FLINT - Michigan is officially one of the fattest states in a fat nation. We cracked the Top 10 this year, according to the latest statistics, which is odd because the economy is so bad here. You'd think our collective ribs would be showing. That's how it's been throughout human history. Poor people are skinny, rich people are fat. These days it's exactly the opposite, which just goes to show you how nuts things are.
Obesity, of course, is a huge health issue. So the question is what should we as a state do about it? The answer is to follow Dr. Heller's two-part, sure-fire, fat-busting plan, which is unlike any other blubber-busting plan out there in that it doesn't lie to you and suggest that you can eat delicious, satisfying meals and do a little brow-moistening exercise and still lose weight. No, in fact Part I of my plan says the opposite. It follows the no-nonsense teachings of Mike Royko, the late, great Chicago newspaper columnist and creator of what he called the "You-Gotta-Suffer Diet."
Royko explained the diet this way: "It's quite simple. You don't have to do a lot of calorie counting, measuring and weighing tiny bits of food or poring over time-consuming recipes. All you have to do is be miserable. And you have to remember only one rule: If you enjoy it, you can't have it; if you don't like it, you can eat all you want. This rule derives from the scientifically acknowledged fact that Mother Nature is a nasty, sadistic, mean broad. She made everything that tastes good fattening. And everything that is not fattening tastes terrible."
That makes perfect sense to me. At age 50, I'm trying to lose weight for the first time in my adult life, so I know how difficult it can be. I'll eat a few spoonfuls of ice cream less and then marvel the next day at the fact that I haven't lost 10 pounds. Intuitively, I know I'm going about it all wrong. I shouldn't have any ice cream at all because ice cream tastes good and therefore has no place in the diet of anyone trying to lose weight. But I'm weak just like everyone, so I eat it and then fume at the lousy results, and pretty soon I give up entirely. No wonder I'm not losing anything.
What I should be doing is eating peas. Why? Because I hate peas. I've hated them since I was a kid. If someone wanted to force a secret out of me, that's what they'd threaten to force-feed me. Just the thought of peas is enough to make me wretch.
So naturally that's all I should eat. Peas for breakfast, peas for lunch, peas for dinner, peas for snacks. I'd lose weight in no time because I wouldn't eat them. The pounds would melt off. The problem is that's not enough. I've dieted enough to know that once you lose a few pounds you celebrate by going back to your old way of eating. And it feels so good, you keep eating that way, and pretty soon you're fat again.
That's where Part II of my diet plan comes in. Part II deals with exercise, and like Part I its beauty lies in its simplicity. It goes like this: You have to exercise a lot. And by a lot I mean constantly. And by constantly I mean "until it hurts." A lot. And then double that. And then go run a marathon. Then you're getting close.
As you can tell, Part II of my plan is also based on the scientifically acknowledged principle that Mother Nature is a stone cold witch, and thus a morning jog or walk around the block won't cut it, particularly if you are over the age of 30. When you're over 30, it's a well known fact that just thinking about food - even peas - causes your body to generate gobs of fat in exactly the spot that, given your particular body type, will make you look the most ridiculous in a bathing suit.
So you must ruthlessly punish your body into such a state of fatigue and surrender that it cannot possibly think of food. The important thing to remember is that if the exercise you're doing doesn't make you feel as if you're going to throw up, then you're not doing it right.
So there you have it Dr. Heller's completely unscientific, totally sensible diet plan. If you follow it religiously and never, ever suffer a weak moment, I guarantee you there's a decent chance that you'll lose almost as much weight as you think you should.
Just remember the key: Misery is the only way to a happy, healthy body.
EDITOR'S NOTE - Andy Heller, an award-winning columnist for The Flint Journal, appears weekly in the Daily Press. He graduated from Escanaba Area High School in 1979. For more of his work, visit his blog at blog.mlive.com/flintjournal/aheller. You can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.