The Stand In Line Diet

My great college friend Janet and her daughter Sofia arrived last night for a few days visit while they are making the great college tour.  Being a diet supportive friend Janet brought me a beautiful Hydrangea plant.  Carter on the other hand got a cupcake from Georgetown Cupcake of TLC TV fame. I asked how long they had to stand in line to get that cupcake and they said only thirty minutes.

Only is not a word I would use when thinking about standing in line for food especially when there is plenty of food available in America.  It is one thing to have to stand in a line to get bread in London during World War II, but a cupcake, not something I would do for my child.  I am thankful that Janet did it for Carter because now that she has had one I am off the hook from even being asked.

I wonder if people buy more cupcakes at one time when they have to wait so long?  Would waiting cause me to eat more because I had so many available at once or make me eat less because I would not want to have to wait in another long line to buy it?  Would I just not bother to eat because I would not want to stand in line?

If only I could create some artificial waiting period for fattening food, but instant availability for healthy food.  I don’t know what most people would be willing to put up with, but I for one would rather not spend my time standing in lines and would forego something yummy.  But somehow, for many people, the line to get something raises its worthiness.

Maybe the answer is that there is an exercise class that happens while people stand in line for something decadent, like a cupcake.  That way the waiting was productive and they would not want to overeat after doing all that exercise.  On the other hand they may feel like they could afford to eat more after doing the exercise.  Human psychology is so complicated when it comes to cupcakes.

Nothing Replaces Willpower

My friend Arabella sent me a link to an NPR story entitled “Money replaces willpower in programs promoting weight loss.”  The long and the short of it is that the new health care law allows companies with more than 50 employees to require over weight workers who do not exercise to pay a great portion of their insurance costs.  I think of it as a sin tax for being fat like smokers pay a steep tax for cigarettes.


The story goes on to say that some companies are taking this as an opportunity to help their employees get to a healthy weight by offering monetary incentives.  It surely is cheaper for a company to have healthy employees so offering some money directly to the employees is more economical than paying higher insurance premiums.   The story goes on to say that money is not a great motivator for losing weight.


The problem is money might help a small percentage of people lose weight, but if they only did it for the money what is going to prevent them from gaining it back?  Not your employer, your spouse, a parent or child is going to make you want to lose weight.  Only you can do it.  Not until you decide you want it will it happen in any meaningful and lasting way and then it is still a struggle.


The problem is you have to eat everyday.  It’s not like quitting drugs or drinking where you can never do it again.  We all have to eat.  So money can never replace will power.  There is not enough money in the world.  If you are someone who lives to eat you have to work at not letting it take over.


For most obese people they will just pay the penalty rather than actually work out and loose weight.  Food is a much stronger drug than money.  So no matter how much America collectively wants to be thinner because it is good for our health care bill it won’t happen because we legislate it.  At least it will be a little fairer that if you don’t do anything about it you carry a great portion of the burden your fat imposes on society.  No one is giving up Girl Scout cookies for the good of their country.

Orange Balsamic Glazed Salmon

I pan roast my salmon and made this glaze and put it on afterwards.  You could also grill or parch the salmon.  The glaze would be great on chicken or pork too.


This glaze will make enough for four servings


Juice of 1 orange

Zest of 1 orange

3 T. balsamic vinegar

3 T. minced Red onion

3 T. chopped cilantro leaves and stems


Put all the ingredients except the cilantro in a pan and bring to a boil and reduce heat and simmer for 2 minutes.  Add the cilantro and cook one more minute.


Spoon over cooked salmon


To pan roast salmon preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Heat an ovenproof fry pan on high heat on top of stove.  When the pan is very hot spray with Pam and add the fish to the pan.  Cook on high heat for three minutes for fish that is an inch think.  Place the fry pan with the fish in it in the oven and cook another 2-3 minutes.

