Spring 1981 -- The years weigh heavy on my scale, and the only thing thin about me are my excuses for finishing that homard au beurre blanc. It becomes harder to close my eyes to increasing fleshiness. And few, these days, are the people who ask, "How can a restaurant critic stay so thin?"
After a decade of suggesting how people eat, it is time to take others' suggestions to me on how not to eat. I have been to the stars and back in France, consumed pasta from Venice to Palermo. In China I left no dim sum unturned--and it shows. It is time to turn back the dial.
Spring 1982--Everywhere, the epidemic is taking hold. In Manhattan you have the choice of jogging track, pool and sauna at the Vista or fitness center with pool at the United Nations Plaza Hotel. A drive through the tiny towns of the Eastern Shore will wend you past the New Image Inn, where you can fast under ancient magnolia trees.
The tourist trails of America these days are dotted not just with fast- food restaurants but with fast-fast centers. And if starving with the masses does not suit you, you can even hire a spa to come to you.
This year I forswore Paris, postponed Rome. I chose four diet centers --the three closest to Washington and one of the world-class gilded retreats. In a month of spas I consumed fewer calories than I might in a single week of searching out the world's delicacies. And where I once spent the day combing markets, I spent these weeks bending, stretching, biking, bouncing and clearing my palate only with lectures on the joy of complex carbohydrates.
I discovered the rest of the world pounding and bouncing and denying their tummies along with me. And if you think the price of food has escalated, it has plummeted in relation to the price of non- food. A week's diet, with the room and services thrown in? You could figure the glamor spas at 50 cents a calorie.
I speak now with thinner thighs. My voice carries less weight, about 20 pounds less. I speak now as an ex-smoker, as one who still hates exercise but, miraculously, no longer dreads it.