UNITED STATES—It’s often easier to go unrecognized as a diet guru. And what happened after my daughter’s 8th grade graduation, has left me with a intricate desire to scream. I could scream. That’s right.
After the blazing sunny ceremony, held on the lawn of Beverly Hills High School, a couple of parents, friends and children, now teen graduates clad in togas, adjourned to an all-you-can-eat establishment. I had been thinking Nate n’ Al’s or Le Petit Bistro, but go with the flow. It’s the fellowship that counts, and this all-you-can-eat joint is a hit with the kids.
So there’s this one parent who observed my leanness, as we were taking after-graduation pictures, and my first wife, an excellent publicist, starts talking about my diet book.
“I could learn from your secret,” said the mom. “I could lose a few pounds.”
It started out that way, with flattery and eagerness for change, and then things quickly went south.
We went in separate cars to the eatery, and on the way in I grabbed a copy of my diet book. The woman beheld the before/after pictures on the back cover. “I can’t believe that was you,” she exclaimed. “You must have been 300 pounds there!”
Then I told her how the diet started with gaining 30 pounds for a movie role, and not being able to get it off. I’m sitting at a table with this woman, plates and trays in front of us. In the all-you-can-eat place (for my previous thoughts on dealing with this kind of food gauntlet, see “Day 25: The Test,” Canyon News, March 1, 2014 https://www.canyon-news.com/artman2/publish/LifeStyleMillerTimes/Day_25_The_Test.php).
Over time, I have mastered sticking to The Plan—nice big salad, soups loaded with condiment chopped onion and leeks.
“Look at you, eating so healthy,” the woman said, complementing the visually pleasing salad I had created—appearance is a dimension of eating. All-you-can-eat places spoil that dimension as people naturally try to get their money’s worth and load the plate indiscriminately. Before you know it, as she watched me fork the salad, she’s saying, “Don’t you think you could gain ten pounds?”
Where do I go with that? To a trainer or to Yogurtland?
Well, after the salad, I get my two bowls of soup—and the fact is, I already have an exit strategy, which is a great thing to get control and push me away from the table. A plumbing issue came up at the laundromat I manage. Given a leisurely time frame I would have strayed from my strict regimen and lingered over coffee and something sweet, as it was, I stuck perfectly too it, capping the meal off with raisins and sunflower seeds. Thoughout the meal the slim wannabe woman expressed astonishment at how a stuck to my regimen.
“Only healthy things,” she exclaimed.
Then as I rose to leave, the woman was all, “What you eat isn’t enough to feed a healthy man. Where’s your protein? You need to eat some meat.”
It was troubling to get whammyed by the old protein chesnut, and I reflexively trotted out that I eat a lot of beans and nuts, loaded with protein. Then I was about to get bogged down in the latest research that lower protein increases longevity, and even confess yes, one of the soups had some specks of meat. Worst of all, I was displaying very poor manners talking about diet at the table. It’s depressing and it tarnishes the moment to be talking about diet at the table. I consider it very bad manners indeed. Bad manners is worse than a bad diet any day of the week.
As I stood to leave the table, another friend had the kindness to say, “Don’t worry, you look great.” I know my face must have betrayed my most intimate shock and horror after the woman roiled my peace on this happy occasion. If I had thought of it at the time, I would have said, if you think there’s anything wrong with being skinny, look at what that radically skinny man in India stood for and did! Gahndi . . . Ghandy . . . Gandhi. (Thank heaven for spellcheck!)
Humorist Grady Miller is the author of “Lighten Up Now,” a diet for the mind and body. Reach Grady at firstname.lastname@example.org.