Tahlequah Daily Press

May 6, 2013

Healthy diets, sneak-eating, and porky preferences

Managing Editor

TAHLEQUAH — A couple of years ago, I explained the phenomenon of “sneak-eating,” whereby the culprit waits until the backs of others in the household are turned, then gobbles down every preferred morsel in sight, and proceeds to cover his tracks by hiding wrappers and other evidence of the crime.

I told you how my son had stuffed dozens of Little Debbie snack cake wrappers behind my filing cabinet when he was in high school – a cellophane trove discovered only when I switched offices. And I added that my husband was “too defiant” to sneak-eat.

Folks, I was wrong. It seems there’s no level to which a man won’t stoop when his wife has placed him on a diet he volunteered to follow, but without the merest fraction of sincerity.

My rheumatologist has been after me to get back with the program, since I had a bad spell last year. (I think I’m old enough now to employ the phrase “had a spell” – one I remember both my grandmothers using to denote various degrees and types of illness.) I failed miserably at the New Year’s resolution, and hit a brick wall with my Lenten discipline, but I’m finally back on track. The question is how long I’m going to be able to keep my husband bumping along on the same track.

When a wife announces she’s “going on a diet,” a decent husband will offer to go along for the ride. Only a real horse’s behind would expect a working woman to prepare two meals every day just so he could have his marbled steak and butter-and-sour-cream-drenched baked potato.

But it’s been my observation that most men start feeling regret about the same time the first hunger pangs hit. At that point, they’re willing to throw in the towel and replace it with a napkin stained with grease, ketchup and chocolate milk.

These days, the word “diet” is out of vogue. Instead, we aim for good nutrition – healthy eating habits we can keep for the rest of our lives. Most nutritionists tell us to close our ears to the keening wails of the corporate corn industry, which has given us high-fructose corn syrup – a product increasingly blamed for the scourge of “belly fat.” But even without an expert to coach us along, common sense suggests that opting for foods as close to their natural state as possible (or “in their own skin,” as my friend and world-class triathlete Angela Stewart puts it), is the best way to go.

Eating right means shunning fast food cheeseburgers and shakes; anything with a label bearing lots of ingredients you can’t pronounce; sugary treats, like my famous pies, cakes, cookies and candies; an overabundance of starchy breads and pastas; and anything fried in “bad fat.” And, for some purists – like Mark Solow, a friend from my college days at OU – it means eschewing pork.

Some of you who are on my Facebook friends list will recognize Mark’s name. He’s the guy who, when anyone mentions bacon in passing, annoys you by posting all sorts of links trumpeting the horrors of pork consumption. There are a variety of legitimate reasons why he doesn’t eat pork (and his youthful appearance, at 56, doesn’t give his detractors much to work with). But my husband, who claims pork as his favorite meat, resents the anti-swine crusade.

“You tell him we’re Catholic, not Jewish,” my husband groused one day when I tried to get him to read one of Mark’s reports. Mark is also a Christian, but when I knew him in college he was, indeed, Jewish; he went through bar mitzvah and the whole nine yards. My husband – who blames his own porky preferences on his Italian heritage – insists Mark’s opposing view of this particular pound of flesh is an ethnic quirk.

Nevertheless, I made the decision to curtail the pork consumption. My husband insisted on compromise: “You find one of those nutritionists who will let me eat pork!” I did find one, in fact, who commends the occasional slice of bacon, so I incorporated part of her program into a “fat flush” system Mark and his wife have successfully used. Supposedly it gets rid of cellulite, but I’m skeptical. It does make you pee a lot because of the high volume of fluids you consume, but I suppose that’s good for getting rid of toxins.

There’s one problem with the bacon, though: My husband would never agree to consume just one slice in a sitting. He would require at least four to sate his craving. One measly slice would be viewed as a sacrilege – like the affront my sister, Lisa, used to commit against bacon when we were kids. She used to pick the fat off the bacon, and eat only the “lean” part.

Which means each slice of bacon was reduced to a smidgen about the size of a woman’s thumbnail that has NOT been augmented at a local salon. I’ve often suspected this peculiar habit explains why, at 51, my sister can still wear a size 3.

But back to the sneak-eating. Although this diet – pardon me, nutrition plan! – allows generous meals every day plus snacks, it is bereft of the kinds of cuisine most Americans crave. Thus, I can understand why my husband slipped an extra couple of slices of turkey bacon into the frying pan the other day. But that formerly defiant attitude has now been colored with a bit of shame; he placed his body between the stove and myself so I couldn’t see how many slices were sizzling away. Then last night, when I took an unexpected break from work, came downstairs and entered the living room, I noticed a quick and furtive movement, and heard what I recognized as the clink of ice against a glass.

“What are you drinking?” I demanded, but the look of guilt on his face told the tale. He had tried to conceal the glass from view, but I spotted it. Just ice, and a droplet or two of a caramel-colored liquid that, like the pork, is not really supposed to be on the menu.

All I can say is, wish me luck. No pigs will die today.

Kim Poindexter is managing editor of the Tahlequah Daily Press. She’ll let you know how the “diet” goes.