.  I took to affectionately calling them the Hallelujah Chorus.

          Hallelujah, Georgia, we’ve been legal this week.  Yes, we have.  Yes, we have.  Dear hubby sneaked potato chips, kettle-cooked, dipped in sea salt, into the den while watching our UK Cats on TV.  But like cheerleaders, we yelled in unison, “Temptation, get thee behind me.”  At the community potluck, our resolve did not falter nor at Mayonnaise Mama’s on Sunday noon.  And when our enemies passed warm apple pie beneath our noses, we wailed “no-oooo-no-oooo” until they scampered away. (Is that all we lost?  We deserve more!  Here – we’ll take off our earrings, and we will weigh less.)

          But many of us became perpetual dieters, “legal” and losing one month, cheating and gaining the next.  Despite our self-deprecating jokes and the laughter that filled nearly every class, dieting was not funny to any of us.  To be honest, the reasons that drove us to overeat were often quite sad.  A death in the family, a car accident, a parent’s descent into Alzheimer’s, divorce, a child’s failure in school.  Even less serious, but still stressful episodes such as the washing machine breaking down and flooding the basement; a four year old’s refusal to potty train; and five different places for five family members to be at suppertime would drive my diet companions to self-medicate with food. 

          So when I saw a headline that said certain foods actually do make us happier, that scientists are now encouraging us to eat to lift depression, I felt vindicated at last.  I couldn’t wait to read that article.  But wouldn’t you know it?  Turns out that it’s only eating foods like beets and herring that are supposed to make us happy.   Well, more precisely, eating beets and herring makes depressed rats happy.  Apparently, there is a substance in both that works like Prozac when it comes to cheering up rats. 

          I’m not sure how can you tell if a rat is depressed.  Personally, I’ve never gotten close enough to inquire about the state of their emotional health, but from what I’ve glimpsed while running in the opposite direction, they’re not a jolly bunch even at best.  Despite the rats’ endorsement, all I can say is that no one at the Decades Diet meetings ever reached for beets and herring to shake a bad mood.   

          No, popcorn and anything with caramel in it would top my list of anti-depressant foods.  And Aunt Bessie’s turkey dressing.    Wait – there’s the Chinese buffet with those little crunchy crab Rangoon things.  Cheese grits casserole.  Kentucky country ham.   Even pictures of these foods make me feel happier.  Once I actually ate the November cover of Southern Living magazine because it looked so good.

            So unless the rat scientists can genetically alter beets to taste like, oh, let’s say pecan pie, I guess I’ll keep on seeing my buddies at the Decades Diet weekly meetings, on and off, until I die.

© Copyright Georgia Green Stamper