I celebrated my birthday recently. The fun included visits with not one but two of my very favourite BBWs. (Big, Beautiful Women.) Imagine, if you will, my shock at discovering that neither was big! Hey! This is not the kind of surprise one wants on one’s birthday. If any fat were to be melted off, by rights it should’ve been mine.
The ex-BBW #1 told me she’d quit red meat and carbs for two months and lost 30 pounds. 30 pounds? OMG. This might put me off my birthday cake.
The ex-BBW #2 had just returned from a movie shoot in the Maritimes – First Assistant Director on a German production that took place on a big boat. She was weather-beaten, brown and skinny. She’d brought (along with the cake) some of her good Big Woman clothes for me. I reciprocated with a size 10 de la Renta I was saving for the day when I might be a 10 again. It looked terrific on her, especially when cinched with a red, bejewelled belt I’d saved in the hope that someday I might be able to hitch it closed around my waist again.
Here are some diets that might have once worked for me but won’t these days:
The big D diet – Death (of others, not your own, which would put a different slant on the term 'wasting away') and Disease and Divorce. Excellent for people who tend to stop eating when sad, but not recommended for those poor souls who eat for comfort. Plus, now that I no longer seek misery in order to be a writer (having deduced that misery will find me) I can’t depend on the Big D.
Heart Break – My sister’s favourite. Now that she’s post menopausal, though, she reckons she’ll need another approach to getting thin. She’s thinking cancer + miraculous recover = weight loss. Maybe, although it might depend on how much your hair weighs.
Felix’s Can Do diet - Caffeine, Alcohol and Nicotine. He once used this diet, supplemented with grilled steaks slapped between two pieces of bread, to write a novel in 11 days. This diet would kill him now.
I have dieted. Successfully, too. Once, I attained my goal weight at Weight Watchers. As a full-time writer, however, I am not able to go to Weight Watchers because of the unfortunate way in which they italicize the word ‘each’ in their cookbooks. I can’t stand it.
Example: add one tsp oregano and one tsp cayenne each to the broth…
Don’t they get that we must emphasize the word in our minds when we see italics? 6 ounces turkey and six ounces beef each…I can’t stand it!
Also, Weight Watchers usually has one sad sack ferret-faced female who has turned it into her cult, and who must diss her husband at each meeting, and must speak at each meeting, no matter what, always relaying TMI! I hate her. I would like to take a buzz saw and an ice pick, each, and … well, let’s face it. I’m a writer. I don’t want to go out, line up with my fellow fatties and weigh in, chat about fat and then come home. I want to stay right here and get thin.
Yes, that’s it. Obviously I’m not about to be hired to AD a movie, so I can’t whittle away any poundage the way my filmmaker friend did. I need a Diet for Writers.
A quick perusal of the world wide web tells me that nothing much has changed in the land of dieting.
There are still miracle pills to kill fat cells, boost metabolism or suppress the appetite. These are the female versions of ‘grow your penis bigger overnight’, I’ve decided, so they amount to nothing but more money wasted in the pursuit of a waist.
Wait! Here’s something new: As far as regular, pill-free dieting goes, the most amazing thing I discovered was the Gandhi Diet. Do you think I jest? I do not. On a website devoid of sarcasm or humour, I read the following: One girl decided to fast until the colours in her apt. building were changed. At first she wasn’t believed but after one week the colours were changed. She reports ‘It was very effective. Now I am anorexic and I am fasting to improve the social acceptance of anorexic people in my community.”
Perhaps I should turn to the books in my personal library. It's been awhile since I've leafed through the never-to-be-equalled women’s book of humour, Titters, edited by Deanne Stillman and Anne Beatts.
Here are a couple of the least offensive of Gilda Radner’s diet tips:
- Stub out your cigarette in your food before you've finished eating.
- Use rusty silverware.
- Have a picnic near a car accident.
Let’s forget about organized diets for a moment and look, instead, at the kind of food writers tend to imbibe. In my case, it needs to be easy. I do not have time, when I’m writing, to prepare food. I have been known to reject a microwave dinner because I have to ‘peel back the cellophane’ after 2 minutes of microwaving and microwave for another 2. This strikes me as too much work. My favourite writing food? Peanut butter on a spoon.
