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Diet mania: We all have plenty to lose

Guy W. Farmer

As an Easter present to my loyal readers, I’ve decided to clarify the ongoing diet debate. Although it’s been difficult to sort through conflicting information and extravagant claims, I’ve been able to resolve these conflicts through diligent research and personal experience.

I was inspired by my young friend and Appeal colleague Karl Horeis, who recently interviewed a guy who’s selling the “greatest diet on earth,” which is based on eating smaller amounts of highly nutritious natural foods rather than huge servings of junk foods.

That makes sense to me so I’ve decided to reveal my own secret, fool-proof diet: animal crackers and beer one day and good Scotch and Scandinavian “rye-tack” (with lots of real butter) the next, with a weekly serving of canned beef stew and/or beans and weenies for variety. And at least once a month a chunky chicken-fried steak with extra gravy or Mexican nachos drenched in spray-on “cheez” for a colorful ethnic change of pace. Dessert consists of chocolate sundaes with whipped cream and lemon meringue pie, with an occasional bag of cookies of your choice for balance.

I’ve been on this delicious and nutritious diet for several years and if it works for me, it can work for you. All you need is dedication, perseverance and a high tolerance for alcohol, fat and sugar. Through intensive research, I’ve learned that fat is good for you; at least that’s what the late Dr. Atkins proved because he was grossly overweight when he died, or so they say. But he declared himself to be healthy, and that’s what counts.

Frankly, when I tire of my own gourmet diet I’m going to switch to the Atkins regime and eat BLTs with extra bacon for breakfast, bunless fatburgers for lunch and big steaks for dinner, and eliminate bad stuff like spinach, tofu and watercress.

As for the whole low-carb thing, I’ve decided to ignore it because I don’t understand what they’re talking about. For example, Dr. Atkins promised his followers that they could eat plenty of steak, sausage, cheese, bacon and eggs (Yummy!) and still lose weight provided that they gave up almost all carbohydrates – bread, pasta, potatoes, fruit and most vegetables. But now, to further confuse the issue, they’ve invented “good carbs” and “bad carbs.”

The Los Angeles Times recently quoted veteran dieter Louise “Cookie” (an appropriate nickname) Witham on the Atkins diet. “It just never appealed to me, eating all that red meat and high fat,” she whined. But Cookie, Dr. Atkins says you can lose weight on a high fat diet. And besides, if a diet fails, you can always sue its promoters. You know, like the guy who sued McDonald’s because he didn’t realize that eating double cheeseburgers and supersized fries three times a day would make him fat.

So if a diet fails, go to court. It’s the American way. Walter Olson, a Manhattan Institute scholar who has studied class-action lawsuits against food purveyors, can show us the way. In a recent speech at Hillsdale College, Mich., Olson cited the case of that New Yorker who had been eating at McDonald’s for years, “apparently under the impression that they served health food, and he’d been receiving hamburgers and French fries instead of celery stalks. He had no idea that you could get fat from such products, and sure enough he developed heart problems and other medical conditions associated with obesity” before his lawyers sued. Duh!

The satirical newspaper “The Onion” took off on that idea by suggesting a lawsuit against the chocolate industry over the lack of warnings on its products and its marketing of chocolate to innocent children and unsuspecting adults. The Onion recommended a warning label reading, “The Surgeon General has determined that eating chocolate may lead to being really fat.” As for me, I’ll be attacking my chocolate Easter bunny today, whether he likes it or not.

Back in the real world, scores of lawyers attended a Northeastern University Law School conference on how to sue food manufacturers. Afterwards, one of the high-minded attorneys told Time magazine, “It’s a very important pressing issue and its outcome will be with us for years to come. I’m hoping to build a career out of this issue.” God bless the lawyers.

Among the frivolous lawsuits mentioned by Olson were those filed by the lady who spilled hot coffee (“Omigod, I didn’t realize it was hot”) in her lap, the irate wife who sued a hotel chain for making it too tempting for women to run over their cheating husbands in hotel parking lots (which she did), and the car thief who sued a parking lot owner for making it too easy to steal cars from his lot. And then there was the California man who passed out drunk on the railroad tracks before suing Union Pacific because engineers and conductors failed to sound the train’s horn; they were too busy trying to engage the emergency brakes. And no, I’m not making this up.

Meanwhile, when it comes to diets, I sympathize with humorist Dave Barry, who apologized to his children for feeding them carbohydrates (something I did too). “We deliberately ingested carbohydrates,” he confessed. “I know, I know. It was wrong. But we were young and foolish, and there was a lot of peer pressure.” Today, however, Barry says we’re fortunate to be able to buy low-carb products including “beer, denture adhesives, floor wax, tires, life insurance and Viagra.”

Some of us “mature” guys might like to try a beer and Viagra diet. I’ll let you know how it turns out. In the meantime, Happy Easter, and please pass the gravy.

Guy W. Farmer, a semi-retired journalist who has never been on a diet (really), resides in Carson City.