DIET is the most despised four-letter word in the English language. Yes, there are other words with the same number of vowels and consonants that shock and offend (the kind you yell at the top of your lungs when you miss that elusive nail and smack the you-know-what out of your thumb with a hammer) but none of them can compare to the guilt, stress, and misery that this word causes.

Practically, all of us have, at one time or another, decided to bite the bullet and embark on one of these tortuous journeys in a noble effort to create a smaller version of ourselves. A select few succeed in startling fashion – transforming their appearance, gaining strength and vitality, and radiating a healthy glow………. Then there are the rest of us.

My wife and I have endlessly wondered just what exactly is causing us to gain weight. We often have deep discussions about this unsettling mystery although it’s difficult to understand the other person when their mouth is crammed full of snickerdoodles.

In our case, we believe that old age is as good an excuse as any for our occasional weight gain. There’s just something about getting older that makes a person pack on the pounds with little or no effort. I’m sure it has nothing to do with the fact that I’ve been pigging out for decades. Snort! Snort! (Swine sound effects)

Experts say (at least the annoying thin experts) that your metabolism slows down as you age, and the average person becomes less active during their later years. I understand. But I seem too have been blessed with the dubious ability to actually pick up a pound or two while I’m sleeping – and that is not fair! I should at least get to enjoy consuming the calories if I’m going to carry them around for the rest of my life.

Whatever it is that causes the burgeoning bloat, it slowly dawns on you that you need to shed X number of pounds. For most of us, that number is in double digits. If you’re only trying to lose a single-digit number – get out of here. You’ll get no sympathy from this little blog. Most of us have far weightier problems to deal with.

The important question is, how do you know for sure when it’s time to go on a diet? Allow me to provide a few helpful clues:

  • Your new dentist greets you by saying, “I can see by the size of your hips that you do a lot of chewing.” (Obviously, you get rid of the new dentist and get an even newer dentist.)
  • It occurs to you that you haven’t seen your feet in several months. (But you know they’re still there because each day you’re able to walk back and forth to the fridge for tasty snacks.)
  • You attempt to maintain your dignity as you struggle to squeeze into the pair of pants you bought last month. (But you become light-headed, short of breath, and have hallucinations about Elvis.)

At this point, you realize that you have no choice but to address the perplexing problem of your jiggly, wiggly waistline. However, if you’re like me, you put it off because, at least for a while, it’s easier to just turn off the light and tiptoe past the mirror without looking.

But once you decide to embark on the diet, the misery quickly begins. For one thing, it’s impossible to escape the sight of the very food you are craving.

Have you ever noticed that when you’re dieting, every TV commercial is about food? Where did all the ads for athlete’s foot and hemorrhoids go? Where are the advertisements for things that itch, burn, swell, and smell? They’re suddenly nowhere to be seen.

Instead, all you see are promotions for pizza delivered to your door piping hot and smothered with enough artery-clogging meat toppings to guarantee that your spouse will soon be cashing in your life insurance policy.

Commercial after commercial features mouthwatering temptations bursting with flavor thanks to mega doses of sugar and sodium – all stuffed with more calories than a complete Thanksgiving dinner.

Now……at this point I want to pause and make it clear that I would never engage in any form of body shaming because it is simply wrong – plus, God knows, I have no room to criticize anyone else about their physical appearance. That being said, I do feel the need to take just a moment to gently address the delicate issue of cellulite.

Simply put, cellulite creates a series of golf ball like dimples on particularly meaty areas of the human anatomy. That means it is no friend of spandex. And yet, a quick trip to any large discount retailer forces you to confront a seemingly endless string of shoppers who have managed to defy the laws of physics and somehow poured their considerable selves into a Lycra based prison from which their butt cheeks engage in a life or death struggle to escape. (Hopefully, without success.)

I’m sure you now have an unpleasant visual image in your mind, so let’s move on.

Most people on a diet struggle mightily with the constant gnawing hunger and food cravings that strike without warning. Not surprisingly, being absolutely miserable puts a slight crimp in their day, and they can become particularly surly if their spouse keeps eating whatever they want in front of them.

If my wife is dieting and I bring home a chocolate cake with two-inch-thick icing and innocently devour a huge slice of it while she nibbles on carrot sticks, I am unfairly accused of engaging in a cruel form of passive-aggressive behavior. Really? Really?! Oh, boo-hoo. Cry me a river. Who made chocolate cake illegal?

