Perhaps the saddest day of my life was when I found out how many calories there are in cheese. Admittedly, this was some years ago and, regardless, I have continued to eat cheese with wild abandon. And put half-and-half in my espresso. And make the biggest, baddest, BLTs possible this time of year, when our garden’s tomatoes are exploding with flavor and the perfect, crusty bread tops out at damn near $5.00 a loaf. And with plenty of mayo, which can be its own food group if you work at it.
Even I, with my head planted deeply in the sand, cannot avoid the obvious fact that I am a die-hard foodie. My Facebook posts and this blog prove it. This has nothing to do with my actual ability to cook (which is arguable, at best); nope, this just has to do with my love of food, beverage, and sharing it with other people. I simply cannot resist trying new foods, reading cookbooks, concocting ridiculous menus for dinner parties, drooling over the Smitten Kitchen, and so on. No vacation is complete without finding a great restaurant to try; it’s like a souvenir to me. Remember that huckleberry crème brulee? The green chile with sopapillas? The molé with pequin peppers? Raspberry champagne mousse? The Oysters Rockefellar? Good stuff.
But there is always a price to be paid. Since I have a fabulous constitution, I rarely pay for my multitude of indiscretions with any kind of gastronomic distress. Lucky me. The occasional hangover? Well, sure, but that’s my own fail-safe device. Tto make matters worse, I am married to someone who not only shares my hedonism, but excels at it. And he can lose more weight in a week than I can in a month.
The bill is now due, sad to say. And it’s a big one that must be paid. My favorite jeans have dust on them from neglect. I can only wear so much black clothing. There’s only one way out of this ridiculous situation: A Biggest Loser Contest.
Lucky you, if you’ve never participated in a BL contest. Here’s how they work. A crazy person (aka me) sends out an email to everyone in the office, inviting them to pay $20 to participate in a 6-week challenge to lose 1% of their starting weight each week. Unlike the TV show, there is no actual “biggest loser,” since everyone here who succeeds in meeting their goal a winner and splits the pot at the end. There is no “mean lady” to crack the whip and make you wish you had never been born. There’s just me, the organizer, who receives your weight every Monday morning and sends out the results every Monday afternoon.
There are thirteen of us participating, which is about a third of our local office. So, no doubt, the other two-thirds will be suffering right along with us.
The individual weight-loss strategies run the gamut, from obsessive calorie-counting to hours on a treadmill to possibly minor surgery. And there are always people who sign up that I can’t imagine need to. No matter; we future winners are happy to split their $20. And he-who-shall-remain-nameless will torture us by bringing his homemade carrot cake and cannoli to the office and put it in the lunch room for everyone to share. Have I told you what I will do for good cannoli?
The Last Supper: The night before this 6-week visit to the third circle of Hell begins, you have a choice to make: Do you eat whatever you want OR do you try to turn over a new dietary leaf early and get off on the right foot? An informal poll of our band of biggest-losers-to-be revealed that most of us ate whatever the hell we wanted.
God forbid we should miss a meal.
My last supper consisted of tortilla chips, brie and crackers, a vodka gimlet that practically took two hands to carry, half a bottle of red wine, a plate of pasta with freshly-made tomato sauce and parmesan, a Caesar salad with anchovies, and three homemade chocolate cookies. Oh, and then a small handful of peanuts right before I went to bed because I thought I almost felt a hunger pang.
Total calorie count? Who knows, but I’m pretty sure there was a comma in it.
Day One: The initial weigh-in, at home, is as humiliating as you might expect. One guy, whom we’ll refer to as Diet Boy, actually brought in a photo of his feet on the scale and a digital display of his chocolate-based guilt. The rest of us, however, went by the honor system. I had forgotten that every Monday morning now, for the next six weeks, I will awaken early, with a panic usually reserved for turbulent airplane flights and eating in chain restaurants: I have to get on the damn scale.
Earrings off? Check. Clothes off? Check. Exhale (somehow I doubt that this really helps)? Check. Feet on the scale. Silent prayer uttered because it’s too dark and early for anyone else to be up. Why God would care how much I weigh, I don’t know. He gave me a decent dip in the gene pool after all, being rather tall and thin. See Exhibit A below, at about age 10, for definitive proof:
While my calves and knees pretty much still look like that, the rest of me has expanded somewhat. So, God is probably a little cranky that I have squandered what s/he gave me, in pursuit of hedonism, which seems to be a lifelong hunt. In all fairness, it’s probably a real miracle that I don’t weigh 300 pounds.
When I read the scale, you can hear me sighing in Ohio (I live in Idaho).
