I WAS sitting in an exam room a few days ago, perusing an ancient copy of Reader’s Digest, when my doctor burst in.
In keeping with his bedside manner, he glanced at my charts, then began frowning at me the way you or I, people not burdened with medical degrees, would frown at a puppy that had just thrown up half-digested squirrel parts on the carpet.
As I started to squirm, he blurted out the news I’d been dreading. "I want you to see a dietitian," he declared.
I tried pouting. "Why?" I asked him.
His frown deepened. "Because you’re an idiot!" he snorted. (OK, I might be paraphrasing slightly, but you catch the thrust of his medical gist.) I fired back. "I’d like a second opinion," I told him in my grown-up voice.
"Fine," he deadpanned, "Your hair looks like it was styled by a monkey using only its feet. (Again, paraphrasing.) We shared a laugh that was protected by doctor-patient confidentiality, then I demanded to know why I had to see a dietitian.
"Because you don’t know how to eat," he said in the tone you would use if you were explaining expenses to a senator.
I was aghast. "Are you kidding? I’m almost 300 pounds. I think I’ve figured out how to eat."
"You know what I mean," my doctor continued.
"And you need to think about getting in shape."
I was cut to the quick. "I already have a shape," I replied, coldly.
"How would you describe your current shape?" he wanted to know.
I scrunched my face to indicate deep contemplation. "I’d call it pear-shaped," I said with as much dignity as humanly possible.
He didn’t find this amusing. "Why don’t you try going to a gym?" he suggested.
"I went to a gym the other day," I snorted.
"What did you do there?" he wondered.
"I had a nap," I explained, "because it’s a long drive from my house to the gym."
This went on a while longer, but the medically important point news is next week, I have to go see a registered dietitian, a person with a diploma who believes you should eat to live and not live to eat, if you can imagine anything as crazy as that.
I am not brimming with optimism. I already know what the dietitian is going to tell me: You can eat whatever you want, provided it doesn’t contain anything harmful, such as flavour.
That’s because "flavour" is a code word in the medical community for "carbohydrates," which are organic compounds that cause certain foods to be delicious.
From the perspective of dietitians, there are foods you should eat and foods you should avoid the way a sane person avoids Taylor Swift concerts and Ben Affleck’s early movies.
Low-fat wood chips and dehydrated celery stalks would be examples of "good" foods, whereas anything that comes with a free toy or has someone’s name scribbled on it in coloured frosting would be on the don’t-eat list.
Just to give me a taste of how bad it’s going to get, the dietitian’s clinic mailed me some forms on which, for three days, I’m supposed to record exactly what I ate and when I ate it.
The forms give helpful examples of the sort of things they want me to eat, including "non-hydrogenated margarine (1 tsp), carrot sticks, low-fat yogurt (¾ cup) and whole-grain crackers (4)."
If you were reading closely, you will have noticed at no point did they say anything about bacon, which is one of the most important food groups, along with the doughnut group and the taco group and the french-fry group.
I didn’t attend medical school, but I know how important bacon is to a healthy diet. I know this because several thoughtful readers and editors recently emailed me a news story about a 105-year-old woman in Texas who says the secret to her longevity is the fact she eats bacon all the time.
"I love bacon. I eat it every day," Pearl Cantrell, a great-great-grandmother who kept mowing her own lawn until the age of 100, is quoted as saying.
With apologies to Pearl, I admit I have to make some dietary changes, but there’s no (bad word) way eating non-hydrogenated margarine and lowfat yogurt will help me live to 105.
It will just feel like it.