Weight loss dross

Americans have never been fatter, and things aren't getting any better now that we spend all our time on the sofa, watching election coverage on CNN and wolfing down comforting Oreos.

As Americans, we know that the way to address a thorny problem such as the inability to button one's jeans is to throw money at it. The American Society of Bariatric Physicians reports that we spent $467 million on prescription weight-loss drugs in 1996, as well as an additional $32 million on over-the-counter drugs and an estimated $1 billion to $2 billion on formal weight-loss programs endorsed by former British royalty and has-been actresses.

(The American Society of Bariatric Physicians, whose 2,200 members specialize in weight-loss treatment, planned to provide more up-to-date figures, but a new all-you-can-eat buffet opened down the street, and the doctors haven't been seen since.)

Dieting is a huge industry in this country, which makes the typical American think: How can I tear off a piece of that big chunk of money?

That's the precise reason I've developed new dieting strategies for our overweight citizens. A sampling of these approaches follows free of charge, but I expect to soon develop special medications, foods and exercise plans that should generate, oh, $1 billion a year.

But first, let's discuss qualifications. You're probably saying to yourself: Who does this guy think he is, giving diet advice? I have a wide range of experience in gaining and losing weight, and I have a wide range of sizes of jeans hanging in my closet to prove it. Lately, I've lost a few pounds. Not enough that people keep saying, "Have you lost weight?" No, my loss is more subtle than that. But my clothes fit better and I can hardly wait to get on the scales in the morning.

So now you're saying to yourself: Wowee, what could be this guy's secret? First, let me admit that I was aided in my weight-loss program by a nagging cold that hung around for three weeks, and which made all food taste like mud. Secondly, I've been getting a lot of exercise, doing household projects such as painting and mowing. This unaccustomed physical activity has, on many days, left me too tired to chew.

Most importantly, I've been fixing all the meals around here lately, and nothing will put you off your feed faster than your own cooking.

Perhaps such approaches will help you shed unwanted pounds. But if they don't work, then you should try one of these special diet plans:

--The Small Plate Diet. If you use smaller plates at mealtime, you'll eat less. Each plateful will hold less, so when you're on your third helping, you've really only eaten enough for two people. Once you've mastered that, you can move to even smaller plates. Pursued to its proper conclusion, this diet eventually will mean you're eating off a coaster.

--The Over-the-Sink Diet. Everyone knows that food eaten while standing over the kitchen sink has no calories. Therefore, you should try eating all your meals there. And you'll dirty up no plates at all.

--The All-Sugar Diet. Dietitians will tell you too much sugar is a bad thing. But overdoses of sugar give you untold amounts of energy. You'll soon find yourself sprinting madly around the house, burning up those empty calories.

--The Cigarette Diet. Every time you feel like eating, smoke a cigarette instead. Sure, this diet will kill you, but you'll leave behind a svelte, young corpse.

--The Salsa Diet. No, not salsa as in dancing. That would be an exercise program, and we all know how Americans feel about exercise. This diet requires the eater to saturate every meal in the hottest salsa available. Skipping meals soon will seem like a more attractive option than sucking on a fire extinguisher for dessert.

--The George Washington Diet. Instead of spending exorbitant amounts on dieting schemes, skip a step and just eat your paper money. Money is full of fiber and special dyes, but it's low in calories. Eat enough one-dollar bills and, not only will you not want other food, but you'll be unable to tell a lie.

And then you can stop lying to yourself about losing weight.

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