Wednesday, January 7, 2009

June 2004: The First Annual Health & Diet Letter

I was working on the crossword puzzle in the June 15, 2004 USA Today. The clue for 13 Down was “What Dieters Eat.” The answer was simple, profound, but not so obvious to me. When I figured out the answer, it was like a Zen Koan, the sound of one hand clapping. What do dieters eat? They eat “Less.”

Eat Less and lose weight. It is too easy, too rational, too simple, and too profound. Why had I not thought of that before? Deep down I knew this simple truth but was, like so many others, looking for the Magic Bullet diet or lifestyle that simply does not exist.

The Weight Loss & Diet Control market in the United States is a $39 Billion industry. No wonder everyone is in this weight loss, low calorie, no fat, no cholesterol, book writing, infomercial, no carb business. It is a gold mine. Go to any of the chain book store or if you are unable to squeeze yourself through your front door or into your car. Look at the Weight Loss & Diet Control section. You will be amazed by the offerings. I just typed in Diet in search box under books on Amazon. There are only 92,582 results. Doing the same for Weight Loss yielded about the same 108,008 results, about the same.
It is maddening. These books cost from $5-30 depending if they are hard cover, paperback or where you buy them.

I can sum up all the diet books to come before or after in one column of this e-letter. It is incredibly simple and succinct.

The MDG-USA Today Crossward Puzzle Diet

Chapter One: The Basics
· Eat less
· Don’t eat so much less that you risk your health i.e. becoming anorexic or bulimic

Chapter Two: Advanced Concepts
· Exercise more
· Choose good foods & foods that are good for you
· Avoid refined carbohydrates & trans-fats often contained in highly processed foods.

Chapter Three: Weight Management
· When you reach your weight objective, eat a bit more.
· But eat less than you did when you were gaining weight.
· Monitor your weight. If you gain 2% (e.g. you go from 150 lbs to 153 lbs),
go back to Chapter 1.

Chapter Four: Mystical & Motivational Concepts.
· If you want to stay trim, you have to learn to eat differently: less and better foods for the
rest of your life.
· Moderation in all things
· It is not a fair system! Some of us can think about food and gain weight.
Others can live on Twinkies and Oreos and remain rail thin.
· If you have any consciousness and intellect, you cannot be alive today and not know how to
eat properly (double negative for emphasis).
· Knowing, however, never equals doing.
· Weight management is not like other substance abuse programs.
You have to stop using alcohol, cigarettes, and drug ever again.
You have to eat food to live.

Voila! See how simple it is? It is the freeware or Linux of Diets. Send it to anyone, no charge. Make copies, put it on the fridge, the stove, reduce it, laminate it and put it in your wallet.
Anyone can do it. It will work if you. Just stick to it… forever. Herein is the rub. We know not everyone will do it forever. Food companies who are creating delicious and diet busting new products daily, advertise like crazy, know this best. Everyone knows what to do. You cannot be alive today and not know. It is the doing, the execution, the sticking to it and sustaining the new lifestyle that is the challenge. This is why every chronic dieter, who has not met with great success, desires to find the Magic Formula diet. This is why there are 100,000 Weight Loss & Diet Control books on

You can get into this market and write your own diet book. It is easy and here is the formula. You name the diet after yourself or after the one food central to your diet a la the diets du jour of the 1960s and 70s. It’s fun and easy. Let’s try it.

Consider the Asparagus Diet (© Mark Gavoor 2004 lest any of you try to steal this idea). Basically, you eat some asparagus at every meal. By limiting yourself to 2,000 calories and exercising a bit more, you will lose ten pounds in a few weeks. The Asparagus Diet book would have chapters giving the history and importance of this magical vegetable. For example, did you know that it is one of the fastest growing vegetables and that farmers claim they can actually see it grow on hot humid summer days. This kind of facts will hook the reader and propel our book to the top of the charts. Yet, if you expect folks to shell out $27.50 for the book, we have to give them a couple of hundred pages that include mysticism, quasi-science, motivation, meal plans and recipes.

