Carpe Diet

BY MEREDITH KELLER
Daily Arts Writer
Published April 4, 2001

Spring has officially sprung, and if you"re still carrying Aunt Martha"s Christmas cookies around in your keister, the button on your favorite khakis may be primed for some springing action of its own. And, as warmer weather makes it more difficult to obscure obesity inside a puffy coat, (should I say a P. Diddy coat?), now might be a good time to put down the HoHo"s and pick up the celery stalks. Summer is coming, and the beach will be calling.

Paul Wong
Keller Instincts

If you"re feeling as I am these days, more Stay-Puff Marshmallow Man than Stick Figure, don"t hit the pudge-panic button or hire a search and rescue team to find your missing abdominal muscles just yet. Plenty of time is left to get your glutes and your gut back into shape and, of course, back into those favorite khakis. I am not a dietician, nor do I play one on TV. I have, however, read enough empty-promise articles such as "Have Thin Thighs by Thursday" and "How to Look Like a 10-Year-Old Boy When You"re a 30-Year-Old Woman" to have a vague sense of modern trends in dieting.

Second only to airbrushing, perhaps the most popular method of body-downsizing these days is a low-to-no carbohydrate diet such as the Atkins. Credited for giving Dennis Franz his NYPD street smarts and enviable girlish figure, the premise of this pro-protein plan is relatively simple meats and cheeses are your edible friends, but bread is merely Satan dressed up in starches. Eat a herd of cattle and the state of Wisconsin and you"ll look like Heather Locklear with the IQ of Einstein. But horror of horrors, eat a crouton and you will look like the Love Child of J-Lo and the Pillsbury Dough Boy. (Please note however, that this high-protein diet is not to be confused with the absolutely no-protein diet practiced by the President.)

If you find yourself opposed to eating your weight in round steak each day, however, another popular alternative eating plan is the highly touted Zone diet. Made famous by Jennifer Aniston, who used this diet to successfully find inner peace, Brad Pitt"s love and her hipbones, in contrast to the Atkins diet, the Zone is not as simple as eating livestock.

Engineered in some secret room at NASA, the Zone diet is based on complex ratio calculations in order to strike a harmonious balance among consumed proteins, carbohydrates and fats. As long as you maintain this ratio, you will stay in the Zone. So for example, should you eat a vat of Hagen-Dazs, counterbalance your carbohydrates with a whale"s weight in protein and you"ll maintain the Zen of the Zone.

For less indulgent followers, however, a typical Zone meal (which I"m not making up) might actually contain the following: a can of tuna, three heads of iceberg lettuce and a macadamia nut. Can I get a "Mmm. Mmm?" Having recently spent a week in the Zone, however, I would like to offer up my own theory on how these cockamamie calculations actually work. The Zone"s success rate has little to do with a secret food formula and everything to do with the mathematics. Unless you happen to have a left-brained tutor on hand, it"s much easier to forego the food rather than do the long division. Followers claim that more than just a diet, this eating plan is a revolutionary "way of life," which is actually Zone-ie for "chronic eating disorder."

As with most newly adopted "ways of life," however, dieting can be a time consuming endeavor, and unless you hook the Hoover up to your outer thighs, it may take a while for anyone to notice your disappearing act. Sometimes, however, time cannot wait for your metabolism to be defibrillated.

So, should you find yourself in one of those "Must Lose 37.4 Pounds in Four Days" situations three days before the square dancing tournament your partner, Jimmy John Jo-Bob, is diagnosed with a hernia and risks permanent damage if he is forced to swing a swine-like you round-n-round there"s one other diet to consider.

Known as the Fashionista diet (or "How to Make Yourself Look Good in Hot Pants") this rapid weight loss program originated in the 8th Arrondissement of Paris, and quickly spread across the Atlantic to NYC before finally making it to Ann-orexic Arbor. It consists of a carton of cigarettes and a keg of Diet Coke with a twist of lime, and once the tar and the phosphoric acid have collectively dissolved your lungs and large intestine, you"ll be a whole lot lighter.

And if this still doesn"t get you in shape for the warm weather, here"s one last suggestion: Consider a summer in Greenland. While you may not have thighs thinner than toothpicks, at least you"ll have your P. Diddy coat.

Contact Meredith Keller at makeller@umich.edu.