It doesn't matter what diet is hot, the bathroom scales are still stuck

March 16, 2003|By SUSAN REIMER

Americans, faced with contradictory advice on the food front, have absolutely no idea how to lose the weight that's gaining on them.

We don't know whether to learn the new food pyramid or visit the new food court; to eat low-fat carbohydrates or high-fat proteins.

But it is clear we are eating too much, because the best studies out there say we are on our way to being obese as a nation, and some of us have arrived ahead of the group.

We thought scheduling 30 minutes of exercise every day was tough. When the experts increased their recommendation to 60, we slumped dejectedly in a chair and absently reached for the remote and the bag of chips.

As if hearing our anguished cries, prestigious Science magazine recommends what I call, for lack of a better description, the 100-calorie diet.

Instead of making a major lifestyle change that you won't be able to maintain, simply eat 100 fewer calories and burn 100 more calories. You can stop your weight from creeping up, and it might actually creep down.

There are plenty of ways to do this. Cut out the pat of butter here, walk an extra 20 minutes there. Leave off the mayo and swim for 10 minutes. Avoid the oversized slices of designer breads and wash your windows.

But, each pound equals 3,500 calories. Do the math, and you can see that you have to trim several hundred calories and burn several hundred more in order to lose weight before you run out of time and die.

After making my own calculations, I have one question. Why am I not a size 2? Why have I not lost, like those people in People magazine, 130 pounds?

Because, you see, I haven't just cut the odd 100 calories out of my diet. I have cut the odd 10,000 calories!

I just didn't give up that pat of butter and those 10 potato chips. I gave up McDonald's, and everything on their menu. French fries have been consigned to my misspent youth.

I didn't just give up that one-third cup of ice cream, I gave up cake, pie, cheesecake and cookies of every description. And I have given up spoonfuls of someone else's dessert.

I didn't give up fried eggs. I gave up eggs. I haven't simply reduced the size of my steak, I gave up meat except ground turkey and the occasional, weary-looking, skinless, boneless chicken breast.

Why don't I look like Gwyneth Paltrow!

Am I burning calories? You bet. Like a house afire. I have injured myself participating in every athletic endeavor from aerobics to yoga. Why don't I look like Madonna? We both have two kids.

I am loath to question the great brains behind a prestigious publication like Science, but I think this is fuzzy math. Some voodoo calorie counting. This sounds like the diet version of a tax cut and a war: Just do both. It will all work out, trust us.

Well, it ain't working for me.

I am drinking club soda instead of juice in the morning. I think the veggie "hamburgers" I prepare might actually be made of sawdust, and I am perpetually picking broccoli florets out of my front teeth. If I add any more elements to my exercise routine, I will have to quit my day job.

And still, the needle on the scale is unmoved.

I'm not sure what is left for me to cut out of my life -- except, perhaps, diet advice.

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