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Subway, soup and South Beach: Sampling fad diets

Joey Falco | Tuesday, February 3, 2004

It’s no secret. America is fatter than the would-be diabetic love child of Kathy Bates and Luciano Pavarotti. We lead notoriously sedentary lifestyles that make Christopher Reeve seem like an Olympic athlete, and we complement that with the eating habits of Shamu. It’s also no secret, though, that Americans are always on the lookout for the quickest, easiest way to solve any problem.Enter the weird, wild world of instant gratification diets. From the fairly popular, carbohydrate-loathing Atkins Diet to the absolutely preposterous Cabbage Soup Diet, nutritionists, dieticians and crackpots alike have spent the past several years forcing just about anything down the throats of innocent, obese Americans in the hope that it might help them lose a few chins.Now maybe it’s just me, but I simply cannot comprehend what could drive a person to subject himself to several weeks of eating nothing but cabbage soup, vegetable juice, grapefruit or Subway sandwiches.However, my mother taught me never to be a bigot, so I felt determined to at least attempt to understand the culture of this peculiar species of human. In the process, I hoped to even serve all of humanity by determining once and for all which diet deserves the coveted title of “Still Stupid, But At Least A Little Better Than The Other Ones.”Day One – The Atkins Diet: I figured I’d start things off simple, because, honestly, how hard could it be to play Fred Flintstone and stuff myself with red meat and cheese all day? Unfortunately, while passing through the lower level of LaFortune, I was strangely entranced by the sweet-smelling fumes wafting from Sbarro’s. So, with a symbolic stomp on the grave of Dr. Atkins himself, I helped myself to a slice of Sicilian. Ruling: About as college-friendly as meningitis.Day Two – The South Beach Diet: While perusing the general guidelines to this increasingly popular regimen, my eye was instantly drawn to the fact that alcohol was forbidden during the first two months. I instantly pulled a Fahrenheit 451 on this book and continued my divine quest. Ruling: So not worth it.Day Three – The Grapefruit Diet: Voluntarily consume less than 800 calories per day while including half a grapefruit with each pathetic meal. Where can I sign up? But though it might work well at first, but it’s not very smart, and you’ll eventually realize that you are probably better off without it. Ruling: This diet is about as straight as a hobbit.Day Four – The Carbohydrate-Addict’s Diet: Just glancing at the name of this miracle meal plan sent shivers down my spine. However, upon experimenting with its strict routine, which essentially consisted of starving oneself all day in preparation for a “Reward Meal” that would include one serving of carbohydrates, I found myself gnawing on my own arm for nourishment throughout the day. Ruling: Promotes cannibalism.Day Five – The Hollywood 48-Hour Diet: If it was endorsed by Hollywood, it had to be good, so I purchased this 32-ounce plastic bottle of juice that was intended to feed me for two days. The plan only provided for an intake of 400 calories per day, and all of it came from this so-called miracle juice, a pale orange concoction that tasted remarkably similar to swan droppings. Ruling: After two days on this diet, even Rosie O’Donnell will bear a striking resemblance to Kerri Strug.Sadly, as my arduous and noble quest came to an end, I still had yet to uncover the miracle diet that might one day deliver the human race to salvation. In fact, I had actually gained three pounds and an unexpected phobia of sliced citrus. I did, however, learn some valuable information that could quite possibly save the Notre Dame student body from an imminent future of obesity.First, a bit of eating etiquette. Just because campus-wide theology discussions might desperately offer free pizza in the hopes of luring students does not mean that God wants you to eat it. Even He knows it will make you fat. Also, cut back on the soda. And the pop, for that matter. It offers absolutely no health benefits, and as far as I’m concerned, it fails miserably at even quenching the slightest bit of thirst. Try water. It actually tastes a lot like Keystone Light.Finally, do your best to limit your trips to the pasta bar. A single serving of the majority of what you’ll find there contains well over the total number of calories that an active male should consume in an entire day, and it no doubt plays a crucial role in the fostering of the Freshman Fifteen. Because of this, I ask that all of you join me in tonight’s protest of the dining hall’s nutrition standards.There will be free pizza for all who attend.

Joey Falco is a freshman double-majoring in political science and Spanish. His column appears every other Wednesday. He can be contacted at jfalco@nd.edu.The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.