My only child is almost 5, and I still haven’t lost the baby weight. Sometimes I can celebrate my curves and feel comfortable in my 40-year-old body with its pooches and cellulite, but other times (bathing suit shopping, for instance), I rage and mourn for my skinny 16-year-old body that I took for granted as I filled it with nachos and Slurpees and gained not an ounce. Those days are long over, alas, and I must face the fact that I cannot stuff my face in bed in front of the TV (as fun as that would be) without suffering dire health consequences. Every so often, about once a month actually, I tell myself that this is it. I am finally going to lose this weight. And so I wait ‘til the following Monday, and I start a diet. I’ve done this so many times that I’ve noticed a distinct pattern to my dieting.
This is what happens when I (try to) diet:
1. I tell everyone that I am not actually going on a diet. I am making a “lifestyle change,” because diets don’t work, right? But everyone knows I’m still going on a diet. Except I’m not, but I am.
2. After my first meal on my new “lifestyle change,” I weigh myself, but only naked, after I pee and with dry hair, and then I still subtract a pound in case I have to poop later. Come on, if I choked down an egg white for breakfast, I deserve to have already lost at least five pounds.
3. After two healthy meals, I begin to proselytize about my new diet to anyone who will listen. I become the champion of this diet. I make Pinterest boards about it. I write about it. My Facebook statuses detail it in depth. In other words, I become extremely annoying.
4. I tear through my cabinets throwing out all the white sugar, processed foods, gluten, animal products, carbs, GMOs, non-organic food, and you know, whatever doesn’t comply with the current food fad I have fallen victim to. I declare these unwanted items “POISONS!” and “TOXINS!” I believe this with all my heart.
5. When I’m invited to a dinner party, I am that asshole who brings her own food in little glass containers and tells everyone that she has special dietary needs.
6. After a couple days when I don’t lose weight, I decide to do some kind of an herbal cleanse or a juice fast or drink nothing but coffee with butter in it, or any such nonsense that makes me feel like I might get quicker results at any cost. But after a couple hours, I pretty much just get a stomachache and feel lightheaded and go back to eating again.
7. I start taking walks. After each walk, I weigh myself. Then I get mad when I look up calories burned on a one-mile walk and see that it’s like 40. I calculate that in order to eat what I want and lose weight that I will need to walk to Key West and back every single day.
8. Alternative weight loss treatments suddenly become very appealing, so I make an appointment with a holistic doctor, acupuncturist or a cranial sacral gluten-cleansing hypnotist. They promise me miraculous results after a long discussion about my bowel habits. Alternative health practitioners are really concerned about poop. Then they tell me to eat more leafy greens, and I leave a hundred bucks short but proudly carrying a Ziploc bag of powdered grasshopper shells.
9. I decide to start taking that new supplement that the server in that pizza place down the street told me about because she saw it on one of those talk shows with a doctor. She swears it really works. It costs $29 for a bottle of 14 tablets, but if it works, it will be totally worth it.
10. When people tell me that I’m not losing weight because I’m gaining muscle, I want to throw them down an elevator shaft, with the strength from my new muscles.
11. On day three of my “lifestyle change,” I repeatedly try on the size 2, high-waisted, acid-washed Z. Cavariccis that I saved from ninth grade when I was 110 pounds just to see if one day I might be able to fit into them again. I can get them to my knees, barely.
12. By day five, I decide I have been magically cured of every ailment I have ever suffered, and it is all because of this diet! I don’t even have any cravings.
13. Lesson learned—don’t try weight loss solutions you saw on TV. Mixing chia seeds with water and trying to drink the resulting mess, which can only be described as a glass of snot with little crunchy bits, is an appetite suppressant for sure. You will be so nauseated that the mere thought of consuming anything else will make you gag for the rest of the day.
14. A week passes, and I begin to wonder if chocolate chips even count. They’re so small. They can’t possibly have calories. So, cool! I can eat several handfuls of them. Done!
15. When is cheat day? Wait. How is there no cheat day on this diet? This is bullshit. There is cheat day. Everyone deserves a cheat day. It’s actually good for your metabolism. Did you know that? You have to confuse your body so it keeps losing weight. That’s why I’m about chow down this macaroni and cheese and this apple pie and ice cream. It will help me lose weight. Besides, I am taking powdered grasshopper shells and the expensive mystery supplement. I can eat whatever I want.
16. When I’m invited to another dinner party, I eat everything—except bread. I skip the bread because that makes me feel virtuous since I am on a lifestyle change. I can just take another walk and burn 1 percent of the calories I just consumed at the dessert buffet.
17. I realize that, in fact, the only diet I’ve ever been successful on is the Low Crab Diet. I don’t like shellfish very much, so I pretty much never eat crabs, although I actually wouldn’t turn down a nice crab cake if someone offered me one.
18. Okay, so I fell off the wagon. Next Monday, I’m going paleo vegan. Wait, no, I’ll be PMSing that week, so it doesn’t count. I’ll start the week after that.
Unfortunately, the only way to lose weight is to exercise a lot, eat a balanced diet, get stranded on a deserted island, or contract a dangerous intestinal parasite. Since none of those things are realistic, I’ll try to stick to eating bowls of pasta in cream sauce in moderation and accepting myself as is, at least until I need a new swimsuit or until a popular star tells me that grass clippings and holistic locusts are the secret to her flat abs.