Monday, February 21, 2011

COLUMN: Weightwatching

Well, I was worried that the moment I turned 40, life would become an immediate downhill slide into the sweet and loving embrace of death. It's good to know that karma hasn't let me down. A tragedy of epic proportions has befallen me, and there's little I can now do to prevent the remainder of my life from being a cacophony of misery and woe. "It's a new day," indeed: My girlfriend has joined Weight Watchers.

Now, before I open up myself up to any number of lawsuits, letters to the editor, and/or lynching parties requesting my head placed on any number of sticks, a clarification: Weight Watchers is the only diet plan on Earth whose positive results I have witnessed first-hand. From what I know, it is a cherished, intelligent, and scientifically validated weight loss program. It's also an organization that appears to care about the health and welfare of its members. Plus Jennifer Hudson looks totally bangin' now, so good on them. Just so we're perfectly clear, I am in NO WAY, SHAPE OR FORM criticizing Weight Watchers or any of their programs and/or members.

I just hate it when the people around me get sucked into their vortex of healthy living. Let me explain.

I know that Weight Watchers works because when I was a kid, I saw my mom lose 98 lbs. on their program. She was such the ideal member, in fact, that she was one of the finalists for Illinois Weight Watcher of the Year back in the day, and had to go give speeches and motivate other members towards their goals. I was, and still am, proud of my mom for her accomplishments.

What I wasn't figuring, though, was how her success at Weight Watchers would destroy my adolescence.

It started without any warning. There I was, sitting in front of my trusty Apple IIe, innocently attacking some orcs or something, when I felt my stomach growling. I put the game on pause, ran out to the kitchen, opened the cabinet to grab some snacks, and... the horror.

No chips. No cookies. No Twinkies, Cup Cakes, or oatmeal creme pies. At my mother's silent encouragement, Little Debbie had just packed up and moved out overnight, ending our relationship with nary a goodbye. In her place? Little circles of marginally-edible packing foam that someone somewhere had the gall to call "rice cakes." I took one bite and barely made it to the trash can.

Now, I'm not even a big fan of Rice Krispie Treats -- and that's rice held together by molten marshmallow goodness. Imagine that same rice MINUS the marshmallowy goodness (and, heck, ANY kind of taste whatsoever,) being held together by what I can only surmise to be the dark power of Lucifer.

And that was only the beginning. The lies came next. Some of the better ones:

"After a while, Diet Coke tastes better than regular Coke." LIE. Not only is Coke the world's greatest liquid and the key to my life-force, Diet Coke tastes like a horrible, horrible error at the Coke factory.

"You'll NEVER believe this sausage is made of TURKEY!" LIE. I like turkey. I like it just fine. But call a spade a spade, people. Turkey tastes like turkey. And no matter if it's cut to look like bacon or sausage or a cheeseburger, it still tastes like turkey. Don't try to fake me out. Just say, "Hey, we're eating turkey tonight." I'll go "yum!" But if you go, "we're having bacon and sausage tonight" and then present me with a deformed turkey, I won't be amused.

"If you season this baked zucchini juuuuust right, it tastes exactly like a french fry!" LIE. Either that or my mom never ever figured out how to season the baked zucchini juuuuust right, because it pretty much juuuuust sucked.

It came to a head one night when I got home from school to find the house smelling of what could only be described as a culinary experiment gone horribly, horribly awry.

"You'll love this," my mom lied. I'm not sure what she was taking out of the oven. It was green, spongiform, and quite possibly alive. "It's a celery casserole!" she exclaimed proudly.

My mom served me first and tidied up the kitchen as I sat staring at this plate of multiple greenish hues of unknown origin.

"Nope, I can't do this," I said. "This looks like puke, it smells like puke, it is NOT going in my mouth."

I don't remember exactly what followed, but it wasn't good, and probably involved finger wagging, voices going up by half octaves, and the dread usage of my full name (Mom only ever pulls out my middle name in the heat of battle.) There was no choice -- I had to eat it.

I put one forkload in my mouth, which was exactly long enough for my tongue to go, "No, no, this shouldn't be here at all." It even FELT gross. Mushy casserole mush loaded with bits of crisp, crunchety celery. You know the guy on the Food Network whose job it is to travel the world and eat incredibly disgusting exotic food? Even he wouldn't have been able to keep this nonsense down.

I started whining again by Bite #2. By the time I'd managed two or three more, I won't kid you -- there may have been tears involved. I tried swallowing without chewing and nearly died when celery began pasting itself to my esophagus. Finally my mom made her way to the dinner table with her own glop of goo. "You're so dramatic," she scolded me. "This is really good. See?"

That was when I got to watch her take a bite. And hold it in her mouth. And try to go, "Mmmmmm! See?" She tried, she really did. Instead, she spit hers out onto the plate and said, "Okay, where should we order pizza from?"

Even though my mom came to HER senses, what's to say my girlfriend's not headed down that disastrous slope? One of the best parts of going to her house is that there's usually always some kind of cookie/cake/ice creamy deliciousness in her kitchen. It's only a matter of time before I go her freezer for some ice cream and find myself staring at a box marked "Pasteurized Frozen Digestible Tofu Non-Dairy Dessert Product." Et tu, Amy?

She's already got her points counter and menu planner. The other day we went out to eat and she pulled packets of Truvia out of her purse -- just like my mom. Next, it'll be packets of fat-free salad dressing, trust me.

My life is now deja vu, but I suppose I can't complain. There's nothing wrong with taking strides to live better. And if there's one person in this picture who needs to watch weight, it's yours truly. Instead, though, I'll live in denial and continue to whine that my girlfriend's turning into my mother, despite her promise of NEVER presenting me with a celery casserole.

I just think she'd be better off focusing on REAL problems -- like finding out why all my clothes appear to be constantly shrinking and ill-fitting.

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