Friday, January 23, 2004

The Holy Evangelical Church of the Calorie Counters

After this past holiday season, I'm past the point of being uncomfortable - I'm well over into the Oh My DEAR GOD, what have I DONE? end of the scale, and it's time to do something about it. But I'm not going to talk about it here.

For my money, there's nothing more mind-numbingly boring and selfish than someone who drones on and on about their diet and exercise regime. "Skinless chicken cutlets, blah blah blah, limiting carbs, blah blah blah, just a shake for lunch, blah blah blah..." in an endless monotone. "Oh Dear God, how do I make her STOP?" is the tape loop running through my brain whenever confronted with another friend inducted into the cult of My New Diet Plan.

Sometimes, you'll notice the new cult members even have that shiny, wide-eyed cult stare that the Moonies or Hari Krishnas had. (Boy, am I ever dating myself with those references, but there ya go.) For some of the newly indoctrinated, the huge, Japanese anime eyes might be a by-product of their strange diets, like when Oprah Winfrey was on some liquid diet years ago, and you could just see how unhealthy she was by that wet eye look she had at the time. But for others, it's simply the zeal with which they attach themselves to their new diet that causes that eye wetness. They seek salvation through the Church of the Zone, or of Jenny Craig, or whatever, and they want to save your plump soul along with theirs. That's really considerate of you, but please, leave me alone to burn in the carb-loaded fires of hell, would you?

My friend Bev was always a good one for this. She was a girl with a petite frame who was terrified to grow into the gigantic hips and buns package that her mother became. So, bless her heart, she was constantly on the vigil against that possible middle-aged spppprrrreeeaaaaddd her mom was unfortunately sporting. I sympathized with her, I understood her fight and even envied her determination. But if she told me ONE more time about the new vitamins, exercise regimen, low-carb plan, nothing but soup and juice for every meal or salad spree she was on, I was going to shove my old Weight Watcher's scale up her ass. For such an intelligent and artistically creative girl to spend the precious few moments we had together ranting about this crap, when we saw so very little of each other due to busy lives, was enough to make me cry tears of frustration. Snap out of it, Bev, please. Tell me about your job, your family, your relationship, what you think about current events, your trip to the museum, your new painting, what the dogs did yesterday, ANYTHING BUT WHAT YOU ATE AND WHY.

I could see if they had made a bargain with the cosmos, and the more people they spread the word of the All Bell Pepper Diet to, the more pounds they would loose, and therefore the closer to Godliness and All Things Good and Thin they would get. Or even if I had said one tiny word along the lines of, "Please tell me what you are eating these days, in minute detail." But I promise you, neither of these things have to happen to provoke the Sermon on the Pounds.

All of the members of the Cult of the New Diet love to expound on the subject of their ex-pounds, and their evangelical zeal is nothing short of the worst social selfishness you can imagine. I want to beg them to talk about politics and religion, tell off-color jokes in front of nuns, pick their noses - anything but torture me with the number of grams of carbs they had for breakfast. Unless we are up in the Andes sharing rations until the search team finds us under the avalanche, I couldn't give a fuck what anyone else eats.

There is no way to change the topic, either, as the diet cults nearly always expect their devoted to memorize a long list of the can and can't-haves of their diet, and the new members are more than eager to share this wealth of knowledge. It's maddening, and when I have been captive to such a conversation on several occasions with the same friend, I find myself avoiding them, particularly if they start to look a bit gaunt and glossy-eyed. I know what's coming next, and I'd really rather they stand on a street corner and preach to strangers, with a sandwich board over their shoulders and a stalk of celery in each hand. Oh but wait, what kind of sandwich was that? And I hope that was gluten bread you were talking about...

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