Opinion – 2/2/2007

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 2, 2007

The Panolian: OPINIONS

 From the 02/02/07 issue of The Panolian        

Week of ‘dieting hell’ triggers Pop Tart fixation

Welcome to a week of dieting hell.

I hesitate to write about this subject too often for fear that readers might think that the only topics ever discussed within these paragraphs are my eating habits (or lack thereof). The hesitation only lasted a few seconds though, as the hunger pangs emanating from my stomach broke my train of thought and I began typing fortuitously.

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I am in the early stages of a three-month diet and all I can think about is food. Not all foods, just unhealthy foods. I was walking through the grocery store yesterday looking for healthy alternatives that I could incorporate into my diet plan when a strange phenomenon occurred. I call it a diet mirage. It struck me as I was reading the nutritional information on a Pop Tarts box.

Innocently enough, I had started in the oatmeal section and, before I knew it, I had inched my way past the breakfast bars and wound up in W.K. Kellogg’s pre-packaged, toaster-ready answer to French breakfast pastry’ the Pop Tart (according to the label there is nothing nutritious, healthy, or dietetic in a Pop Tart, but I already knew that’ that’s the point).

The diet mirage kicked in as soon as I walked through the automatic doors. Like a parched man in a barren dessert, at every turn of every aisle I envisioned a cool, palm-laden, water-filled oasis’ though these oases took the form of junk food. Fact: Foods that are bad for you have much better packaging. They jump off of the shelves and beg to be purchased. Healthy foods, on the other hand, are wrapped in dull, boring, and unappetizing containers.

Case in point: the gosh-almighty Pop Tart. I haven’t eaten’ or wanted to eat’ a Pop Tart since I was in elementary school. Yesterday I was debating whether I should rip the box open and eat a few on the way to the cash register, or rub them all over my body. I did neither. I kept walking down the aisle looking for whole grains, fiber, and sugar substitutes.

The diet I have chosen this time around is one of my own making: a low-sugar, low-fat, nothing-fried, high-fiber hybrid diet I will heretofore now call the St. John Plan. I lost six pounds last week so something must be working.

The St. John Plan is a method I have developed over 10 years of failing at Sugar Busters, South Beach, The Zone Diet, calorie counting, no-fat diets, and Atkins.

I once tried Dr. Atkins’ torturous method of carbohydrate deprivation, and three weeks into the diet wrote this paragraph in my journal: "Every day I get an afternoon craving for a Milky Way bar. ‘Just eat some pork rinds or beef jerky’ they say. I tried that. Pork rinds are smelly and greasy, and it takes approximately 37 hours to chew one single piece of beef jerky. Note to future Atkins dieters: 50 pounds of dried beef or fried pig skins can’t come close to one tiny bite of a chocolaty, silky, heavenly, wonderfully delicious Milky Way bar’ Pure joy in a brown wrapper."

An obvious side-effect of the St. John Plan is the grocery-store mirage phenomenon. Sweet rolls never looked as good as they did yesterday in my local market. At one time during the visit I actually wondered what a chocolate-covered donut filled with Fritos would taste like. Note to reader: Don’t sign any wills, loans, or other important legal documents while you are on a diet.

Another side effect of my dieting is that everyone who reads your column knows you’re on a diet. Three times in the course of my grocery store visit I was asked how the diet is "coming along." One lady asked that question while I was holding the Pop Tart box. "How’s the diet coming along, Robert?"

"Take a guess," I said, as I picked up a box of Strawberry Milkshake Pop Tarts.

At this writing I have been dieting exactly 198 hours. That’s 11,882 minutes without a French fry, 7,132,920 seconds without an onion ring. No chips, dips, candy bars, cake, pie, or fried fish’ many of the things that make life worthwhile. Keep me in your prayers and’ come April’ pass the Pop Tarts.

For this week’s recipe, Vegetable Beef Soup, go to the blog on .


(Robert St.John is an author, chef, restaurateur, and world-class eater. He is the author of "A Southern Palate," "Deep South Staples," "Nobody’s Poet," "My South," and the newly released "Deep South Parties." He can be reached at . )

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