The Specialness of a “Collection”


When I was a kid we only had cake in the house on someone’s birthday.  It was always a cake made out of box with frosting made from a mix too.  Something that would now be considered nothing special, but the fact that there was cake was the thing that made it special, and the birthday.  For kids I know now, having a cake is an everyday occurrence, or at least expected.  The specialness of it has been overrun by the everydayness.  No one pays any attention to the average.


Target has really hit on the way to take the ho-hum out of the unexciting with the brilliant marketing campaign of the “Everyday Collection.”  I don’t know if my friend Jeff Jones, the CMO of Target, came up with this idea, but I will give him credit.  “Collections” are special and he has elevated the mundane things like diapers and paper towels to a new level by calling them part of the “Everyday Collection” at least at Target.  Those same things are not part of a collection at any other store and so don’t you want to get them only at Target?


The psychology of special makes us like something more than we normally would.  If we can be desensitized to the specialness of having a cake around we can be resentistized to the average being elevated.  It all has to do with our perception.


This can work for eating healthy food too.  Rather than calling something a “diet food,” with all the depriving connotations those words conjure up, I am going to call my daily salad part of my “Svelte Collection.”  Who doesn’t want to be svelte?  Makes you want to run right over to my house and have that oil-free salad.


Marketing has been a big part of the diet industry for years.  You don’t think that the Palm Beach Diet would have been as successful if it were named the Pine Bluff, Arkansas Diet?  When you close your eyes and think of Palm Beach beautiful and thin people like CZ Guest come to mind.


So market the good things to yourself.  Rename and reframe the ordinary, typical and dull as something new and exciting.  Make things special again, even if it comes out of a box.

Body Opposites

Today is my dearest college friend Suzanne’s birthday!  She is Carter’s Godmother, and we were each other’s maid and matron of honor at out weddings.  It is hard for me to believe that we have known each other almost twice as long as we have not known each other.


In our decades long friendship one thing has remained the same.  While my body has changed multiple times, Suzanne’s has not.  More of the time than not we would have what be what I call “Body opposites.”  Suzanne is very tall and perfectly thin.  I am neither.  People often mistake me for being tall, but I correct them by saying I am just loud and thus appear taller than I am.


When Suzanne and I were in college she used to describe our bras as a fruit cup and a salad bowl. That has not changed; although I think now the better description might be a fruit cup and a salad spinner since my boobs can take any shape they are molded into, except for bowl shape.


Suzanne loves food, a common interest we share, but somehow she is able not to overeat or gain weight.  The only time I can think of her being concerned with her weight was sometime after the birth of her third child.  She told me she asked a doctor what might possibly be going wrong and after a few probing questions the doctor discovered that Suzanne was eating her cereal out of a bowl that held three or four servings.  Soon after that realization Suzanne was down the few pounds that the cereal had left her with.


Suzanne is an adventurous eater.   One of her favorite things to do is make a sandwich out of all the leftovers in the refrigerator.  “A meal between two pieces of bread.”  One of the best habits she has is that she always washes fruit when she brings it home from the store and keeps what is not perishable on her kitchen counter so when someone in her house is hungry the fruit is the first thing they see.  I have happily snacked on more than a few grapes while cooking in her kitchen.


One thing that is wonderful about being Suzanne’s friend is that no matter where I am on my weight continuum she is never judgmental and is always supportive. That is a great sign of a true friend, one who loves you just the way you are.  So today, on her day I would like to thank her for all the fabulous years we have spent together.  We may be body opposites but I will always consider us hearts alike.

The Real Inspiration for Downton Abbey

Well before Downton Abbey was a well-formed story idea I feel that Julian Fellows, its creator, must have met my father while we were working in London for British Telecom.  Julian’s original screenplay was actually called Hom-a-gen Abbey based at my ancestral farm in Providence, NC.


