Weighty issues

When I was married in 1974, I weighed 115 pounds and had a 28-inch waist. That was 40 years and 50 pounds ago. Since the 1990s, I’ve been fighting “The Battle of the Bulge” and trying to laugh about it on the way. So, here are five of my favorite newspaper columns on this weighty issue:

The anti-gravity diet
The dark chocolate diet
The T-Rex diet
US Department of DUH
WWJD? What Would Jesus Devour?

Photo: Enjoying zero-calorie icecream

The anti-gravity diet

January 1998

Forget all the “Henny Penny” predictions about “El Nino,” global warming, and the depletion of the ozone. Something really serious is under foot—gravity. Yes, according to my highly scientific investigation in front of the bathroom mirror, the earth’s gravitational force has been steadily increasing since 1992!

As we all know, the gravitational force between any two objects is proportional to the product of their masses and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them.

For the physics-ally challenged, this simply means that I’ve noticed my face is sliding off my head and collecting under my chin. Since my fortieth birthday, I’ve also noticed that other parts of my body are also migrating south. (If not for my belt, my chest would be around my ankles!) This is a grave situation.

You say you want proof? Every single day millions of meteorites strike the earth—about 25 million tons of space pebbles or roughly the total weight of a day’s worth of government paperwork. It’s obviously that as the earth continues to put on pounds, gravity will exert a stronger pull on our bodies causing scales to read higher numbers and body parts to continue to be irresistibly drawn downward.

The solution is clear. We must set up a government agency to spend millions of dollars preparing a preliminary report to Congress on the timetable for establishing a special panel to investigate possible names for a government agency that would report back by the year 2002 on this weighty issue. Or perhaps an easier and more cost effective option would be to simply stem the tide of illegal meteorites.

Please, write your legislator today before gravity forces all the hair on the top of my head out through my ears!

Copyright © 1998 James N. Watkins

The T-Rex diet

June 1999

In the name of responsible journalism—and a break from my usual writing—I must correct a serious error from a 1998 column. I wrote:

      Forget all the “Henny Penny” predictions about “El Nino,” global warming, and the depletion of the ozone. Something really serious is under foot—gravity.

      Yes, according to my scientific investigation in front of the bathroom mirror, the earth’s gravitational force has been steadily increasing since 1992!

      . . . I’ve noticed my face is sliding off my head and collecting under my chin. Since my fortieth birthday, I’ve also noticed that other parts of my body are migrating south. (If not for my belt, my chest would be around my ankles!) This is a grave situation.

I must inform you, my loyal readers, that the problem is not gravity, but home ec. and health teachers! Yes, for years they’ve been shoving that food pyramid down our throats and telling us to eat more fruits and whole grains.

According to Protein Power by Drs. Michael and Mary Eades, the food pyramid works well for fattening hogs for market, but has turned many of us who are trying to eat right into, well, fattened hogs.

All those complex carbohydrates at the top of the chart such as fruits and whole grains, actually turn into sugar. In fact, the Eades claims that a 2,200-calorie daily diet which is 60 percent carbohydrates (the recommended daily adult requirement) is comparable to eating two cups of pure sugar.

I thought I was eating healthy by drinking fruit juice, instead of Pepsi, but discovered juice has more carbohydrates than most soft drinks. Rice, pasta, naked baked potatoes, and that packing material known as “rice cakes” are also pure sugar in disguise.

All those carbohydrates not only add pounds, but stimulate insulin production. And all that extra insulin slows down our metabolism and adds extra “insulation.” The good doctors also point to medical studies that show excess insulin not only causes diabetes, but contributes to high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, and elevated cholesterol.
By trying to eat “healthy,” I had long ago ceased to be the 115-pound high school student who usually got picked last for teams in Phys. Ed. Thirty years and [CENSORED] pounds later, I now had nightmares about being picked first for the Sumo wrestling team. My worst nightmare, however, was of my hearse being followed by a little truck with the WIDE LOAD sign.

Meanwhile, two friends of mine began losing pound after pound with the protein diet. I had seen it pitched on an infommercial, but it appeared the only thing customers lost was $199 from their bloated fanny packs. I opted for the $6.99 paperback book.

The Protein Power plan is fairly simple. If it’s moved under it’s own power, you can eat it. (All those PBS nature shows do make a strong point that carnivores are always slimmer and trimmer than plant-eaters. Compare lions and water buffalos; white sharks and blue whales; T-Rexes and brontosauruses.) Citing a medical study of Eskimos as well as a separate study at Bellevue Hospital, the Eades claim the amount of carbohydrates required by humans is zero!