Let’s look at a typical daily menu for the Asparagus Diet. We start off with delicious Asparagus Crepes, 6 oz of Orange Juice and black coffee or tea for breakfast. Lunch is a savory Asparagus, prosciutto, arugola wrap, whole wheat of course, and mineral water. And dinner? Zesty vegetable tempura, consisting of one-third to one-half… you guessed it, Asparagus. Snacking? No problem, we will advise our readers to always carry a few spears of Asparagi with them to gnaw on whenever they have a craving. Put them in your shirt pocket next to your Mont Blanc.
Needless to say, consuming large amounts of Asparagus will have side effects. We will have to warn our readers that if their pee-pee turns green, it is quite natural and nothing to worry about. (

If Asparagus sounds too stringy or yucky, let’s try the Chocolate Lovers Diet. I cannot copyright this idea, because there is such a book: Chocolate Lovers Diet: Enjoy Chocolate and Say Goodbye to Fat by Robert F. Joseph MD. The book is out of print but was offering used copies starting at only 83¢, about the cost of a Hershey’s Bar. My Chocolate Lovers diet would allow eating some chocolate at every meal. By staying at 2,000 calories or less per day, you will lose weight. The same principle applies here: Eat Less and Lose Weight.

In the world of Weight Loss & Diet Control books, we have many different types. First, we have the specific food diets like the grapefruit diet or our soon to be famous Asparagus Diet. We have the Doctor Diets. These diets are popular since we believe, deep down, that Doctors know more than we do about everything. In this category, we have Drs. Atkins, Pritikin, Phil, and Ornish to name a few. Then we have the diets that avoid specific food types exemplified by Atkins, No Carb, Low Carb, South Beach, Sugar Busters, No Fat, Low Fat, No Cholesterol, Low Cholesterol, No Meat, No Red Meat, etc. There was even a book on called The Duct Tape Diet which I could not figure out. Do they want you to eat more Duct Tape, less Duct Tape or to just to Duct Tape your mouth to make you Eat Less of everything in general? Finally, we have the geographic such as the Mediterranean Diet, the South Beach Diet, and the LA Diet.

I believe there is a market for the Prisoner of War, Refugee Camp or Third World Diet. In the Refugee Camp Diet (RCD, unfortunately already copyrighted by Sudan), you only get two meals a day consisting of some kind of “who knows what’s in it” gruel and a wedge of stale bread. If you can stick to it, you will definitely Eat Less and Lose Weight. The beauty of the RCD diet is the fifth wonder of the marketing world, the line extension. We could sell bags of ready to heat and eat RCD Gruel and sacks of RCD Stale Bread. We could even help people jump start this diet by paying thousands of dollars to go to a real Refugee Camp for 2, 4, 10 or 72 weeks depending on one’s weight loss goals or political misdeeds.

I could write an entire volume on the amazing titles to Diets and Diet Books. Allow me to present few more. Again from, consider Potatoes not Prozac: A Natural Seven-Step Plan to: Control Your Cravings and Lose Weight Recognize how Foods Affect the Way You Feel Stabilize the Level of Sugar in Your Blood by Kathleen DesMaisons Ph. D. The title of the book is Potatoes not Prozac with everything after the colon being a subtitle. But included all this as the title which really caught my attention. I think they should have added the promise reversing baldness and improving your children’s grades.

There was a recent film, Super Size Me. It was a quasi-documentary in which Morgan Spurlock gorged himself by only eating at MacDonald’s over a period of time. Predictably, he gained weight. The film got a lot of press, until Michael Moore’s even more controversial quasi-documentary came along. The June 15th issue of a New York Street Paper, The Metro, had an article on a certain Soso Whaley, who did the opposite of Spurlock. Soso ate at McDonald’s three meals a day for the month of April and claimed to have lost 10 lbs and lowered her cholesterol. She ate one item from the single menu and limited herself to 1,800-2,000 calories per day: Eat Less & Lose Weight, per our simple crossword puzzle formula.

June 15th had to have been a red letter day for diet articles. The USA Today also had an article on the Golden Ratio Diet. Being a mathematician, knowing of the Fibonacci numbers and the classical Golden Ratio of 1.680339…, I had to read the article (see more than you would ever want to know about this subject). It seems this baker, Stephen Lanzalotta, in Maine was upset that the low carb craze was killing his business. He refused to believe that bread was the sole cause for obesity in the United States since people have been eating bread for centuries. Being as much marketer as baker, Stephen devised a diet based on the using the Golden Ratio to allocate how much protein and carbohydrates one would eat. In Googling Stephen, it seems his diet is also referred to as the DaVinci Diet thus trying to capitalize on the popular novel, The DaVinci Code. Basically, the Golden Rule – DaVinci Diet is based on a Mediterranean style diet of fish, cheese, vegetables, meats, nuts and wines: all in moderation: Moderation sounds a lot like Eating Less.