Lord Grantham is clearly based on my father, who chose “Your Grace” as his grandfather name.  Gracie, as my father is called by his granddaughter, has three daughters just as Lord Grantham does.  Mary would be loosely based on me, since I am the oldest and only married daughter.  Edith would be my middle sister Margaret, looking for her place in the world.  And the much loved and hardest working youngest daughter Sybil is based on my sister Janet.


Fellows surely had heard my father talk about his mother, known as Granettes because Dame Maggie Smith portrays my Grandmother to a tee.  One example of their parallel personalities is towards the end of Granettes life she was in the infirmary and she rang and rang the nurse call button.  When the nurse came scurrying in my grandmother screamed at her, “Get a pain pill, quick.”  The nurse ran out of the room and returned with the medication and asked her what was hurting.  “It’s not for me, it’s for that fool over there,” my grandmother said pointing to another patient in the room.  Granettes was famous for saying something terribly biting which took a person a moment to figure out.  I’m sure I heard her say to more than one pitiful person she met, “You are all you’ll ever be.”


My mother would love to be the wealthy wife who saved the family home with her inheritance.  She lives a charmed life similar to Lady Cora.


Mr. Fellow certainly must have spent time in my father’s London office and overheard him talking to the people on the speakerphone who work at Home-a-gen.  The relationship of all the farm workers and my father is exactly like the downstairs characters on Downton Abbey to Lord Grantham.


My father depended on his staff to keep the farm going while he was away. One important character was Alvin who was chief builder and as important to the running of Hom-a-gen as chief butler Mr. Carson, but in a much more redneck way. Gracie would call Alvin and check in on the progress of building projects and the weather, always an important topic to land owners and farmers.  Once when my father heard bad weather was going on in the Americas he called Alvin to get the local report.  Since he always used a speakerphone everyone in the office heard this conversation.


Gracie:  Alvin, what is happening with the weather?


Alvin:  Well, there’s a tycoon and it’s off the coast of Costa Rica.


Gracie:  Really?


Alvin:  No, no I’m wrong, It’s off the coast of Puerto Rico.


Gracie, like Lord Grantham, did not correct Alvin that it was not a tycoon, but a typhoon.


When Julian Fellows wrote the first screenplay for Hom-a-gen Abbey and went to sell it to the BBC they certainly said it would be way too cost prohibitive to film a show in America and could he please rewrite the show for a British location.  And thus Downton Abbey came to be.





Teenage Boys

The gender differences in calorie consumption just are not fair.  There are two teenage boys at my house right now and at 3:00 in the afternoon they were about to expire so they ordered pizza.  When three boxes arrived at the door I asked how many other kids were showing up.  None, two pizza and one cheese sticks were just for them as the afternoon snack.


Growing up I lived next door to the Prahl family of four boys.  One a year older than me, named Halfdan (pronounced Hallffdan), Crispan was my age, Duncan one year younger and Amos was three years younger.  The timing must have been off on the last one.  Our bus stop was at their house so when we were let in the afternoon the Prahl boys and I would go in their house for our snack.  Each one of them would sit down at their kitchen counter and eat a whole box of cereal and a half-gallon of milk.


I would get a cookie and talk with their mother Lottie who was just happy to have another female to talk to for a moment.  I used to ask her how in the world she could bring enough milk home to keep these four boys going?  She said that the afternoon snack mil was only about half of their at home daily consumption.  The difference in the amount of food they needed, especially when they were teenagers, than that of my family of girls was over whelming.


How did boys survive in a world before there was a constant food supply?  I guess the human race really only needed a few men.  I don’t know that I ever heard of boys starving more than girls, but based on what I have seen boys eat I would think that the slightest famine would render the massive calorie requiring boys practically useless.


I think big pharma needs to study the metabolic makeup of fourteen-year-old boys and put that in a pill to sell as the weight loss miracle.  I know there comes a time when even people of the male persuasion need to reign in their eating, thank goodness, otherwise there would not be enough food on earth.  Imagine how many diary cows would be needed in every man continued to drink as much as the teenage Prahl boys did.