By eating like a T-Rex, I’ve lost ten pounds and two belt notches in just three weeks. And I’ve gained an hour more of productive activity since I have much more energy. (I can even stay up for Leno’s monologue, after starting my day at 6 a.m.)
I decided to conduct my own scientific research Memorial Day at my parents. I sampled a bit of potato salad, baked beans, and half a dozen Oreos. I felt awful! And I needed two naps just to have enough energy to drive home. This morning I had chicken salad for breakfast and chili with lots lean hamburger for lunch. I feel great. I feel energized.

Of course my lawyer wants me to remind you to be sure to consult your doctor before trying any new diet—but only a doctor who is under the legal weight limit. And, be sure to follow the sensible cautions listed in the book!

Now if you’ll excuse me, I just saw a brontosaurus lumbering through our back yard. It’s time for my afternoon snack.

Copyright © 1999 James N. Watkins

U.S. Department of DUH

February 2005

Millions of our tax dollars were spent in Washington D.C. recently to learn how Americans can maintain a healthy weight.

According to the US Department of DUH, the secret is (are you sitting down for this?): eat less and exercise more! Yep, it took millions of dollars and hundreds of bureaucrats to come to that shocking conclusion.

U.S. Health and Human Services director Tommy Thompson called a news conference to announce straight-faced, and I quote, “Every American is looking for a pill. If you want to look better, if you want to feel better, you lower your calorie intake, you lower your fat, your carbs, you eat more fruits and vegetables and more whole grains, and you exercise.”

Well, duh?!

I lost 20 pounds on the Atkins “If It Moves You Can Eat It” Diet, then promptly gained back 30. I even tried the “SlimFast” diet with the “delicious shakes” for breakfast and lunch. The “Dark Chocolate Fudge” is okay, but no substitute for an “Extreme Chocolate Blizzard” at DQ. I have, however, managed to lose 12 pounds since December simply by giving up Blizzards and exercising five times a week.

I’d suggest the government could have better spent the millions toward research on that pill! Now I could cheerfully write my check to the U.S. Treasury April 15 if I knew my tax dollars were going to THAT research. And it doesn’t take a government study to warn that eating chocolate-covered fat may cause health problems in laboratory animals.

A Ukrainian candy company has begun marketing “Fat in Chocolate.” While it sounds more like fare for “Fear Factor,” it’s being billed as, and again I quote, “the richest and most fattening treat on the market: pure pork fat covered in dark chocolate.”

I think I just lost a pound thinking about that! Which brings us to another news item from the “Duh” file.

According to Reuters news service, Cleveland paralegal Austin Aitkin, is suing NBC television for $2.5 million saying that “Fear Factor” made him barf. On the episode in question, contestants drank dead rats from a blender for a chance to win $50,000.

The four-page hand-written lawsuit filed in federal court is also suing for the bump on the head he encountered on the bathroom doorway as he ran for the toilet. But wait, there’s more. He’s also demanding compensation for the contestants who were “degraded” by drinking the furry smoothie.

First, there’s no proof that NBC executives forcibly restrained Aitkin in his LazyBoy and made him watch “Fear Factor,” although that’s the only way I would watch the show. And second, it’s amazing the number of people who are willing to be “degraded” for their 15 minutes of fame on the three thousand reality shows now being broadcast such as “The Wickedly Biggest Survivor Race to Become The Contender’s Extreme American Super Apprentice.”

So, what’s my point? Okay, you’ve got me—I don’t have one. Just a deadline in 15 minutes.
We’ll, maybe it’s this. If you want to lose weight get out of your LazyBoy, take a walk and replace that chocolate covered pork fat with a nutritious, low-fat pureed rodent.

At least until the government approves the don’t-exercise, eat-all-the-dark-chocolate-you-want weight-reducing miracle pill.

© Copyright 2004 James N. Watkins

This just in (April 21, 2005)

Government figures show that close to two-thirds of American adults are overweight, which means having a body mass index of 25 or greater. But a new study shatters the current thinking that says that the more you weigh, the greater your chances of dying.

Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and the National Cancer Institute looked at data from more than 30,000 Americans. They found that overweight adults who were not classified as obese had lower death rates than people of normal weight.