I write down the number and head off to work, where my desk is littered with sticky notes filled with everyone else’s indiscretions and $20 bills. In addition, there is a battered Burger King crown on my desk, found by Diet Boy and left for me to wear while performing official Biggest Loser duties. Although I don’t eat at BK, somehow this is appropriate.
He-who-shall-remain-nameless brought in Nutter Butter Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies to the office to torment us on Day One. While, honestly, I have never eaten them, I am drawn to them like the proverbial overweight moth to a sugary flame. I turn the package over and learn that each little darling contains 70 calories. I tear myself away, as do the rest of my compadres. Happily, I see the empty package in the trash before the end of the day. See, I can resist temptation! At least once. (The home-grown grapes, however, remained uneaten. No surprise there.)
Around mid-afternoon, a bunch of us informally congregated in my office and asked the million-dollar question that we all want an answer to:
How much can we drink and still lose weight?
Many theories are proposed and debated. Beer is an obvious no-no, but the wine versus hard liquor controversy rages on. We consider adjourning to our favorite brew pub to initiate a clinical study but, instead, return home to an exciting meal of zoodles, grilled chicken, and veggies.
Gosh, how have I lived without zoodles until now? Some contenders become Soup Nazis. Others forage for salads. I stick to my protein and fat protocol, interspersed with the occasional lunchbox pepper or delectable stick of celery. Maureen is trying something called “The Invisible Diet,” written by John Keel, whose benefits claim to include forbidden and secret advice developed by the CIA/NSA to (and I quote):
- lose weight unnoticed
- quit smoking
- say goodbye to your dentist and doctor
- improve cognitive ability and focus
- grow spiritually
- have more sex
- and generally avoid surveillance
This may be the most entertaining diet book ever written. I’m dying to know how the CIA can help someone grow spiritually and have more sex. I think I’m a little less worried about the surveillance part.
Gary is also participating, but for him, it’s easy. Even though he clocks in at twelve years older than I am, he can still lose weight twice as easily as I can. Basically, he will easily lose his weekly weight if he cuts out chocolate, most alcohol, and goes from two portions to one. He can even devour a large bowl of popcorn at night and still lose more weight than I do.
I’ve seen him lose three pounds overnight while SLEEPING.
Note to self: My next husband will not lose weight more easily than I do.
Update: It’s Thursday now, mid-way through the first week. Amazingly, I have met my goalfor this week already. Whether this will still be true by Monday morning is anyone’s guess. I will probably step on the scale on Saturday morning to see where I stand. If things look grim, I may have to bring out my secret weapon:
This innocuous little box of tea, direct from the food-safe country of China, packs a powerful punch. This was a weight-loss secret of a dear friend, who used it to meet his Weight Watchers weigh-ins, otherwise I never would have known about it. How many teas come with a long set of instructions? Its benefits include (and I quote):
- Herbal Trim Tea can help you get that glamorous figure you have always dreamed about.
- Your friends and loved ones will adore the new you.
- Now you too can start sipping away unwanted pounds and inches, easily and effortlessly with Herbal Trim Chinese Tea!
What’s not to love? OK, I admit it: It’s an herbal laxative tea that will set you free. The trick is knowing when to drink it, in order to have the desired effects by the time you need them; that is, first thing on Monday morning. In theory, you should drink it around dinnertime and then…wait…if you’re lucky, you’ll be through the misery by the time you go to bed. If not, it’s going to be a long night.
So, all in all, it’s been a difficult first week of hard-core dieting. The office has been abuzz with abstinence-based rants:
“I just had an ounce and a half of teriyaki turkey jerke – it tasted like Victory!”
“If anybody is looking for me, I’ll just be at my desk, hydrating.”
“Who the hell brought these in (below)!”
It’s going to be a long six weeks for all of us. In the middle of this timeframe, we’ll be going on a road trip for five days that is sure to test my dietary mettle. The Saturday before the last weigh-in, we’re probably going to have a cheap-wine-tasting event at our house (right before the cheap wine sale). So, there are temptations. There always are. And I’m weak.
But then it occurred to me: I wonder how quickly I could lose my unwanted poundage if I didn’t cheat at all? What a novel experience that would be.
Gary just made a bowl of popcorn. I think that’s grounds for divorce in some states.
Well, wish me luck. Only a true foodie would write a blog about dieting, right? If I succeed in my quest for my former, thinner self, I’ll let you know. In the meantime, I will leave you with some dietary wisdom:
“My doctor told me to stop having intimate dinners for four. Unless there are three other people.” (Orson Welles)
“The second day of a diet is always easier than the first. By the second day you’re off it.” (Jackie Gleason)
“The only way to keep your health is to eat what you don’t want, drink what you don’t like, and do what you’d rather not.”(Mark Twain)
Thanks for reading. I know how busy you are.