February 22, 2002
The Monotony Diet


Thursday lunch hour.

I am parked in the empty CADD cubicle, as usual, with my laptop, a Tupperware container full of apple and orange slices, and an open can of Slim Fast. It is the same lunch, with only minor variations  --  a bag of baby carrots here, a Chinese Chicken Salad there, a couple of yellow plums when they're in season  --  that I've eaten every weekday for more than a year now.I call it "The Monotony Diet."

Midway through the hour JoAnne wanders past my cubicle, carrying her Weight Watchers Chicken Tamale Casserole, fresh from the microwave, and a can of Diet Coke. She frowns at my spartan lunch and shakes her head. 

"I don't know how you can stand to eat the exact same thing every day," she says. "The monotony would drive me crazy." 

And she heads down the hallway to her office to enjoy her 2 Protein/Milk, 1/2 Fruit/Vegetable, 1 Bread and 20 Bonus Calories. Her tone is friendly but her message is clear. You're doing it wrong.

Over the past twelve months I've had similar exchanges with a lot of people: the Jenny Craig people ... the Dean Ornish people ... the USDA Food Guide Pyramid people ... and lots and lots of the Weight Watchers people. Ever since I started writing about weight loss and fitness issues last year, after David and I got engaged and I realized that I was going to look like the back side of a Schwann's delivery van in my wedding dress unless I got off my big spongelike butt and DID something about it, I've been hearing from others interested in sharing their stories of weight loss. They write impassioned, eloquent e-mails, all about carbohydrates and ketosis and monounsaturated fats. They explain the difference betwen their eating plan and other eating plans. They send me recipes and links and coupons for vitamin supplements. Most of them are nice about it, and I learn something useful from them, and I'm glad to hear from them. 

Others aren't quite so nice about it. They never come right out and say that they think The Monotony Diet is stoopid ... but if you read between the lines, again, the message is pretty clear.

You're doing it wrong.

But it's OK. I think you need to be a bit of a zealot in order to succeed at any weight loss program. After all, have you ever heard somebody say I lost fifty pounds and I feel great ... but I don't think my diet is working? I think it's important to passionately believe in whatever diet/weight loss system/eating plan you're following, or else it doesn't have a prayer of succeeding. JoAnne, for instance, has been going to Weight Watchers for two months now, and it's clear that she thrives on the structure and the social support of an organized weight loss system. Counting points and going to meetings is what works for her.

And in my case, monotony is what works for me.

Too many choices confuse me. Too much thinking about food weakens my resolve. Too much fuss and muss and preparation frustrates me. I like to get up in the morning and know exactly what I'm having for breakfast and lunch that day ... because it's the same thing I had yesterday, and the day before that, and the day before that. Dinner, the Open-Ended Meal of the Day when I can pretty much eat anything I want as long as it's within reason, is what prevents 'monotony' from turning into 'just-shoot-me-now drudgery.'  Plus I can't even begin to imagine the horror of standing in front of a big group of people and confessing that I snuck into the kitchen at 2 a.m. and ate half a tub of Cool Whip Lite with my fingers.

(An Internet journal is so much more PRIVATE, don'tyouknow.)

It's not like I'm breaking any land/speed records in weight loss at the moment right now, anyway. Those six extra holiday pounds are still clinging to me like an old Pep Club sweater: uncomfortable, unflattering and destined for the junk heap as soon as the weather warms up. The Monotony Diet is keeping me at a nice safe plateau until David and I can start bike riding in earnest. Another couple of weeks  --  once it's still daylight at 6:30 p.m.  --  and we'll be able to ride in the evenings after work, the way we did last year. And that's when the weight will really start to disappear. The Monotony Diet is only a small part of it: it's the combination of The Monotony Diet and exercise that got me into that wedding dress last summer. And it's the combination of The Monotony Diet and exercise that will get me into that string bikini before Journalcon. 

(Or maybe just into a nice Size 12 pantsuit.)

It's like any major lifestyle change. For every person (like me) who gets sober alone, you have another two hundred people who believe A.A. is the only way. For every person (like me) who meets her husband-to-be in an AOL chat room, you have another fifty people who meet each other the old fashioned way (on a barstool). And for every person (like me) who is losing weight with Slim Fast and exercise ...

... you have a Weight Watchers devotee who is sneaking into the office kitchen at 3 p.m. for a bag of Oreos.

Have a great weekend, everybody!





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except for BEV.
BEV has never written to me and said 'you're doing it wrong.'
thank you, BEV.