Monthly Archives: October 2013

Don’t Verb Diet


There’s this great little Calvin and Hobbs cartoon in which Calvin explains the method of verbing a word. Verb is a noun. Verbing is turning a noun into a verb, so verbing verbs verb. (Calvin does it better. Look it up.)

Anyway, I promised a post about verbing the word diet and here it is, inspired by running into someone who hadn’t seen me in a while, the conversation going immediately to my weight loss and to dieting (verb).

The graph above shows my weight over the last year and a half or so. My doctor and I had watched my weight increase through my forties, when, as we believe, we just always get fatter. Actually, my weight had been steadily increasing all my life, excepting a few very unhealthy periods that don’t count. I had told myself that I was just a big guy; fatness was unavoidable for me. But I also told myself that if I ever actually arrived at 250 I’d have to make some major changes. I arrive there in the Spring of 2012, and told my doctor I was going to make some major changes. He looks at me very skeptically, worried that I was talking about dieting (verb).

It didn’t take me long to put his mind at ease because I had no intent of dieting. Instead, I planned to change my diet (noun). The distinction between diet (noun) and diet (verb) is lifestyle. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, diet (noun) is “food and drink regularly provided or consumed, [or] habitual nourishment”. This should be our limit of the meaning. But the definition goes on to include “the kind and amount of food prescribed for a person or animal for a special reason”. This definition is getting risky, implying some of the unhealthy imbalances people tend toward. Then, finally, the dictionary throws in “a regimen of eating and drinking sparingly so as to reduce one’s weight,” which means: “going on a diet.” Dieting (verb). This last definition is almost always dangerous and leads to limited success. The dictionary obviously doesn’t make moral judgements, just reflects how we use words, much to the dismay of some purests.

Through my recovery from obesity I ate at the following establishment: McDonalds, Burger King, Taco Bueno, Whole Hog Café, Golden Corral, CiCi’s, Oriental Express, Subway. Basically, if it’s out there, I eat it. At a fish fry I eat fried fish, and hushpuppies of course. Little bit of slaw, but who wants to fill up on cabbage when hushpuppies are around? (I do love me some hushpuppies.) And Denny’s! Denny’s does pancake hushpuppies, which I highly commend! For breakfast I almost always have eggs and bread, sometimes fried in butter with ham and cheese, a breakfast favorite of mine. But how did I manage to lose 75 pounds eating all that?

That question nudges me toward a diatribe about unholy living, but I’ll save that for another post.

My method has had four components. First, I completely gave up soft drinks and candy. What I had learned from my research for I Town about the differences between calories and carbs told me that that stuff was packing on unnecessary extra weight, not the unrelated fact that I was getting older. I started exercising, biking at first because it’s easier on the knees, then running, since my daughter and wife had proved that it could be done. Third, was another bit of dietary wisdom I learned from my wife: the value of snacking. Not letting myself get very hungry. Here is where dieting almost always brings people to failure. Failing to eat  a balanced diet always leaves us in need of nutrition. We may not necessarily feel empty, but our bodies aren’t getting everything they need. Want ensues. Want for protein, or want for carbs, or for fat, or for whatever dietary shortcut the dieting is forcing upon us. For me snacking was Cheezits and almonds. Just a few. Half a dozen or eight in the middle of the morning and afternoon. Cheezits and almonds probably have about the best balance of protein, carb and fat of any of the quick and easy snacks. And finally, and I think most importantly, I drastically changed the ratio of main course to raw veggies in my diet (noun).

dinners Here’s what it looks like. Upper right is my old diet, lower left is my new diet. Main courses are reduced from the size of my face, jowls and all, to the size of my fist. Volume in high fat is replaced with high fiber raw veggies. The picture doesn’t show the dressing, egg, and bit of cheese I usually have on my salad. Less with a fatter main course, more with leaner. And none of that fat free crap either. I’m highly suspicious of that stuff, and apparently it doesn’t matter. Maybe I’d have to do that if I wanted to get ripped, Speedo ready, all that. But that’s not what it’s about. It’s about being healthy and happy. Happy with my body and how I look.

With the reduction of my waist size from 44 to 32 and my resting pulse from 98 to 49, my cholesterol and all those other health indicators had dropped or risen to almost perfectly in the middle of the healthy range.

So my advice is this: Don’t diet (verb). Get a healthy diet (noun).

The Juice

At first I thought we were environmental superheroes.

One thing I had to put in perspective when I wrote I Town was energy usage. According to good ole Wikipedia the US uses 3.7 trillion kilowatt-hours of electricity per year and has a population of just under 313 million. That’s about 11,820 kilowatt-hours that each of us use. (We’re 12th in the world, by the way.) My home consumed 14,360 kilowatt-hours of electricity and 1,470 cubic feet of natural gas in one year. To figure our annual kwh equivalent I had to convert the natural gas usage in kilowatt-hours, which is a factor of about 0.8, one ccf of gas is equal to about 0.8 kilowatt-hours of electricity. So that’s about 1,180 kwh in gas. Altogether a house of five people used 15,540 kilowatt-hours in twelve months, or about 3,110 kwh per person. Just over a third of the national average.


I was proud of us. We were really keeping our consumption down! We actually have a pretty big house compared to the one I grew up in, 2800 square feet, but we keep the thermostat on very conservative settings: 79 in the summer and 65 in the winter.

Almost a third , though. Really?

No. Not really. There are lots of other factors to consider in our individual energy consumption. For example, I run. Most of the time I run late in the evening or early in the morning because I have other things to do during the day. The trail I run on is lit all night long so I can run on it anytime. Very convenient! (I do love the Fayetteville trail system, especially after running in other towns.) Now I could figure the amount of time it takes me to run the distance from one light to the next to figure the amount of electricity I need while I’m running. Or I could use my average running time and how many bulbs light the length of the trail where I run to get a little broader view of my electricity consumption on the trails. But all those bulbs are using electricity all night long whether I’m running or sleeping. They’re on for whoever to use whenever they choose. So, to be fair and accurate, I should take the total energy consumption of the trail lights and divide it by the total population of Fayetteville. Then there are all the streetlights burning all night. And all the traffic signals running all day long, using convenient electrically powered sensors so we don’t have those crazy old timers that were absolutely maddening. There are all the city government buildings. And schools. And that’s just local power usage.

What about the state?

The nation?

What about the usage of all the stores I visit? I can’t very well turn the lights off when I leave.

Basically, what I’ve discovered is that for every kilowatt-hour I use at home, the society I live in uses two on my behalf.