Dude, Where’s My Carbs?
by Patricia Draznin

WARNING: Your food may contain fats, carbohydrates, or even nutrition. Consume with caution.

Last year the American food industry introduced 2,800 new dessert products and 2,801 new diets. Nowadays you can’t throw a Hostess Twinkie without hitting a new weight-loss craze. And in the Land of Plenty o’ Diets, Americans can choose from countless ways to deprive themselves of their favorite foods, such as the Low Carb diet, the Atkins diet, the South Beach diet, the Low Fat diet, the Ramadan diet, or plastering a piece of duct tape over your mouth.

And if that’s not enough, it appears that all nutrients are not created equal. There are good fats and bad fats, good carbs and bad carbs, good brownies and low-calorie brownies. And as long as food manufacturers claim that a product is low in fats, carbohydrates, or cholesterol, they could probably sell us dirt, which is what some of those downsized foods taste like, except maybe the low-fat chewing tobacco.

I was a strict follower of the eat-whatever-the-heck-you-want diet until recently, when my metabolism was required by law to slow down and allow innocent little pancake molecules to morph into adipose—body cells characterized by a lack of enthusiasm. So rather than having to let out the seams in my Ford Escort, I am trying the latest diet craze and biting the bullet—but not swallowing, since metal and gunpowder might have bad carbs.

After three days of low carb-ing, my life is different. Before entering the pasta-free zone, cheating meant consuming a third helping of cheesecake before I finished my pizza. Now, it means eating a Tic-Tac. Also, my old snacking inventory included pick-me-ups like, Fritos, Rocky Road, and the old stand-by, a bottle of Hershey syrup. Now if hunger strikes, I am free to enjoy a wedge of raw endive. This has inspired me to become a flexible low carb-er—more like a medium carb-er, rather than one of those starving fundamentalists who hold up a crucifix when they pass an Italian restaurant.

And if that’s not enough, health advocates are pressuring the USDA to rethink the Food Pyramid, the American nutrition standard invented during the Wonder Bread years. Divided into six food groups, the pyramid stationed the evil Fats and Oils Empire inside the little tiny Prison Tower at the top, to “use sparingly.” Next came the 2-serving Milkshake and Cheeseburger Groups, followed by the 4-serving Fruit and Veggie Groups that included green Jell-O molds with cling peaches. Claiming the prime real estate at the bottom and weighing in at 6-11 servings were the Mighty Carbohydrates, including breads, grains, rigatoni, Cocoa Puffs, and Little Debbie snack cakes.

Today, redesigning the pyramid would be a hotter issue than gun control. Low Fat dieters would claim the top for beef and dairy, while Low Carb factions would exile all those nasty carbs there, along with the paint thinner and DDT. The Atkins people would reserve the bottom for Atkins products and buffalo meat, while the Raw Food people would claim it for the salad. And then there are the Liberals who wouldn’t care as long as the Republicans were on top. (Use sparingly.)

And if that’s not enough, here comes the conclusion. In a perfect world, people from every nutritional conviction would obey the Golden Rule of Dietary Tolerance: that one man’s junk food is another man’s multi-billion dollar industry. And if you respect someone’s access to the bakery aisle, they will defend to the death your right to not eat.

Copyright 2004 Patricia Draznin


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