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How to Begin a Diet

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Pp. 16-17, Protein Power, Michael R. Eades, M.D. and Mary Dan Eades, M.D.

"Paleolithic people were fit, slender, and active, and free from heart disease, cancer, and many other modern diseases. Our ancestors were genetically programmed to live on the lean meats...and so are you."

Front cover, The Paleo Diet, Loren Cordain

Let us begin with some minor quibbles. Exactly how many fossil folks are these conclusions based on? Ten? A hundred? A thousand? That's a pretty small sample for such weeping generalizations. Isn't it possible that these particular specimens were found precisely because they were the healthiest and most active among their peers? How do we know that the majority of cave people didn't die in anonymity because, instead of hunting and gathering, they spent their days eating Paleo-doodles and leering at racy cave drawings? And for those lucky enough to have their bones unearthed, why is it assumed that diet was the main factor in keeping them healthy? Maybe it was the countless hours engaged in their favorite sport, "Run like hell for your life!"

More to the point, why would anyone in his or her right mind make any decision based on how those brainless oafs behaved? TV cartoons notwithstanding, we're not exactly talking about Nobel laureates and Oxford Dons. These were creatures for whom cleanliness was an unknown and unimagined luxury. What they ate was pretty much what they found, and I mean lying dead on the ground, not stacked on the shelves of the Olduvai Gorge Piggly Wiggly. In the absence of Rachael Ray, cooking was at best rudimentary, depending on the intermittent availability of fire. Let us also remember there was no FDA back then; they ate"well, more than food with their food. Do you really want to use these dunderheads as nutritional role models?

I can't imagine that "diet" as such had any meaning for them whatsoever. They lived in an age prior to Elle and GQ, and thus were too ignorant to realize that plague-like emaciation was a "look" to be painstakingly achieved rather than merely the harbinger of a hideous death.

We live in odd times indeed when Arnold Schwarzenegger is a two-term governor of California and Madonna is a practitioner of Jewish mysticism. Now I'm supposed to delegate my health decisions to Fred Flintstone.

I seem to have digressed. Sorry.

For the sake of argument and brevity, let's say that for whatever reasons we hold dear, we have decided on a diet. We have the motivation and the plan, so it's time to begin, Yes? No.

For myself and I suspect countless others, it isn't enough to simply throw away the cookies and start following the righteous path. Throughout history, humans have marked all the major and minor milestones of life with ritual and ceremony, and I see no reason why a diet should be any different.

Unfortunately, I have yet to find a culture with a "Start Your Diet" festival or holiday. In the Western tradition, we have Passover and Lent, but the forbidden foods associated with these times are not proscribed for the purpose of slimming down. There is our pathetic New Years Day when well-meaning but hungover penitents make resolutions of abstinence that are abandoned by halftime of the Rose Bowl, but this day lacks the solemnity to be an effective touchstone. You are therefore free to determine a start date in consultation with any lunatic superstition you wish short of the Delphi Oracle which closed down a few years back. You may end up choosing the first day of the week, the first day of the calendar month, the first day of the Sumerian month, Columbus Day, Guy Fawkes Day, Tet, Halloween, or Herbert Hoover's birthday.

The rites observed on "Start Your Diet" day will vary from person to person. I prefer something on the order of the May Day celebrations in the old Soviet Union but without the Politburo and ICBM's on parade. There is, however, one ceremony that seems common to all "The Last Supper."

On the eve of your start date, an elaborate feast is eaten consisting primarily of those foods that will be verboten during your diet. These over-abundant meals, tending toward the fatty and the fried, the rich and the sweet, typically result in world-class nausea and incendiary heartburn. The "Last Supper" is less a celebratory repast than a mini-morality play, which allows the penitential dieter to begin his odyssey in the proper frame of mind and stomach.

One problem with this ritual is the near impossibility of satisfying every craving in a single meal. As a result, "Last Suppers" often evolve into "Farewell Tours" involving month-long treks to every beloved pizza joint, hot dog stand, clam shack, and barbecue pit along the Eastern Seaboard. It is wise to factor this into your schedule.

Finally, on the appointed day at the appointed hour, with the stars and our fridge in proper alignment, we can begin.

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Jeff Brawer is a writer and television editor in the Boston area who has worked in broadcast, medical, and industrial TV for over 25 years. He has been dealing with weight issues for over 50 years and ranting about them for an eternity.
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