But, sadly, food restriction is a necessary evil in a diet plan. Many weight loss programs are based on cutting out specific types of foods, including sugar, starches, highly processed snacks, gravies, sauces – you know, basically, everything that makes life worth living. But we all know that along with eating fewer calories, it is also important to eat healthier. (I’m a person who dumps sugar on Frosted Flakes, obviously I have some work to do.)

So, what are you supposed to do when you crave these fattening foods during your diet, but you know you’re not supposed to eat them?

The answer is simple; YOU CHEAT!!

Out of sheer desperation, most of us experience a burst of creativity as we attempt to find clever ways to cheat on a diet. For example, I discover all new places in our house to eat. A bag of chocolate chip cookies never tasted better than when consumed in the utility room while sitting on the floor wedged between piles of filthy laundry. (Just don’t smack your lips too loud because your non-dieting partner is watching your every move and would just love to catch you red-handed.)

An ooey-gooey cinnamon roll devoured in the middle of the night while sitting in the back seat of your car parked in the garage is the height of decadent pleasure. (But be sure not to leave behind any telltale crumbs that can lead to self-righteous admonishments regarding your lack of willpower.)

Of course, once you’ve cheated on your diet, you then have to pay the price by stepping on the scales. It is a sad spectacle, indeed, to see a grown adult attempt to stand on one leg, like an enormous teetering stork precariously balancing in the futile effort to make at least a few of the pounds out of reach of the scale.  

Unfortunately, a soul-sucking sense of defeat crushes your spirit the instant the devious device reveals the brutal truth – and that sends you marching off for mac and cheese smothered under a thick layer of bacon. It all creates a vicious cycle that keeps the weight loss industry thriving.

Not surprisingly, a significant portion of their profits is derived from diet versions of their regular offerings. They simply lower the calories by removing the texture, color, taste, and flavor to create stomach churning substitutes that no one would ever consider eating unless they are delusional from deprivation. 

And that is why dieting is so horrible. You never really get full. You eat healthy food until you can’t take another bite, and you still crave creamy cheese enchiladas, piles of pasta soaked in marina sauce, and pancakes drenched in maple syrup.

So, when you factor in the irritability, the cravings and the overall sense of starvation, it’s only a matter of time before a person realizes it is soooooo much easier to just buy bigger clothes. I’m talking about large, billowy, loose, comfy shirts, blouses, and pants so you can really spread out, or at least take a deep breath without cutting off the circulation to your feet.

And, naturally, when you come to your senses and decide to end the diet, you immediately go on an all-you-can-eat buffet binge. You joyously celebrate the fact that the marathon of madness is finally over and you readily admit that the relentless torture you’ve been subjected to was the longest two days you have ever endured!

Feeling as though you have a new lease on life, you soon return to your comfort zone. The local donut shop welcomes you back (they know you by name.) You hit the grocery store, happily skipping the produce section (bye-bye broccoli) and head straight for the snack aisle. You put away the flavored water and guzzle a 2-liter bottle of cola. (Hello old friend.) In short, life returns to normal and the insanity that gripped you for forty-eight hours now effortlessly fades away – until the next diet.

And we all know there will be another diet. Predictably, when it takes place in our house, my wife and I’ll do what we always do. We’ll struggle valiantly not to stress each other out, and we will utterly fail.

That is because attempting to lose weight in a marriage presents a moral dilemma. Should you be supportive when your spouse is dieting? Or……should you torment them by gobbling bowl after heaping bowl of Fudgy Pistachio Crunch ice cream in their presence?

Hmmmmmm? That’s a tough one.

If I’m dieting but my spouse is not, does that give me the right to make my wife suffer right along with me? You bet it does! Misery loves company.

And in all fairness, if my wife is dieting, I believe I have an obligation to be supportive. As she enviously stares at the jelly donut in my hand, I seductively whisper, “If you give in to temptation quickly you can save a lot of time.” Unfortunately, my words of wisdom do not achieve the desired effect.

But it’s not just encouragement I offer, I also express genuine appreciation for my wife’s dietary accomplishments. Recently, my lovely bride walked in and happily exclaimed, “My diet is working! I’ve lost three pounds!”

I smiled sweetly and said, “Don’t worry, you’ll find them.”

Taking offense, she sniffed, “Unlike all the hair you’ve lost which is gone forever.”

And there you have it. Undeniable proof that dieting has an unmatched ability to pour cold water on the warm glow of marital bliss.

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