(Originally posted in the Stratford Star newspaper on March 24, 2011, in “Walsh’s Wonderings”)
As the NCAA Tournament begins its second week today, so does the March Madness diet that accompanies the basketball marathons I watch on TV. With my bracket on one knee and bacon cheese dip on the other, I watch my picks implode as I wolf down an entire bag of nachos. It’s Pavlovian, an annual rite of spring that inevitably leaves me with indigestion and extra five pounds by the time they crown a new champion. Each year, though, I promise that I won’t do it again.
After two months listening to my home scale groan under my weight while it answered only with an endless series of error messages, I knew it was time to tuck my tail between my legs and return to the local gym. Like most gym memberships, I kept mine because not paying for it would be an admission that I’d given up. However, other than flicking the card out of the way each morning to find my house keys, it wasn’t getting much of a workout. Unfortunately, it seems this year’s “New Year’s resolution exercisers” are still hanging in there and clogging the gyms with the same regularity the bacon cheese dip is clogging my arteries. I needed something new.
On my lap this afternoon is something called the Beach Body P90-X, and the box states that Tony Horton (whoever he is) is going to provide me with two “extreme workouts” using “the science of Muscle Confusion.” It will get me absolutely ripped in 90 days. While it sounds painful, the people on the box look really happy. Evidently, if I’m good, I’ll also get a chance to buy Tony’s Ab Ripper. Granted, when you’re as overweight as I am, “extreme workouts” seem like a one-way ticket to the emergency room. Ripping your abs loses its appeal when you’ve already ripped a hernia through your stomach wall.
This box comes courtesy of my older brother, a well-meaning attempt to “confuse my muscles” into losing some weight. It’s the latest in a long line of boxed hope that has blighted my doorstep over the years. When it comes to yo-yo dieting, I am the Duncan Glow-in-The-Dark Deluxe Yo-Yo.
The Zone Diet promised to retool my metabolism with a balanced diet that would hold off heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes. It left me pining for carbohydrates and so hungry between meals that people began looking like big hot dogs. The Atkins Diet promised to change my body from a carbohydrate-burning engine into a fat-burning engine, albeit an engine evidently fueled by incessant constipation. Dr. Phil’s Diet Solution promised to change my negative thoughts to positive impulses, but he lost me when he said to substitute old habits (like eating pizza) with new ones (a nice shower or a good book). Doc, if I showered every time I wanted to eat ice cream, I’d have scraped off all my skin by now. My mom even tried to send me her old copy of “Sweatin’ To The Oldies” with Richard Simmons. I sent it back; I have my pride.
Dieting is a big-money industry that keeps the B and C-List celebrities working well past their prime. Dan Marino and Tori Spelling hawk Nutri-System, Rachel Hunter sells Slim Fast, Valerie Bertinelli pushes Jenny Craig, and Jenny McCarthy shills for Weight Watchers. Of course, Trim Spa had Anna Nicole Smith, but that partnership was not quite as wildly successful as either party hoped.
In the end, those of us fighting our weight are fighting to take some control of our lives. However, the control offered by fad diets is both elusive and illusory. In the process of following the latest trend, we often give up what little control we have. Rather than taking responsibility, we are allowed to blame our genetics, our food, our surroundings, or our past. There isn’t a magic pill, protein/carbohydrate ratio, or root extract that provides a short cut to good health. Even Oprah learned this the hard way, and she can afford to avoid the hard way at all costs!
I’ve stopped looking at the flashy packaging and the fancy book covers. I’ve learned it’s not just the diet, it’s the person suffering through the diet that needs to be switched up. It’s not the newest pill on the market that will transform me, it’s lacing up the old running shoes that sit in my closet like forgotten change. Most importantly, my waistline doesn’t benefit from hours of watching basketball—it might helped if I actually picked one up myself.
What I need is a non-surgical gastric bypass, something that slaps a hand over my mouth after I finish the first helping. That would really confuse my muscles!