By the Book: When dieting, some of us go by the book


January has disappeared around the corner, taking with it the shreds of hundreds, maybe thousands, of New Year’s resolutions. I think any resolution that lasted, say, 13 days, was successful — that’s 13 days fewer of some persistent, distressing habit. 

Here, though, I’m focusing on dieting, that primordial urge to lose weight that sinks its claws into so many of us on Jan. 1. There are endless books covering weight loss; my wife is still going strong with the one she chose, “The Carb Lovers Diet” by Kunes and Largeman-Roth. (Doesn’t it seem odd that someone named Largeman would get involved with a diet book?) She eats copious amounts of lettuce, kale, peppers, spinach, broccoli, tomatoes, celery — foods I normally associate with Peter Rabbit — but she’s enjoying it all and is getting the hoped-for results. (I’m staying away from any actual numbers here, for personal safety reasons.) She likes working from a book — soothing confirmation from invisible companions, perhaps an occasional chiding.

I called some of our women friends to see if they’d made similar commitments. (I called no men, for men simply cut back from six six-packs a month to five, all the way up to Super Bowl Sunday! Stunning.) My first call was to a lady who was indeed on a diet and felt good about herself for sticking to it. She was also using a book, “The South Beach Diet” (Agastos), had a specific number of pounds in mind and was approaching the goal line.

The second call was similar. Yes, on a diet; yes, having some success , but no book involved. She said she’d often used the South Beach approach and had much of it stored in her head. I wondered if South Park had an entertaining diet plan; she gave no dignified reply.

The final conversation was heartening. “Yes, I start a diet every year and last about two weeks.” (This is my kind of person.) “I’ve tried the Scarsdale, the Atkins, the Suzanne Somers — forget it, when do we eat?” I hasten to add that all these ladies are extremely attractive and a pleasure to walk behind.

Here’s something I recently came across:

In the beginning God covered the earth with beautifully colored vegetables so man and woman would live long and healthy lives.

And Satan presented mayonnaise, blue cheese dressing, creamy Italian and croutons. Man and woman gained 15 pounds each.

And God brought forth potatoes, low in fat and brimming with life-sustaining nutrients.

And Satan removed the skin, sliced them into slivers, deep fried them in animal fats and added considerable salt. And woman jumped from size 8 to size 10.

And God gave lean beef that they might consume fewer calories and still enjoy sumptuous eating.

And Satan created MacDonald’s and said, “You want fries with that?”

And the two went into cardiac arrest.

God sighed and created triple bypass surgery.

It was Henny Youngman who said, “They were light eaters; as soon as it got light they started to eat.”

Hey, bon appétit. Maybe Reader’s Digest will issue a Condensed Diet Book, covering only every third day or so.

TR050808_book_Case_R.jpgMr. Case, of Southold, is retired from Oxford University Press. He can be reached at [email protected].