The skinny on trying to diet in the face of American food

Attempting to go healthy while in the land of excess is foolhardy, with no winner emerging from the fight

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 11 August, 2016, 4:59pm
UPDATED : Friday, 12 August, 2016, 2:19am

Going on holiday to the USA from time to time is a very good idea. There is so much to see and do there, the people are, for the most part, very friendly, and even the immigration arrangements at the Los Angeles airport have improved considerably now that clever machines have largely taken over from overworked humans. The price of this latter convenience is inevitably some loss of privacy: the United States government now knows so much about us all there is a suspicion our next colonoscopy will not require a hospital visit, but rather will be done remotely from a small room in Garden Road. But let us not be mean-spirited.

Going on a diet from time to time is also a very good idea, particularly if it is combined with abstinence from alcohol. It trims away some flab, leaving one less out of breath when climbing stairs or bending to retrieve a fallen object. Refraining from excessive consumption gives the body a chance to flush itself out and regain a more natural shape and size. Together with some exercise, the benefits are obvious.

But trying to go on a diet while on holiday in the USA is a very, very bad idea. These two forces are fundamentally opposed to each other and are engaged in a fight to the death. Your body is their arena and neither side is giving any quarter. This truth comes from bitter experience.

Facebook friends will recall that I went on a severe diet a few years ago when the needle on the weighing machine touched 100 kg for the first time. For a person of my height and build, this was such a scandalous figure that I was shamed into an all-out effort. To keep focused, I posted the monthly progress for all to see. After struggling for just over one year, the scales read a smidgin below 80, a heroic effort indeed. A modest “bounce back” was inevitable, so it was a pleasant surprise when the scales levelled off in the low 80s which seemed to be a steady, if sturdy, figure.

And then came last year’s holiday in the USA, and before you could say “put that spoon down”, my weight was over 90 and climbing. When the dreaded three digit number was barely a pie away, it was time to launch another diet. Starting from Reunification Day (July 1 you dolt!), out went the booze and carbohydrates, in came the healthy living and gallons of water.

For three weeks all went well, the excess was melting away, and then came – yes, you guessed it – the cross-Pacific flight to California. There is something about the portions served at meal times there. Two scrambled eggs with a couple of rashers of bacon, plus juice and black coffee, where’s the harm in that? But lo and behold, someone has added a huge wodge of hash browns to the side of the plate with toast on the side. You order a small steak for lunch, and the next minute, two waiters are carrying in a tray bearing half a cow. There is no let-up at dinner either; the pressure is on to eat your way to oblivion.

By the time it’s time to board the flight back, the result after one month (three weeks of dieting, one week of USA eating) was a draw, and the two fighters had boxed themselves to a standstill.

They say inside every fat man there is a thin man trying to get out. Could someone please come and rescue mine?