You are so fat. You really ought to do something about it. Seriously.

Stop being so fat, alright? Actually don’t because then WHO WILL SHARE MY MISERY.

There are so many diet books out there that I can’t even quantify them by saying, “there are dozens,” or even “hundreds.” It’s more like hundreds of thousands (Amazon lists 269,553 but I’m betting there are even more if you count the wacky, self-published variety).

I’m fat because I’m forced to eat out for a living. FORCED. And given that my willpower is almost non-existent, just because I really don’t have to go out all that often in order to meet my very liberal deadlines, that doesn’t mean that every single time I do go out, whatever diet I happen to be trying isn’t completely and utterly undermined. I mean, after a night of roasted duck stuffed with foie gras and wrapped with applewood bacon accompanied by a pancetta, fontina and brown butter risotto, and followed with white chocolate mousse layered with a berry coulis, topped with homemade whipped cream and blanketed with vanilla bean sugar sparkles, why bother? I’ve blown it, not just for the day, but also maybe for that particular decade of my sorry, porky life.

And yet, even though I’m aging rapidly and my metabolism seems to geometrically slow with every passing day, I’m bizarrely optimistic. The next diet will be easier, I think, or my newly found, bullet-proof motivation will get me through any moments of weakness, or maybe if I exercise enough, it’ll offset all of those extra calories, right? I can do that you know, exercise every single day, hard, and then eat anything I want! I’ve got running shoes somewhere, and that’s all you really need, correct?

I also get a fair amount of diet books in the mail because I review cookbooks—I assume. They arrive like little, manila envelope-wrapped ego-bombs that some publicist, somewhere, thinks just because I reviewed James Villas’s The Bacon Cookbook, it’s likely that I have a little weight problem too. Very annoying and very depressing at the same time.

What I don’t need are Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin, authors of Skinny Bitch and Skinny Bitch in the Kitch yelling at me page after page after page. I hate those best-selling bitches. I don’t need a couple of foul-mouthed, Beverly Hills marines in drag making me feel bad. I already feel bad. And I don’t want to eat their crap vegan food. I already know how to buy vegan bacon and vegan cheese—please don’t insult me by explaining how I can slap it on some potato skins and have some kind of “kick ass” treat. If I want to eat truly wonderful vegan food, I’ll just open up my copy of the amazing (and enormous) Veganomicom by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero. There’s no fake meat, no swearing, and best of all, Moskowitz and Romero seem to like me. And I like them right back.

Veganism is too hard for me to consider other than part-time, and it’s not really about weight loss anyway. For hard-core dieting advice, my stand-by, at-home guy is Bob Greene. Yeah, Oprah’s Bob Greene. I resisted this book for a long time even though I find myself occasionally loving Oprah despite myself (I can’t help but think she likes me too), and when Consumer Reports gave it their seal of approval, I finally cracked it open. The Best Life Diet is really simple, written with a minimum of motivational jargon (kind of), and has decent recipes in the back. Greene divides his plan into three, month-long phases. During the first, you mostly just give up alcohol and start some form of exercise. And that’s actually kind of hard, but he’s very encouraging about it and had me convinced.

I couldn’t last the whole month though, because I was ready to actually drop some pounds. After about two weeks, I started phase two, the real calorie counting, diet-y part of the book. Here’s when healthy foods and portion control (my biggest downfall) came into play. After a month or so of this, phase three kicks in and with the introduction of “anything calories,” aka a TINY amount of unhealthy treats of your choice, it’s supposed to last the rest of your life. Let me repeat: The. Rest. Of. Your. Life.

I haven’t actually reached that phase yet because I keep having to start phase two over again when I wantonly introduce what I like to call “everything calories” into my diet. I think—possibly—I’m not quite ready for the rest of my life. I have high hopes though.

I always have high hopes. I also like Weight Watchers online, because it has a great chart that calculates your calorie intake and coverts them into the famous Weight Watcher points (and subtracts them from your daily total allowance), plus little boxes you can check off as you drink water or eat vegetables. A little smiley face pops up when you’ve eaten or drunk enough and, given my love of checklists, I find this strangely affirming. I hate the meetings though, because I’ve never, ever seen a single person I could relate to there. Plus, I really don’t need a way to make corn dogs “light.” Or find uses for Cool Whip. I’ll just pass, thank you. I like my food to resemble, you know, real food. If Sur La Table ever sponsors a meeting, though, I’ll be there like frosting on cake.

So what works? I have actually lost twelve, hard-fought pounds over a longer period than I’d admit to. Here’s what I’ve learned I have to do:

  1. Exercise (god help me).
  2. Don’t drink (damn).
  3. Slavishly adhere to checklists (a personal idiosyncrasy).
  4. Don’t put so much food in my friggin’ mouth (naturally).

And finally, a kind word or two. I really am trying.

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