Wasting Away In Dietville


January 27, 1991|By Dave Barry

People often ask me: "Dave, what do you do for entertainment?"

The answer is: I try on pants. It's the only real joy I have in my life anymore, because I'm on a diet. It's called the Think About Food All The Time Diet. The way it works is, you turn every experience you have into a food fantasy. For example, if you're watching the movie "Alien," and you get to the part where the spaceship crew member is lying on the table, looking queasy, and suddenly his chest bursts open, blood flying everywhere, and out lunges this horrible gore-dripping insectlike thing, your reaction, on the Think About Food All The Time Diet, is, "Hey, I could sure go for some ribs!"

On this diet, if you were on a commercial jetliner seven miles in the air, and all the engines exploded and you started plummeting toward the Earth, your only thought would be: "Damn! I could have had the lasagna!"

I got on this diet because one day several months ago my wife became possessed by demons in a mall and purchased a digital computerized bathroom scale. I have always liked the old-fashioned, incompetent bathroom scale, the kind that makes creaking noise when you step on it, and the dial swings wildly back and forth as if the scale is trying to make up its mind, and it never gives you anywhere near the same weight twice, and if it seems to be registering a little on the heavy side, you can adjust the little knob, or simply put the scale on the bathmat and instantly lose 27 pounds. You don't feel a lot of pressure with a scale like that.

But the scale my wife brought home was a very strict certified public accountant of a scale, the kind that, in Scale College, was always studying in the library on Friday night when the other scales were at wild parties puking their springs out. When I stood on this new scale and it informed me, within one-tenth of a pound, how much I weighed, my immediate reaction was that a very large parasite, such as a Doberman pinscher, had attached itself to my body somewhere without my being aware of it.

Looking back, I realize I'd been ignoring subtle signs of weight gain, such as that I had worn only one pair of pants for three straight years. They were my biggest pants. The only way I could wear my other pants would have been on my arms.

It had not occurred to me that my pants situation might be related to eating habits I had developed regarding foods such as spray cheese. This is a kind of synthetic cheese that comes in an aerosol can, like shaving cream. You're supposed to make hors d'oeuvres with it by squirting dainty little cheese flowers onto crackers, but I figured, hey, why slave away for as long as two seconds over a Triscuit when you can obtain instant results by squirting the cheese directly into your mouth? I was going through as many as two cans a day, which is the biological equivalent, hors d'oeuvrewise, of attending nine wedding receptions. This is not natural.

Of course there is nothing natural about the "food" I eat on the Think About Food All The Time Diet, either. For example I eat "rice cakes," which are obviously made from the foam pellets used to protect VCRs during shipment. Also I drink diet "shakes," similar to the ones that Oprah Winfrey used back when she reaped massive publicity by losing an amount of weight equivalent to all of Sally Jessy Raphael. Instead of eating a regular meal, you simply drink a glass of skim milk mixed with a special powder containing scientifically balanced chemicals that render your body too weak to chew.

Every now and then, for a major eating treat, I fix myself a Weight Watchers frozen entree, which is a convenient product that comes right out of the box with most of the food already eaten for you. My guess is that this happens at the Weight Watchers factory, which is probably staffed by diet-crazed workers who grab the food as it goes by on the conveyor belts and stuff it into their mouths, leaving you with an entree the size of a cocktail olive, crouching in the center of your plate, whimpering. They're working on an entree with no food at all; you'll purchase a box containing a small frozen plastic plate, which you'll just heat up and throw away.

Meals like these do not leave me satisfied. Meals like these leave me thinking of ways to distract the dogs so I can quietly grab a handful of their kibble. The only time I feel really good is when I'm trying on pants. It's the highlight of my existence. I wish I'd saved my pants from high school, so I could try them on. What I'm looking for is a restaurant where, when the waiter brings around the dessert cart, he also brings a pants cart, so I can select a couple of pairs and try them on in the men's room while all the normal humans eat cheesecake. But for now I'll just stay home, waiting for the Big Moment when I can thaw out my dinner (Tonight's Special: Molecule of Beef). Not that I am asking for your sympathy.

9- Do you plan to eat that entire Tic-Tac? *

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