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Lose weight, gain a column


Even though entire forests have been leveled in order for people to whine in print about their diets, I was determined not to do that here.

My thinking was: Look, why contribute to the slaughter of acres of oak and the enforced homelessness of hundreds of woodland creatures just because you're hungry and miserable?

Plus, to be honest with you, I didn't want the tree-huggers and the spotted owl freaks on my case.

These people are . . . well, you talk about fanatics. If they even think you're wasting newsprint, these people start wailing and -- banging their heads against the smiley-face posters on their walls and making phone calls.

Then something happened that caused me to re-evaluate the idea of a diet column.

As I sat there in front of the word processor, with the clock on the wall ticking away and a deadline fast approaching, it occurred to me that I had absolutely nothing else to write about.

My mind was a vast, puffy expanse of nothingness, as it so often is, with not even the hint of a creative thought anywhere on the horizon.

At times such as these, when tiny beads of blood begin forming on your forehead from the strain of thinking so hard, you grab for the first idea that pops into your head.

Then you run with it, whether it has to do with what you had for breakfast or losing your car keys, which I actually wrote about once in a thoroughly forgettable essay that ran on page C-62 or something, next to a tire ad.

So I'm afraid we're stuck with this diet column. I know, I know . . . believe me, I don't like it any better than you do. Let's just make the best of it, shall we?

As a bit of background, this diet began two weeks ago with the alarming discovery that I had grown to the size of a small building.

This discovery was made in front of a mirror. I had avoided mirrors for many months for just this reason, often shaving with my eyes closed or brushing my teeth in the dark.

(Understand, I would not recommend this method of personal hygiene for everyone -- especially the no-look shaving, as it can lead to the general appearance of a man who has been badly beaten in a sword fight.)

Then one day I happened to wander in front of a large mirror in a clothing store and . . . well, to say I was startled is putting it mildly.

Actually I jumped back several feet and shouted: "Mother of God, what is that?!"

Staring back at me was this . . . this person who -- not to put too fine a point on it -- was starting to resemble the blubbery Charles Laughton character in "Spartacus," minus that awful Dave Clark Five haircut.

Badly shaken, I began the diet that evening. Dinner was a small piece of skinless chicken and a tiny portion of cauliflower that tasted vaguely like sheet rock (hmmm, yummy).

This was the sort of meal that would not keep a sparrow alive for three hours, and yet it was expected to hold me until the next morning.

Like the column in which this is all being outlined, the diet itself is nothing special.

What I didn't want was one of those off-the-wall diets where you eat nothing but mangoes for five weeks and then switch to, oh, wild rice.

I didn't want to get involved with mixing those dietetic chocolate shakes, either, figuring the whole experience would have made me even more surly than usual.

So basically what I'm doing is cutting down on fats, eating a lot of chicken, fish, fresh vegetables, eating smaller portions, skipping desserts, that sort of thing. I call it the "Don't-Be-Such-A-Pig" diet.

The bottom line is this: I weigh 185 pounds right now. The goal is to get down to 102, at which time I plan to switch careers and become a jockey, probably at Churchill Downs or . . .

No, actually the goal is a more modest 170. Can it be done? Looking at it realistically, and given my track record when it comes to willpower, the answer is a resounding no.

Nevertheless, each morning I get out of bed and shuffle off to the bathroom and jump on the scale.

The little red dial spins dizzily back and forth for several seconds, as cheap bathroom scales often do. Finally it settles on a number.

If the number is lower than expected, a quiet sense of satisfaction engulfs me for perhaps 10 seconds.

If the number is higher, I'm invariably left feeling frustrated, discouraged and overwhelmed -- not unlike the way I feel after finishing a typical column.

I understand dinner tonight is a small piece of broiled flounder and a tiny portion of spinach.

That will certainly keep you going.

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