Pacific Northwest | June 22, 2003Pacific Northwest MagazineJune 22, home
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Don't Show, Don't Tell
A catch-me-if-you-can diet we can count on

I've invented a new diet. Unfortunately, it's a diet that will only work for me. But after reading about it, you may be able to create your own version.

Over the years I have managed to pack on a few extra pounds. My greatest fear is this scenario: One day I'm watching the evening news and some reporter comes on to do the required daily story about Americans getting too fat. While the reporter is telling us that some Americans weigh more than entire families in other countries, the camera shows random shots of people walking down the street. These aren't all the usual people you see walking down the street. No, these are only the fat people. Often, their large stomachs are sticking out from under their shirts and hanging over their pants. The pants are spandex and they're almost falling off. These people are also typically eating ice cream cones or greasy hamburgers.

Fortunately, the camera doesn't show these people's faces, but I suspect that anyone who personally knows these folks can recognize them. And that is what I am afraid of.

"Hey, didn't I see you on television the other night?" I imagine someone asking me in the supermarket checkout line. When I say, "Oh, you must be mistaken," the someone will shout real loud: "No, you were the guy whose belly was hanging over his black spandex pants. And you were eating an ice cream bar just like this one!" The fellow shopper grabs the box of Bob's Pure Cream Fat Bars out of my cart to show the entire store.

Actually, I don't have to worry about people grabbing fat bars out of my shopping cart as much as I have to worry about the Truly Unpleasant Mrs. Johnston getting on my case about weight gain. With that in mind, I invented my new diet. I call it "If Mrs. Johnston Doesn't See Me Eat It, It Doesn't Count" diet. As the name implies, I can eat whatever I want as long as Mrs. Johnston doesn't sneak up behind me and shout, "Are you eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich?!?" If the Wife From Hell doesn't catch me, the fat calories don't count.

Let's say I'm able to have a fried baloney sandwich with mayo and mustard. In order for the diet to work, not only would I have to eat the sandwich without being caught, but also I couldn't leave any evidence behind. After thorough research, I found out that if Mrs. Johnston finds one piece of bread on the counter or any mayo on a knife or even that red plastic ring that goes around the baloney, then the calories go straight to my stomach and hang out the top of my spandex pants. But if everything is cleaned up and no mayo is stuck on the corner of my mouth, the calories won't count against me.

The one drawback to my diet is that our dog, Rex The Walking Stomach, shares my love of good sandwiches, and he stations himself next to me in the kitchen. To keep him quiet, I'm forced to feed him crusts of bread. He seems to know that if Mrs. Johnston finds out I'm eating, the diet won't work.

Sometimes I am able to practice my diet while Mrs. Johnston is busy doing those mysterious things that wives and mothers are always doing. I'll grab two pieces of bread and layer one side with peanut butter and the other with jelly and put my dietary theory to work, maybe with a glass of milk. About that time, Rex The Walking Stomach wanders in because he's heard his favorite noises: a bread wrapper being opened and jar lids being unscrewed. He stations himself right next to my legs and we practice the fundamentals of my new diet.

Now, if I can get Rex to clean up the crumbs after his snack so Mrs. Johnston doesn't find them, he will start dropping pounds like me.

Steve Johnston is a retired Seattle Times staff reporter. He can be reached at Paul Schmid is a Times staff artist.

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