Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Great Pickle Crisis of 2009

The Great Pickle Crisis of 2009

Wednesday, February 11, 2009 at 9:48am
(This originally appeared on my Facebook Page as part of my experiment: The Facebook Diet)

This week will be known as the week of the Great Pickle Crisis of 2009.

More than anything, the peccadillo of a pickle fiasco also demonstrated to me the importance of reaching out to a wide net of friends in my social network – mainly thru Facebook.

Let me explain.

When I started this diet, I was given a list of what I could and could not eat. The basic structure of the diet allows me to eat up to 16 ounces of designated proteins a day and 6 portions of certain veggies. Two of those portions can be allotted to a small list of fruits.

So, as I was going thru the literature, I noticed that 1 cup of raw cucumbers counts for 1 portion of veggies. Easy enough. But this week I was told by my wife that I can have dill pickles as a “free food,” meaning I can eat as much as I want and it doesn’t count against my food allotment.

Now this is where I started getting all flummoxed.

First off, giving a dieter a free food is like giving Johnny Walker to an alcoholic. It’s like giving a 16 year old the keys to the car. It’s like giving a coke addict crack.

There are certain things you just don’t do and there are certain things a doctor should know when dealing with fat guys. Top of that list is you do not give people on a diet the freedom to eat all they want – of anything. Hello… Next time you go to an all you can eat buffet, take a look around you. I promise you will see more biggies than not.

But I digress. Pickles = Free/ Cucumbers = Count.

To me, it makes no sense. Pickles are cucumbers, are they not? And they are really just cucumbers loaded with salt. I begin to suspect I have found a loop hole in my diet – a loop hole that will cause me nothing but trouble.

When you have dieted off and on your whole life, you know what works and what doesn’t – sometimes better than the doctors and nutritionists who designed the programs. You kind of become a professional. You may be really super shitty at your dieting day job, but when you have gone on every weight loss program known to man, you at least know your own body and you also can spot a loop hole when you see one.

So when I stumbled across this contradiction of cucumbers, I started to question the whole thing. Something stinks about this “free food” thing and it ain’t just pickle juice. Intuitively, I know this whole issue is going to be one giant trap to my success in week two because I know that once that sodium hits my system it will make me retain water and bloat. I begin to feel like such a woman.

I suppose you need to know that I love a good dill pickle. I love how they taste and I crave their crunch. To me they are dangerous things. They may as well be weapons of salt destruction.

You also need to know that I think the best dill pickles in the city are at this dive joint 5 minutes from the studio called Johnnie’s Pastrami. Johnnie's is known for pastrami sandwiches that are the size of a football. You look at these monsters and your arteries begin to harden. So I am sitting in my office on Monday and thinking about how good I have been, and how pickles are “free” and I start to ask myself how bad can they really be?

The good angel pops up on my shoulder and says, “don’t do it Steve.” The bad angel pops up belching pickle juice and he is wiping mustard off his lips from the pastrami sandwich he has in his hand.

I called my wife to talk me off the ledge. She couldn’t really help me because she was just as confused as I was about the whole affair. I called the doctor's office and pointed out the loop hole. They were no help. So I called my dieting Bwana, Teni K, the woman in the office who had been on a similar program. I consider her my unofficial godsend and co-pilot since she has navigated this diet so successfully.

She wasn’t answering the phone. So I sent her an email. “U There?” No response. I sent smoke signals, flares, a scouting party. I was a stalker as I tried to sort thru this silly predicament.

Finally about an hour later, I heard her in the hall and called to her. She came right in and I launched into my doomsday of dill.

She assured me that pickles would NOT tank my success. We talked thru my salt concerns and she said I was drinking so much water in a day it would flush right out of my system. So now I start to believe it’s all ok. Peter Piper, here I come.

Monday was one of those days when I was just struggling with everything. I don’t know why it was hard, but it was. I was hungry, I was fidgety, and I was just a mess. I got home and Amy had gone to the market and brought back a bottle of kosher treats. I sucked down my first pickle. It wasn’t Johnnies and it wasn’t even good, but, hey – it was free, right? SO … I had a couple of them.

Tuesday morning I could feel the bloat as my wedding ring tightened around my finger. When I left the house, I told Amy, “no more pickles.” I know what’s good for me!

Yeah, right. Six hours later, I am watching the pastrami stacker at Johnnie's as he is piling heaping mounds of meat on a bun. The very familiar counter waitress comes over and with her friendly smile says “where ya been?” and asks what I want today.

“I’ll just take some pickles, please,” I say to her while in a trance staring at the guy behind the grill loading up the sandwiches with prime pastrami.

“What size you want, honey?” she says to me.
“What sizes do you have? I ask back.

Five minutes later I am walking to my car with a gallon of pickles. It’s lunch time and Daddy is hungry. I get to the office and put the mini barrel down on my desk. I tell Angela, my assistant, that pickles are a free food, as though that is some kind of justification for my insane excess.

She looks at me like something bad is about to happen. Then she looks at the jug. I offer her a pickle to diffuse the weirdness of the moment. She takes one and agrees that these are indeed damn good pickles. I eat a few slices and put the bottle down on the floor out of sight.

A few minutes later, my friend and co-worker Todd walks in. I confess to him that I am troubled. I believe what I actually said was “I am truly sick.” He stares at me wondering what is wrong. We have gone to Johnnies many times, Todd and I. He knows my fondness for the sour greens. I point to the jug beside my desk. He gets mad.

“No! No! Not Okay,” he says, like he is scolding a dog that just shat on the rug.

Todd walks around my desk, picks up the jug and confiscates my pickles. I let him. He says when I want a pickle I should come see him. No more free pickles for me.

He socked them away in the refrigerator so I wouldn’t just maw on them all day long like some fiend on an all day pickle binge.

Now I don’t really think I over ate the pickles yesterday, despite the fact that I certainly over bought.

What caused me to show up at the Johnnie’s counter and walk away with the jumbo jug? I think when things are going good, you test your limits and boundaries. It’s like a gambler on a winning streak pressing his bet.

But the point is that when you are dealing with an addict, we tend to overdo things and when we do, it seems to be by a lot.

Now, no one has ever overdosed on pickles as far as I know. I just hope it doesn’t affect and slow my progress in week two or my weight loss.

But this sour little tale reminds me that my life these days is in a proverbial pickle. This fight is going to take a long time. But the social network support system in the office is solidly in place and working and for that I am grateful.

(The photos at the top of this blog are pictures of the actual pickle jug I purchased from Johnnie's.)

Copyright, Steve Elzer, 2009

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