My characters, on the other hand, dine on a lot of terrific food. So far all three of the heroines in my two published books and my latest WIP have sipped champagne, only the best, if you please. Sirloin tips and lobster meat show up on their plates. They eat as much as they like and never get fat, because they’re fictional characters in escapist fantasies. Strawberries with whipped cream and chocolate sauce is usually dessert.
In real life, we must ban whipped cream and chocolate sauce from the kitchen and the bedroom.
In search of healthy recipes, I peek inside my Weight Watcher’s cookbooks. Am I exaggerating the irritation their italics cause? WW- Dash each salt and pepper...
Dash each chilli powder, ground cumin and oregano leaves...
How stupid do they think we are? I hate you, WW.
Next I consult the Sylvia Plath Cookbook, which, I confess, is also to be found within the pages of Titters. Again, I will give you a sample of it, leaving the most offensive stuff to those who want to read the whole hilarious book:
From The Sylvia Plath Cookbook
To make crust, cut 1 cup shortening into 3 cups flour. Add 1 tsp. salt and ¼ cup cold water, a little at a time. Stir until dough has achieved correct consistency. Chill. Roll out on floured board.
To make filling, peel and core 6 or 7 apples (about 3 cups) Slice into uncooked pie shell. Add ½ cup sugar, ¼ tsp. salt, ½ tsp. cinnamon, ¼ tsp nutmeg and ¼ cup lemon juice. Dot with 1 tbsp. butter. Top with piecrust. Set oven at 450. Do not light gas.
It’s been awhile since I’ve cracked the pages of the CanLit Foodbook: compiled and illustrated by Margaret Atwood in aid of P.E.N. international and The Writers’ Development Trust.
Here is a poem which reminds me why I no longer cook:
Everything here’s a weapon:
I pick up a meat fork,
plunging it in,
a heavy male thrust
In two hands
I heft a stone-
ware plate, heavy
Rummage the cupboards:
red pepper, rape-
seed oil, Drano
I’ll wire myself
into a circuit:
the automatic perc,
the dishwasher, the
socket above the sink
I’ll smile an electric
whoever touches me is dead
Here is a poem that reminds me why I no longer eat out. It was written by a colleague of mine, who worked in the student cafeteria of the Banff Centre while I was attending the Creative Writing Workshop, back, as they say, in the day. Her name is Erin Moure and she's brilliant.
Songs of the Permafrost Waitress
These days every room I step into
becomes a restaurant: people arrive in clusters,
sit down, begin to eat
and converse seriously, not noticing
the jaded décor, coffee stains
on the linoleum, the waitress with her frayed collar
and bandaids, against health regulations,
looking beat or beaten, fumbling
the used plates.
sometimes it's too much to tolerate, i want
to wave my arms, tell people to leave, they are
not my customers, i didn't ask them here,
what they are eating costs too much
takes years to prepare;
instead i say
eat slowly; you
are only served once, it is
From Robert Kroetsch’s ‘Sketches of a Lemon’ to recipes like Graeme Gibson’s 'Pot roast with Chocolate', to the chapter called ‘Eating People is Wrong’ (Cannibalism Canadian Style) and the piece called ‘Del’s Funeral Attack’ from Lives of Girls and Women by Alice Munro, this book is a feast of words.
Now I’m getting somewhere! I could spend the day, even the week, reading this book, full off anecdotes, recipes and excerpts by Canadian authors.
Of which I am one! Why resist? We of the Great White North love our bacon, our maple syrup, our flapjacks and beef!
Felix, (the cook in our household) and I are one month into the ‘no red meat, no carb’ diet ex-BBW #1 invented. Yes, it’s basically the Atkins revisited, but cutting out carbs can only do one good. Since we are so hermetic, we are rarely tempted by the many faces of carbohydrates out there in the wild world. We live, instead, on the world wide web, which can be as peanut-free, carb-free or sugar-free as desired.
It seems to be working. We certainly haven’t lost 15 pounds, more like 6 each, but perhaps my friend assumed an amount of exercise would naturally go along with the zero carbs. Time to walk to the library, I guess, and take out ten books, divide equally into two piles of five books each and walk home. I’ll give my new heroine, Sarah, a fancy five star meal and then, perhaps, I’ll eat my words.
Diet disasters? Ponderings on poundage? Favourite feasts from fiction? Do share!
xoxo Madeline Moore