Waist management

Inspired by editor D. Brian Burghart’s ongoing battle with a particularly tenacious case of Dunlop’s Disease*, I offer my own saga concerning the War on Unsightly Flab.

Last March, I returned from a week in Portugal in a state of heightened portlitude. I managed to get the scale on up to 218; when I began the trip, I was at 214. That’s a full-on testimony to the pleasures of dining in that often overlooked but gastronomically delightful country. (I still foam a bit at the memory of the utterly over-the-top local gelateria, where the world’s greatest ice cream is heaped upon freshly baked crepes.)

Now, being 6’ 5”, I can handle 218 fairly well. But I had to admit, there was trouble on the horizon. Things were getting demonstrably squishy in predictable areas. Soon after this “the-mirror-doesn’t-lie” reality check, the ubiquitous Nutri-System ad appeared on the idiot box, and, this time around, I wrote down the 800 number.

Right off, I’ll give the company credit. Their products and plan worked. I began eating their food on April 1 and quit the program on June 1. (They ship boxes of mostly nukable meals for $290 a month; you provide the dairy and produce.)

In that two-month time, I got rid of 20 pounds.

My point here is to reveal the secret of Nutri-System, and it’s really not that much of a secret. In fact, I suspect it’s the same for all the big diet corporations. It’s portion size. That’s pretty much it. It’s all about the portions. The basic Nutri-System “dinner,” for example, would throw your typical American into a hyperventilational tizzy as it dawned on him that this food in front of him isn’t an appetizer, it’s the whole stinkin’ meal. It’s what many folks would call a “starter.” And verily, there lieth the rub.

While on this program, it doesn’t take long to realize that the average American repast these days, especially dinner, would sate your basic orca. It’s a gigonderously mild understatement to say we’ve now grown very comfortable with the pounding of serious chow. Nutri-System gets its job done by giving you a wisp of a breakfast, then a snack, a little more of a meal for lunch, another snack, a dink of a dinner, and one more snack/dessert to close down your eating day.

What else is impressive is how you experience how little food it takes to make your stomach happy. We’re real good at overwhelming that hard-working little pouch these days. But if you eat one of these tiny meals, and then sit back for a few minutes, your brain gets the word from your guts that things are fine down here, we’re busy, we’re happy, don’t even think about hittin’ that bag of Doritos. But how often do we stop and bother to listen for that message of moderation? Result—roughly one in three American adults—one in three!—now qualifies as obese.

*Dunlop’s—where one done lops over his belt.