Other sure-fail methods include eating "calorie-controlled" blueberry gelatin and promising that you will only eat three ounces of cold turkey (skinless, of course) for lunch every day. A coworker of mine ate this way until one day she opened her mouth to speak but started to gobble instead. Last year, I also decided that I would only weigh myself on the summer and winter solstices.
Too-frequent weigh-ins can sabotage any diet efforts, because a woman's weight is a mysterious, jumpy, undependable thing that does not follow any known laws of nature. Over-weighing would lead to stress. Stress would slow down my metabolism, which was already prone to sleeping in late.
When my scale realized it was being ignored, it had a digital breakdown. Now my husband and sons are perplexed why the scale registers a difference of 15 pounds from a Monday to a Wednesday. Finally, payback time.
This year, I looked for fresh ideas on reducing poundage. Fortunately, I found an article that uncovered facts never before revealed to the American public. For example, did you know that Krispy Kreme Doughnuts are full of saturated fats and sugar? Who knew?
Now that I am aware of this and other startling nutritional data, I don't dare approach within 100 feet of a Krispy Kreme shop. (Frankly, they deserve a boycott for the spelling alone.) But I am going one better: I am also making a commitment to fiber. This inspiration came from my friend Helen, who went from a pleasingly feminine figure to a lean, mean marathon machine.
Each time I saw her, she had dropped another dress size, her skin glowed more radiantly than ever and the threat of middle-aged wattle under the chin had vanished. When she moved her arms, her biceps flexed insouciantly. Helen looked fantastic. If she didn't knock it off, I would have no choice but to hate her.
"How have you done this?" I asked, faking wonderment instead of envy.
She took my arm and leaned in close. "It's all about the fiber," she said. "You've got to try it." "No thanks," I said, holding my hands up in a "stop" gesture. "It may be ecologically friendly, but pure fibers are much too high maintenance for me. I bought a linen dress once, and the dry cleaning alone nearly killed me."
"Not that fiber," she said. "I'm talking bran cereal, garbanzo beans and broccoli."
She whipped a small nutrition bar out of her pocket, where she apparently kept a stash. It was made of flaxseed, apricots and at least 25 percent recycled greeting cards.
"Try this. Fourteen grams of fiber in this little bar," she said. "But don't say I didn't warn you," she laughed.
It was a strange laugh, perhaps the kind of laugh you get after ingesting too much fiber.
"Great," I said, dropping the bar into the vast black hole of my purse. "If it works, I'll ask my doctor for a prescription."
"Oh, no need," she said. "These are over-the-counter, even the blueberry. But if you're really serious about prescription fiber bars, I know where you can order them cheap from Canada."
And so, desperately trying to become sinewy and taut like Helen, I put my trust in fiber. Scads of fiber. My main food groups became split peas, collard greens and psyllium husks. I tossed soy nuts and lentils on everything, even cereal. One night, I dreamed that I had fallen into an open barrel of barley at the local Whole Foods store. I developed indigestion.
After two weeks of uncompromising fidelity to fiber, I had not lost any weight, but my pantry was four pounds lighter, because I had used up most of the lentils and several cans of kidney and white beans.
Then I saw Helen again, who looked more buff than ever. My indigestion flared up immediately. Probably too many raw red peppers at lunch. Not a good idea.
"What gives?" I demanded. "You claimed that you looked so great because of fiber. I've eaten so much fiber I could be the poster child for the National Colon Health Foundation. You must be doing something else. Come on, spill it "
"I'm working with a personal trainer three times a week," Helen said. "I'm sure I told you."
I knew there had to be a catch. Helen's confession vindicated me. A diet of chickpeas and cantaloupe might get you poster child status for colon health but would not get you on the cover of Brawny Babe magazine. The green stuff of Helen's success wasn't only kale, it was cold, hard cash for the trainer.
Since then, I've gotten used to my more fibrous diet, but sometimes I pine for hours for an empty calorie. Overall, it's not really that bad, if you don't mind indigestion. I can't afford Helen's personal trainer, but at least I know the secret of her success. Commitment, self-discipline and money.
Judy Gruen writes the popular "Off My Noodle" column at judygruen.com. Her next book, "The Women's Daily Irony Supplement," will be published in May.