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The Contaminated Food Diet and Other Quick Weight-loss Schemes*

Posted Apr 01 2013 11:35am
Unexpected weight loss is a great motivator for people who are ambivalent about starting a diet. If someone wakes up five pounds lighter than the day before, the motivation to keep the weight coming off can be compelling. And, like finding a dollar bill on the sidewalk, sometimes luck or just being in the right place at the right time can bring this about.

Mild food poisoning is usually the most reliable way to jumpstart a diet. A contaminated tuna salad sandwich, dirty lettuce, undercooked chicken, sun-warmed mayonnaise-laden potato salad, and polluted water are some of the more common causes of extremely uncomfortable but usually short-lived digestive problems. While suffering from the symptoms of contaminated food and water, you usually want to die. When you survive, you are happy to realize that you have lost several pounds in the process. Of course, this process is risky because if the food poisoning is severe, it can lead to serious medical consequences. But everything has its risks and benefits.

I know of someone who visits a food stand in a vacation spot at the beginning of every summer to lose those five pounds she gained during the winter. “I can fit into my bathing suit after eating one of their chicken salad sandwiches,” she told me. She went on to tell me that she keeps trying to get food poisoning from various chocolate cakes but without any success. “I know if I can associate feeling really sick after eating chocolate cake, I might never eat it again. But so far, it has not happened.”

No one wants to get sick but if you do fall ill with the right kind of virus, you may reap the benefits of weight loss. Stomach bugs are probably the best for this as they usually don’t last more than 24 hours but can leave you two or three pounds thinner. Sore throats decrease food intake because the pain of swallowing makes eating most foods very uncomfortable. (Having your tonsils out as an adult is also a great way of losing weight but the operation is rarely performed these days.) And stuffy noses are useful as well. Losing the sense of smell usually means losing the sense of taste, too. Freshly-baked cookies or bubbling melted cheese on a pizza may taste no better than a dry piece of toast and lose their temptation.

Certain medical tests such as a colonoscopy that require cleansing more powerful than the diets so popular these days, can bring about at least a pound or two of weight loss. But of course, it is important not to compensate for the day of fasting and cleansing by eating too much after the procedure is over.

Fasting for religious holidays can be a powerful stimulant to starting a diet. Long-term fasts like Ramadan reduce calorie intake substantially since food can be eaten only between sunset and sunrise (and it is hard to eat while you are asleep). Lent does not require such stringent food restrictions but forty days of avoiding doughnuts and fried chicken can have a positive impact on getting into skimpy summer clothes. Jewish fast days are sprinkled through the year, although Yom Kippur is best known. For traditional Jews there are several fast days and first-born sons get a greater share of them.

An unexpected help in the war against eating too much is the presence of repulsive creatures living in the kitchen. Cockroaches scuttling about on the kitchen floor and sometimes (ugh) in the cabinets turn off a nibbling appetite very quickly. But mice will do—unless you like rodents. After a cat we once owned dropped a snake she brought into the house on the kitchen floor, my phobia kicked in and I would not walk into the kitchen for days until I was certain it was snake free.

Of course, these weight-loss interventions are only successful if the would-be dieter respects the opportunity to continue to lose weight. Like diet programs that welcome you back year after year, most of these stimulants to weight loss are around all the time. Indeed, a friend of mine is contemplating writing a book on “contaminated restaurants around the world” so that the global traveler can drop a few pounds while on a trip.
Meanwhile, if you are fortunate enough to be healthy, don’t wait until the cockroaches scurry around your kitchen or you go on an ill-fated cruise. Diet Mondays come around every week.

*Happy April Fools Day!
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