On January 1, emblazoned on the cover of every popular magazine, we find words touting the latest miracle diet. And we are gullible souls; we buy and read and try. Those same magazines sabotage with a hundred pages of full-color, fattening foods. They feature Aunt Helen’s famous pecan pie.
Like millions of Americans, I am one of those people who whip off their glasses before stepping on the scale. Every ounce counts. One of six children, I am blessed with a fraternal twin sister. Being a twin invites daily comparison in almost all aspects of life. My sister is small, thin, and wiry. People divided us six children up into those who favored my father’s side of the family, thin, and those who favored my mother’s. Body types on my mother’s side were round. My older brother and I fit the maternal body type. Auntie Liz offered me sympathy in my perennial quest to remake my body. “You can’t make a greyhound out of a pug.”
In my childhood we weren’t as vitamin-conscious. It gave us considerably more latitude in trying peculiar remedies: weird diets. My first diet was one consisting entirely of bananas and milk. Next came the grapefruit and hard-boiled eggs diet, followed by one emphasizing drinking eight glasses of water, next one that allowed the participant to eat all the green beans she could hold, then the liquid formula food, counting pink and yellow and green squares, and figuring food exchanges. I have listened to a lecturer assert that a muffin made of an egg and dry bread crumbs is every bit as tempting as one made with butter, flour, sugar . . ..
Lamenting to my husband’s physician about this never-ending quest for a successful diet—one in which the dieter not only takes off extra weight, but keeps it off—I was assuaged by his observations. We humans are faced each day with complex, multi-faceted problems and we yearn for simple answers. He observed that some body types are gas-guzzlers, requiring much more fuel to perform their daily tasks than others. At yet another level we have not explored the long-term effects of starving our bodies, noting that in doing so, we may be training our bodies to overcompensate the next time we limit caloric intake. We humans in our caveman days were designed to be able to withstand periods of starvation. All in all, he concluded, we fail to recognize the multiple influences and interactions of heredity and environment.
Meanwhile a new discovery has hit the headlines. Our bodies have brown fat—a calorie-consuming, heat-generating, internal furnace. Researchers activated the brown fat in mice, causing a huge weight loss, by subjecting them to a shivering 41-degree existence for a week, even as the mice consumed a high-fat diet.
Innovation is the life-blood of our economy. I’m ready to go. Rent that room, turn off the heat, and turn up the refrigeration. We’ll shiver our way to thin. I think I’ll name my new franchise: Quakes.
*This article first appeared in Northwest Prime Time, January, 2012