While in Laredo, Texas on June 22, I was watching CNN while getting ready for a full day meeting. They featured a diet that advocated “counting steps, not calories.” The hook of this diet was to walk 2,000 more steps a day. This would consume an extra 100 calories a day and would, according to the author, be enough for most people to maintain their weight instead of gradually gaining. Toward the end of the report, the author stated that you also had to train yourself to eat 25% less. This sounds just like 13 Down on the crossword puzzle: Eat “Less” rather than walking more.

There is a famous quote attributed to Mark Twain. When asked about quitting smoking, Twain responded, "Quitting smoking is easy, I've done it a hundred Times!" The same applies to weight loss and diet management. Starting a diet is easy, people with chronic weight problems or concerns have started diets thousands of times. These same people with chronic weight loss and diet management issues have individually lost hundreds of pounds. The problem is that they have lost and gained the same 10-15 pounds over and over again.

The problem with Weight Loss and Diet Management is not the beginning of a regimen. That is easy to do. It is not losing some pounds. This is harder but still doable. The hardest thing is to sustain it over ones lifetime, to lose it and keep it off. This is the bane of the unsuccessful dieter and probably a main reason there are so many diet books. The Chronically Unsuccessful Dieters - CUDs (© Mark Gavoor 2004, this CUD concept is just too juicy and I suppose chewy not to copyright) amongst us are always looking for that magic motivation, method or prescription that will facilitate the healthier life style. The psychology in CUD land is intense, convoluted and not easy to explain. Are CUDs lacking self-control? Are they addicts? Don’t the care? Are they tortured? Did their mothers not love them? Are they more susceptible to the bombardment of food advertising and the overwhelming bounty of cheap food available almost everywhere, at least in the US? Did their mothers love them too much and over-feed them? Do they just like to eat and eat and over-eat? The answers to all are basically “in part, yes.” There is probably an interaction of many factors versus one single factor. Interactions in this area are tough to uncover and much harder to manage even though everyone knows that the key is to simply Eat Less.

One of the things CUDs are really good at is postponement. CUDs are always starting diets… tomorrow, next week, the first of next month, the vernal equinox, whenever. This reminds of the Soviet Union. The USSR always seemed to be in the first year of a five plan that would propel them to Utopian levels. This makes me think about the Soviet Union or Postponement Diet (© Mark Gavoor & the estate of Nikita Khrushchev 2004). Both books would be highly motivational and heavy on planning. If a CUD were to buy the Soviet Union Diet book and ended up actually Eating Less and Losing Weight it would be a miracle.

In the realm of Eating Much Less and not being anorexic, the most interesting Diet Management system I have ever seen was presented in a November 23, 2003 New York Times article, “Food for Holiday Thought: Eat Less and Live to be 140.” It has been shown, in lab animals, that a dramatic reduction in caloric intake slows the aging process. There are people who have adopted this Calorie Restriction (CR) regimen as their lifestyle. Needless to say there is website Basically these folks restrict themselves to 1200-1600 calories per day. People who follow CR not only become rail thin but obsessed with meal preparation in order to maximize nutrition of the calories they ingest. Their diets seem to be heavy in salads and foods they prepare themselves because commercial products have too many calories and not enough nutritional value. Supposedly, the US Government is spending $20 Million in research to determine the whether CR truly delivers on increasing the longevity of humans. Is living to 100+ worth giving up eating and over-eating? Probably, if ones quality of life is not defined by the joy of eating, CR is the way to go. One CR devotee was quoted as saying, “for every calorie you save, there is a about a 30 second increase in your life span.” If this is true, eating 1,000 calories less a day would add over an hour to your life. Another lady was quoted as saying she was “freed up from food.” I am not sure the CUDs of this world could ever follow this regimen for very long.

There is a lot of food for thought here, a lot of musing and meandering to simply state that if you want to lose weight, you have to Eat Less.

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