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Jewish World Review June 8, 2004 / 19 Sivan, 5764

Lenore Skenazy

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Consumer Reports

Carb your enthusiasm | Whether or not the Atkins diet turns airy arteries into Elmer's glue sticks is not what we're here to discuss - even though that's what everyone else is discussing, since some guy is suing the Atkins folks for clogging his veins and hiking his cholesterol. But no, we're here to discuss why that guy was on Atkins in the first place.

According to the papers, he - a fella named Jody Gorran - went on the diet when he made the mighty leap from 140 to 148 pounds.

Excuse me - 148? Isn't that about what a bouquet of tulips weighs? Unless Mr. Gorran is the height of a Teletubby, he hardly sounds like a waddler.

And yet, probably most of the average-sized people you know are just like him: convinced that they've got to shed 5 or 10 pounds. You hear it all the time, "Ooh - if only I could get rid of these last 5 pounds!" Like they're carrying around a fruitcake.

Truth is: If they've only got a couple pounds to go, they should shut up already. They've reached the finish line. Time to pop a full-carb beer. No one's going to notice if they lose 5 pounds anyway, unless they do it by lopping off a limb.

So why are so many non-obese folks still obsessing about their diets?

Well, the health gurus say these dieters are admirable self-actualizers working hard to tone up and feel good and "get in touch with their bodies," blah-beddy, blah-beddy blah. But the real deal, I think, is that they are too in touch with their bodies. So in touch that they think 5 pounds will make a difference in their lives!

How on Earth can an incidental amount of fat change a person's life? News flash: It can't. But most Americans operate as if it can because they are desperate. They have come to believe that only a layer of cellulite stands between them and bliss, says Judith Wright, author of "There Must Be More Than This."

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"What happens," she says, "is that they think, 'If I just get thin, I'll feel good about myself.' "

When, to their great surprise, this doesn't actually happen, they don't think, "Hmm. Maybe that premise was incredibly shallow." They think, "Hmm. Maybe I didn't lose quite enough. But if I lose another 5 pounds - bingo!"

Of course, there is a huge industry out there trying to convince them that this is indeed the correct way to explain all discontent. Smug skinnies smirk from every ad. Former fatties show us their old pants as if they shed their problems with their paunches. And certainly, this is a society that's hard on fat people.

But is it so much harder on a 148-pound guy than it is on a guy who weighs 140? Mr. Gorran: It ain't.

We ladies, in fact, like a little heft on a guy. We like those Teletubbies' tummies. What we don't like is a guy who skips the hash browns because he thinks his thighs may be dimpling. So eat, Mr. Gorran. And eat, all you fairly normal-sized Americans! Eat and quit counting every cal and carb that crosses your lips! The secret to happiness lies not in a 5-pound loss. It lies in realizing you and only you will notice when your pants get a little tight. Everyone else will be concentrating on dessert.

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JWR contributor Lenore Skenazy is a columnist for The New York Daily News. Comment by clicking here.

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