This is the time of year when the weight loss centers begin their traditional barrage of guilt-trip advertising.
Essentially, their message is this: "You are a big, fat pig. Look at you sitting there, stuffing potato chips in your mouth and reaching for a Dove Bar. Summer and bathing suit season is almost here. Lose the weight now, tubby. We can help."
The ads also feature the traditional "Before" and "After" photos so beloved by the diet industry.
In one picture, a grossly overweight woman with mousy hair and no makeup is seen sitting in a lawn chair wearing a tube top and short shorts.
In the other picture, the same woman has been magically transformed into a slim and stylish temptress, with a thick mane of dazzling hair, a $600 cocktail dress and radiant features.
The accompanying text invariably gushes something to the effect that: "Mrs. Betty Ann Muldowney of Raleigh, N.C., lost 60 pounds! You can too!"
Well, yeah, I . . . I guess so. But two thoughts immediately pop into my mind.
No. 1, why would anyone with a severe weight problem wear a tube top and short shorts? (And if she did flip out and wear such an outfit, why on earth would she have her picture taken in it?)
No. 2, if the woman had only done something with her hair, clothes and makeup in the first place, she wouldn't have had to lose so much weight to look better.
Of course, in real life, the next time you see Mrs. Betty Ann Muldowney of Raleigh, N.C., she'll go about 220 and be heading back for "sixths" at the breakfast bar at Bob's Big Boy.
This is due to the simple fact that anyone can lose weight, but very few people have the self-discipline to keep the weight off.
The most celebrated example of this is poor Oprah Winfrey, who actually went on a diet while being scrutinized by millions of TV viewers.
Oprah, you'll remember, went on one of those goofy liquid diets, which, for all intents and purposes, is like being trapped in an abandoned well for several months.
Anyway, as is usually the case when you're denied solid food, Oprah began to lose weight little by little.
Along with everyone else in the country, I was pulling for her, of course.
I'd watch her show and wave a cheeseburger in the air and yell: "Go get 'em, Ope!" knowing that Oprah hadn't seen a cheeseburger in months and would probably chew my hand off to get at the thing if we were in the same room.
Then came that glorious day when she finally reached her target weight and she appeared on her show in those tight black jeans.
Man, she looked like a million bucks! Adding a bizarre flourish to the accomplishment, she also hauled out a little red wagon filled with 60-some pounds of fat, symbolic of the amount of weight she'd lost.
But even as I sat there watching, I thought: "Ope, this is all well and good. But how long can you handle the chalky concoctions that those diet quacks are feeding you? The first time they turn you loose in front of a buffet table, you'll be baying at the moon!"
Sure enough, over the next few months, Oprah gained most of the weight back, which was treated as something of a national disaster.
Oh, she was still trying to be good. But you had the feeling that more and more she was tapping her driver on the shoulder and asking him to pull into the next Dunkin' Donuts.
Me, I still think she looks pretty good. More importantly, she seems comfortable with her weight now, and isn't about to throw herself in front of a bus every time she steps on the scale.
The thing that gets me is that these liquid diets seem to go against the tiresome mantra of all these diet shamans: In order to maintain weight loss, you have to change your eating habits.
Who's going to be content to slurp down some kind of pasty gruel at mealtimes for the rest of his or her life?
Of course, when you complain about being denied the foods you crave on a diet, the weight loss zealots flash that eerie Stepford Wives smile and chirp: "Oh, you can have an Oreo! You just can't have six Oreos!"
Oh, is that right?! Well, tell me something: Who the hell can eat just one Oreo? Who has that kind of self-discipline? Gandhi couldn't eat just one Oreo!
The only way I eat just one Oreo is if it's the last Oreo in the cookie jar.
And if it is, then I break out a pint of Haagen-Daz to go along with it.
Summer may be right around the corner. But I have needs right now.