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Making the necessary sacrifices to return to dietland

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Lynne D. Schwabe Lynne D. Schwabe

Lynne D. Schwabe was owner of Schwabe-May of Charleston, ran her own marketing consulting firm and is a nationally recognized motivational speaker. She has been featured in The New York Times, The Washington Poast, Women's Wear Daily and has appeared on CNBC's Power Lunch. She currently is director of development for the National Youth Science Foundation. She can be reached at

As I am on a permanent diet, I was making do with a rather bland turkey and yellow mustard on whole wheat with a soggy pickle on the side. She, on the other hand, is one of those high-metabolism people and remains elegantly slim no matter what she eats. She was tucking into an enormous Reuben sandwich dripping with melted cheese and Thousand Island dressing, along with a mountain of French fries, a tub of coleslaw and a giant full-sugar Coke. There are U.S. marines who eat fewer calories per meal! And, I realized, here I am in Dietland again. 

I venture into the realm of dieting with slight trepidation, since the last column I wrote about losing weight created reader concern. People actually wrote to The State Journal defending their favorite diet plans. They wrote to me, complaining that I just didn't understand the benefits of dieting, their favorite diet plans and nutrition.

By way of full disclosure, I am always on a diet, and Weight Watchers is the best and easiest plan for me to follow. I'm sure there are other equally effective plans that, with some work and deprivation, will turn one into a sylph-like creature. However, I must call for balance in all things diet. I'll add that it's nothing personal. If something doesn't work for me, I am not taking a swipe at your lifestyle or your favorite diet. But we are in the thick of the holidays, and I have to think about restraint.

TV doesn't help, as most of its commercials are for diet plans or for fast food. After back surgery several years ago, when I was trapped in my bedroom, unable to get to the kitchen, I began salivating the minute the commercials came on, even for things I don't eat (like Big Macs). It was torture. Even if you watch only the news, network anchors are always clustering around a celebrity chef, vying for tastes of food being prepared right there or rhapsodizing about things like cronuts. Please. There's just no escape.

We have gone too far with this diet business. I know, we all fear death. And goodness, we want to be hale and hearty for our entire lives. I propose a realistic approach to dieting and being healthy. Thank goodness that man who said that we have to be on the verge of starvation in order to live a long life was debunked. There is a new diet/nutrition plan called Good Measures (you can Google it), founded by Dr. George Bennett, who is originally from Morgantown. As I understand it, Good Measures takes the 200 foods that individuals actually eat and customizes a nutrition plan for them, taking into consideration their food preferences, nutrition goals and eating patterns. This has got to be a huge step forward: eating healthily, losing weight while consuming things that you actually enjoy, while supporting a fellow West Virginian.

I think most people agree that life without pancakes just isn't worth living. And for heaven's sake, if we drank the amount of water we are supposed to, no one would be able to leave the bathroom. I love, love, love Graziano's pizza. I don't gorge myself on it (except occasionally), but life without Graziano's would be seriously depressing.

I am starting to see references all over the place for something called the Paleo Diet. Its proponents apparently think that cave men were on to something: nuts, seeds and dinosaur cutlets. Modern day dieters are encouraged to hark back to the days when we were lucky to eat and not be eaten. So an entire school of dieting thought has grown around cave man menus. Then there's the Sleep Diet — "Lose 10 pounds by sleeping!" Even I am suspicious of that concept.

Here's the thing. Is it realistic to yearn for the days when a full stomach meant chomping down on your own weight in roots and berries? Is a life without grain really worth living? And eating only grass-fed meat? Seems a bit elitist to me. 

I know of few humans who can sustain a diet that excludes many things. Oh, sure, zealots exist, eating only cabbage or hard-boiled eggs. But my feeling is that the Paleo guy was just looking to make some bucks, and he thought to himself, "Well, Atkins has been covered. Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig are all over the place. What can I do to be different? Oh yeah! CAVE MEN!" 

I would be willing to bet that if we invited some cave men over for Christmas dinner and served them a nice roast turkey with mashed potatoes and gravy, they would be thrilled. And I would bet my 401K that not one cave man would turn down a piece of chocolate cake. 

I have said it once, and I will say it again: get real, people! Marie Antoinette was spot on. We all want to eat cake. So there is absolutely no value in deluding ourselves. A life well lived is a life worth living. One based on the scavenging of Neanderthals and their buddies? Not so much. 

Every reasonable diet is quick to tell you that if you are craving something, go ahead and have whatever it is in moderation, with moderation being the key word. 

I'll have one potato chip, please.