Saturday, November 3, 2007

Being More than We Ever Thought We Could Be

The good news is that I can still comfortably wear several of the items of clothing I wore in college. …The bad news is that they are all shoes.


A study that appeared last year in the New England Journal of Medicine found that the average American gains about one pound during the Thanksgiving to New Year's holiday, over-eating, season. That doesn't sound like much of a weight gain, considering the amount of pumpkin pie, gravy and stuffing most Americans stuff into themselves during those six weeks. The problem, though, is that despite our best New Year's resolutions, we never seem to lose that extra pound. And a one-pound-a-year weight gain can really add up. By the time we reach middle age we find we've gone from a "size 2" to "the size of 2."

I used to think that we vegetarians were immune from worries about being fat. I thought all vegetarians were skinny. Of course, that was back in the days when I could see my neck above my shirt collar. That was back when I could zip up my pants.

Now I have to face the fact that even my vegan diet won't save me from the inevitable. No, I don't eat gravy and stuffing, or even pumpkin pie—at least at the non-vegetarian holiday parties I go to. Instead, I stand by the nut bowl and consume 47 handfuls of roasted cashews. Gads. The net effect is just the same. I'm a veritable poster boy for the American holiday weight-gaining experience. It's amazing I don't gain two pounds every year.

Sometimes I wonder why all vegetarians aren't fat. If there's one thing we all have in common it's a love of food. And we all eat way more than the "normal" human beings around us. Last week, for example, I went to dinner with a group of vegetarians. We were at a restaurant known for large portions, but that didn't slow us down a bit. Between the 8 of us we ordered 12 entrees. (Count 'em—12!) Then we went out for desserts. I felt like we should have had a warning sign for other diners: "We're vegetarians. Don't get between us and food!"

Of course, I'm bad even by vegetarian standards. The other day at the office I was trying to squeeze the lunch I'd brought in onto two full-size dinner plates when a friend said sheepishly: "Gee, isn't that a lot of food?" I guess it was. No wonder I can't see my feet anymore. No wonder my parents just sent me sweat clothes big enough to house the circus.

Things have gotten so bad lately that I've started to look at the processed foods grocery stores stock for fat people. I've already tried vegan "lite" (grocers don't think we fat people can spell) mayonnaise and Thousand Island dressing. Not bad, but not exactly health food either. I had my eye on a jar of "Santa Cruz Fat Free Guacamole" until I read the label and realized it wasn't really guacamole (no avocados!) and it wasn't even fat-free (canola oil was a listed ingredient!). Grocers must think we fat people are stupid too.

I'm not sure what to do next. I looked into one of those weekend fasting retreats, but the price they quoted me was kind of high—and that didn't even include meals. Maybe I'll join a health club. Then again, maybe I should just resign myself to my place in history. I'll be the one in the back row, between the Michelin Man and the Goodyear Blimp. I'll have a spare tire around my waist too.

The year 2000 census tells us that there are now more than 283 million Americans. Nearly 55% of us are already fat, and collectively we're gaining 283 million pounds a year.

It's amazing the whole country doesn't just sink into the ocean.

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