Katherine Flegal from the Centers for Disease Control said, “There were a number of things that surprised us. One was that underweight was associated with a fairly large number of deaths, especially in the elderly. And we were also surprised that overweight did not have any excess deaths associated with it.”

But it doesn’t mean there are no risks.

Flegal commented, “We have to be cautious in saying that overweight is protective in any sense.”

Current figures estimate that almost 26,000 Americans die every year from weight-related causes. So the issue seems to be the amount of weight people are carrying.

Being moderately overweight does not seem to cause death, while obesity does. And many overweight Americans are
eating better, exercising more and managing their blood pressure better. That may explain why the mortality rate
for overweight Americans is going down.

WWJD? What Would Jesus Devour?

May 2004

The ever-growing diet fad is taking on biblical proportions!

In 1997, The Weigh Down Diet by Gwen Shamblin sold over a million copies. No wonder; it promises “No Diet! No Exercise! Eat Your Favorite Foods!” Just follow “God’s perfect boundaries of hunger and fullness.”

Last summer Dr. Don Colbert’s best-seller asked, What Would Jesus Eat? The answer, according to the family physician, “non-animal-derived living foods.”

And now the latest “Bible-based” diet bloating bookstores is the Hallelujah Diet. The Rev. George Malkmus is a devout “vegan.” (Vegans are the strictest of vegetarians, refusing to eat dairy products, eggs, or any other “animal product.”) The ordained diet adviser believes that “The Lord gave us everything we need in the Garden of Eden: fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds.” And here’s the best part, Malkmus argues that people who ate a raw diet in biblical times lived an average of 912 years. “We call the way we eat the ‘Hallelujah Diet.’ We celebrate its true Creator.”

Jordan S. Rubin disagrees with Malkmus. The Maker’s Diet argues the Creator has other culinary commands. “Arguing from the book of Leviticus, the Messianic Jew’s diet includes certain “clean” meat and dairy products and warns against an all-raw, vegan regimen. “The healthiest diet is to consume meats, poultry, dairy, fruits and vegetables and to consume them in a form the body was designed for.” For instance, he argues for un-pasteurized milk.

Elisabetta Politi, nutrition manager at Duke University’s Diet and Fitness Center, is concerned about the proclamations coming down from metabolic Mount Sinai. “I am just thinking of the safety of having unprocessed dairy products. From a public health perspective, it’s undoable. It’s an extreme going back to an agriculture society that we are no longer.”

Stephen Barrett, a Columbia University-trained psychologist and founder of the Internet site
“Quackwatch,” is also concerned. “I think that the people who promote these things [are] here to save the world and preach they’re the Messiah [of health]. Their personalities and characters have all sorts of grandiosity and little scientific basis.”

Combining diet and devotion is nothing new. Some Jew observe a kosher diet, Muslim follow “halal” dietary plans, and generations of Catholic grew up not eating meat on Fridays.

But are these “biblically-based” diets, well, biblical? And what, exactly, would Jesus eat? To find out, we simply need to ask, “What did Jesus say?”

      “Are you so dull?” [Jesus] asked. “Don’t you see that nothing that enters a man from the outside can make him ‘unclean’? For it doesn’t go into his heart but into his stomach, and then out of his body.” (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods “clean”) (Mark 7:18-19).

Jesus actions certainly didn’t promote a vegan diet. He serves up a miraculous meal for 5,000 men with a boy’s lunch of bread and fish.

When the disciples return from fishing, Jesus has prepared a breakfast of grilled fish.

And, at Passover, He ate lamb.

The Apostle Paul also argues there are no “Christian” dietary restrictions:

      One man’s faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him (Romans 14:2-3).

      As one who is in the Lord Jesus, I am fully convinced that no food is unclean in itself (Romans 14:14).

      All food is clean . . . (Romans 14:20).

      . . . for, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.” If some unbeliever invites you to a meal and you want to go, eat whatever is put before you . . . (1 Corinthians 10:27).

Aside from questionable scientific evidence, those promoting these “biblical” diets seem to be taking out-of-context verses and turning them into universal commands. Or, as Jesus said, “Straining out gnats and swallowing camels.” (Not exactly a vegan diet!)

So, WWJD? What would Jesus devour?

The Gospels record him eating fish, bread, lamb, and washing it all down with wine. And, if they would have had it in first century Palestine, dark chocolate!

Copyright © 2004 James N. Watkins


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