ANNE TAYLOR FLEMING: It is hard not be amused by the contradictions in this culture, one of the most glaring being the diet craze this country seems to be on while there is a concurrent epidemic of obesity. These dual trends coexist while everyone tries to address what's going on here-- address it and profit by it.
All you have to do is walk through any bookstore and you will see the evidence: Masses of diet books, each trendier than the last. There is always some newfangled diet dictum telling us how best to shed the pounds, some new guru seeking to lead us into the new path of diet righteousness.
In recent years, it's been the low-carb craze: Supermarket shelves full of carb-starved products. Meanwhile, there are beckoning gyms everywhere, and celebrity-studded TV infomercials hawking all kinds of exercise equipment, and constant media chatter, typified by the big play recently given to the rigorous new diet and exercise guidelines set forth by the federal government.
And all this goes on while more and more Americans are getting heavier and heavier -- even the youngest of us, virtual toddlers, a Mcgeneration raised on fast food and heading for all manner of health problems. Clearly, something's not working despite all those diet books.
Now, up pops a new one, a spunky manual called "Why French Women Don't Get Fat," that bills itself as the anti-diet diet book. According to its French-born author, Mireille Guiliano, Americans, in their inimitably fix-everything-right-now fashion, are dieting too much, trying too hard.
MIREILLE GUILIANO: You can't really eat and enjoy food when you are, you know, standing up, on your cell, on your laptop. You've got to slow down and relax and enjoy it.
ANNE TAYLOR FLEMING: To stop dieting, to slow down and savor every bite-- even that morning croissant or bit of chocolate or glass of wine. Yes, she says, you can have all of those in moderation: No fast food, no mountainous portions or multitasking, grabbing a meal while watching TV or paying bills.
Eating is time-out time, time to sit down and pleasure not just the palate but also the soul. If we don't gratify our senses this way, if we continually diet, we will only end up binging to fill the emptiness. Can we, in this speedy, caffeine-imbibing culture, really learn to do this, to eat this way, to live this way?
I've thought a lot about this lately-- not the dieting part, per se, but the whole living life way. Like everyone, I have had a tendency to drink too much coffee, talk too much and too fast, and generally speed through the days without registering the myriad small pleasures that come with them: That bite of chocolate, that taste of wine, the feel of the winter sun when walking with my golden lab.
All too often, the only way we do get slowed down is when something unexpected happens. For me, that something happened late last year when that big, beautiful ten-year-old lab was diagnosed with inoperable cancer, a matter of months left on his dance card. We walked out of the vet's that day, he and I, and into a new world.
He was still full of lab glee, could still chase his ball and plop with an almost audible sigh of pleasure into his wading pool. The days slowed to a bittersweet crawl as we lay together in front of the fire or sauntered around the neighborhood. I sat beside him outside at every turn, memorizing his sweet mushroomy smell, the whorls in his coat. He slowed me way down, staked me to my days-- a terrible gift for which, now that he is gone, I must be grateful. I'm Anne Taylor Fleming.