Here's the ultimate (hic!) diet

Nancy Heneson

September 16, 1993|By Nancy Heneson

I LEARNED from a recent Consumer Reports article on dieting that the American Tobacco Co. introduced this slogan in 1928: "Reach for a Lucky instead of a sweet."

That really got me thinking. You see, I work in the field of weight management, which has gotten a very bad name indeed. People are even saying that diets don't work. Imagine that, in this age of preoccupation with all things bodily. Diets do work, if you really want them to.

The problem lies in a well-intentioned cover-up by physicians, nutritionists and other sages of the health professions, who refuse to incorporate into their balanced and reasonable recommendations one crucial fact: The brain, not the stomach, is what gets people into trouble over food.

That's the part of you that fights change. And I don't mean the stuff in front that has to do with cognition -- that's the easiest feature of the brain to retool. If all it took was a few behavior modification lessons in how not to lick your plate, everyone who can read or watch videos would be able to lose weight.

No, I'm talking pure neurobiochemistry -- those tangles of neurons we share with other sentient creatures, the ones that glom on to just about any pleasure-giving substance you can think of, including sugar, fat, caffeine, the chemical cocktail found in chocolate and the mere sensory inputs from a Dove Bar. Combine the pleasure principle with a tendency in human evolution toward efficient storage of body fat, and you will see why it is not very easy to nutri/size your mind.

This may all sound rather hopeless. But when I read about the Lucky slogan, I got inspired. I have developed the "Smoke and Drink Your Way to Slimness Diet Plan."

The plan is simple: half a pack of cigarettes for breakfast, the other half for lunch, and an insensible amount of alcohol instead of dinner. You can even have a mildly nutritious snack. (After all, your body is going to need a few vitamins and minerals.)

This diet has a number of advantages: Smoking raises your metabolism, thus making that pesky aerobic exercise routine unnecessary. Alcohol in sufficient quantity kills your appetite, so there are no uncomfortable feelings of deprivation. Finally, and most important, your brain's pleasure centers will be well and truly blitzed. You will have reached electrochemical nirvana.

Best of all, my diet plan will enable you, during your maintenance phase, to take advantage of the many subsidized drug-abuse treatment programs. Once you have slimmed down to your goal weight, you will probably be addicted to nicotine and dependent on (if not addicted to) alcohol, but not to worry: The government will pay your employer, or your insurer (if you're lucky enough to have one) will pay you to help overcome these diseases.

Please do not confuse this policy with rational health care. Smoking and drinking are addictions; being fat is an inability to regulate your behavior. (We used to call it a character flaw.)

I am so confident that my plan will work for you that I will refund $5 for every pound you lose. I figure with my commission from the beleaguered alcohol and tobacco industries, I should have no trouble making a profit.

Still not convinced? Not ready to look like Kim Alexis, sound like Selma Diamond and smell like W. C. Fields? Hey, no pressure. Take all the time you need to think it over. I'll just have some smokes and a couple of highballs while you make up your mind.

Nancy Heneson writes from Baltimore.

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