Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Flesh and the Devil

In Arabic, the word for "diet" is a borrowed one: rejheem.  It sounds both menacing and insinuating, especially as a response to any temptation - "Shukran la, feeh rejheeeeeeeem!"  (a polite but firm demurral).

It's a word I've been hearing a great deal of in the past couple of  months, although not in any way thanks to the Rev. C.S. Lovett (one wonders if his wife made meat pies).  That august gentleman apparently recommended a vigorous program of water-only fasting, Satan-resisting, and thin-self visualizations, along with, one assume, a total avoidance of the kinds of fatty desserts pictured so temptingly on what appears to be that length of doubleknit that Mrs. Lovett got on sale at Fabric Barn for her fall outfit.

No, we've not blamed anything on Satan, but Mr. Muscato and I have indeed been quite firmly au régime.  Regular Gentle Readers will be well aware that he and I are a pair of stout parties, and life in the Sandlands only makes that sort of thing all the more inevitable:  it's insanely hot, no one walks anywhere, and the national pastime is Champagne brunching.  This spring, however, we realized that with the many changes facing us, especially the prospect of living in a real city where we'll have to move around on our own steam, we had better be prepared, and so Mr. Muscato, who is a person of extraordinary resolve, launched us on a new way of life.

To be fair, I do feel that I can claim a little of the credit, for it was my hunch - based on nothing more than a few random articles, mentions here and there, and some minimal perusal of some frankly crank websites - that it might be a good idea to cut out diet sodas.  Cold turkey.  We didn't drink that much of the stuff, but one a day, plus a bottomless glass or two on weekends, does add up.  On top of that, we simply cut out most processed food, ate more at home, and relied on Mrs. Galapatti-da Silva for regular supplies of a genius recipe of Mr. Muscato's, a lovely chopped salad that is extremely filling.  Mr M., who had a little further to go than I (and a little more spare time), added a routine of long walks, at least until the evenings headed back up to and over the 100 Fahrenheit mark.

And so, today, I'm here to tell you:  Diet Coke is the devil that wants you fat.  I've never been a food faddist in any way, shape, or form, and I scoff with the best of them at the paranoiacs who are convinced that mysterious toxins are attacking our Precious Bodily Fluids.  That's as may be, but I can testify that within three or four days without that carbonated crack, our appetites began a dramatic transformation that has continued and if anything has intensified.  We eat less and we enjoy it more.  Mr. M. is now down by something over 50 pounds, and I'm heading toward 25.

It's been a remarkable experience, and one made only more so as it's gone along with all the other changes that swirl around us.  For example, I'd been poised to throw away a whole cupboard of clothes I was clearly never meant to wear again, and now three months later, those are the clothes I'm wearing and I'm finding new homes for suit jackets that are suddenly billowing and trousers that could appear in one of those old Before-and-After weight-loss ads in which the lucky After holds a waistband out at arm's length.

Of course, no one is ever going to mistake us for beanstalks, and we have a way to go (one that, I fear, will get that little bit more challenging once we're living in a place where you can have a beer at any old café and chances are good that that café will have ribs on the menu).  Still, it appears that, at least for us, we've cracked the riddle that fuels the billion-dollar diet industry.  I only wish it were complicated enough to fill a book, as perhaps it could make a mint.  Sadly, though, it couldn't be simpler or more commonsensical: cut out junk.  Eat less; but eat well.  Move more.

Oh, and that salad.  Would you like the recipe? It, too, couldn't be simpler:  chop up whatever vegetables and firm fruits you like into little cubes, as fine as possible, then garnish them with pomegranate seeds and raisins in lieu of dressing.  We tend to use three colors of bell pepper, celery, tomatoes, and apples.  I've never enjoyed a salad more, especially one without things like full-fat ranch dressing, croutons, and other once essential add-ons.  If I ever get energetic enough, I'll show you a picture; arranged nicely on a lettuce leaf, it can even look quite dressy (if you're a careful chopper, at least).

Do you have any sure-fire diet secrets?


  1. I have never dieted - and also never (thankfully) drunk diet Coke - but I can heartily recommend my usual daily nourishment of cider, cigarettes and the night bus through Camden. Jx

  2. The salad sounds quite tasty, but I've always liked a dry salad. I tired serving one at a dinner party and everyone was so confounded by it, I had to get up from the table and whip up a vinaigrette.

    1. "I've always liked a dry salad" has a distinct Ivy Compton-Burnett ring to it, but the last-minute whipping-up of a vinaigrette is pure Pym.

  3. I dropped 15lbs by switching from beer to wine!

    Diet soda? I always took the view that the artificial sweetener was far more harmful than a small amount of 'real', and have proceeded accordingly. Think like the French - eat whatever you want, just in moderation...

  4. All the best to you with your plan, Muscato.

    You don't want to have to drag out your caftans.

    As for Diet Coke, it really is the devil.

    I developed muscle spasms from the aspartame in diet sodas. I wasn't trying to diet but rather to keep my teeth and skin healthy by avoiding sugar. As soon as I stopped drinking the diet sodas, the spasms stopped.

    A study has actually found that drinking diet sodas can make you gain weight!