The Diet-Book Diet


On a business trip to Denver a few years ago I ran into a takeout joint that specialized in roughage. Late for a meeting, I grabbed a salad and pulled a bottle out of a barrel labeled “Health Drinks.” I ate on the run and downed my drink in a few gulps…and suddenly found myself skipping up the street! I loved my life and Denver and the amazing Denver people and oh man those mountains, have you seen those mountains?? I had transformed into an incredible exclamation point! I talked so fast in the meeting I needed an interpreter.

I don't think I even blinked for the next 48 hours. The “health drink,” it turns out, was packed with drugs like taurine and multiple doses of caffeine. And sugar aplenty. The only missing was a hypodermic needle. And kids—kids—drink this stuff 16 or even 20 ounces at a time. 

Most of us have a backward way of eating. We think of what’s bad for us, and cut it out. Or else we look for ingredients that might be good for us, ignoring what else is in there. Why else would we drink diet sodas and energy drinks? We think these substitutes for food, along with the latest diet, will make us skinny. And when they only make us fatter we drink more diet sodas and more chemistry-set health drinks and buy more diet books.

I should write the Diet Book Diet. Eat nothing but all-natural, made-from-trees diet books for a month.

Meanwhile, here’s Uncle Jay’s Diet Plan: pig out. Drink your soda with sugar in it. Skip anything with “health” on the label. Have a steak. Drink a milkshake. I’m really good at this. Nobody can pig out like me. So why am I so skinny? I don’t pig out as a habit. I pig out as an exception. Instead of eating like an idiot and then trying to cut out calories here and there, I eat sensibly and give myself a feast day every few weeks. This isn’t cheating. It’s part of the rules.

I didn't write those rules. My body did.

We worship a host of false idols in our culture, like “safety” and vengeance and the Pill That Will Make Everything Right. Oh, I have my share of false idols. I won’t tell you what they are or give you their Web addresses. But I have true idols as well, like Aristotle and Montaigne and the athletes who have run their age up Moosilauke.

I feast on the false idols now and then. But my primary nutrition comes from the real ones.