We have had the Scarsdale Diet, the Beverly Hills diet and soon the waist control industry may give us the Monongahela, Pa., diet.
Peggy Ward, a 16-year-old baton-twirling majorette dropped from 139 1/2 pounds to 128 pounds over the summer. This shedding of 11 1/2 pounds occurred because Peggy followed the marching orders of her high school's band instructor, who told his majorettes to slim down to weight-chart standards. He said "catcalls" from the grandstands made him do it.
Peggy's father, Herbert Ward, doesn't think the school should be in the weight-watching business, especially when the watchers said that at 128 pounds Peggy, at 5-feet-4, was still two pounds too plump for twirling.
Ward has yet to make a federal case out of this, but he made a state case. He filed a complaint with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission charging that his daughter was discriminated against because of her sex and her "handicap--being overweight."
Ward surely meant well by this defense of his daughter. But he would have done better with an offense, and perhaps earned millions or even a summons from Phil Donahue wanting Peggy on the show. He needed only to announce that he and his daughter would soon co-author "The Original Monongahela Majorettes Diet Book: A Pound-Losing Plan That Works."
Such a book is needed. At the moment, the country languishes in a deep spiritual crisis by not having one diet book on the best-seller list. A year ago at this time, we had two -- and one of those was No. 1, the other No. 3. The New York Times called one author "a Hollywood nutritional guru."
Monongahela is not Hollywood, for sure, but a weight-losing majorette from anyplace is still scads better than what is out there now. There is "The Dachman Permanent Weight Loss Program," by one Ken Dachman, who, it announces on the jacket, "lost 250 pounds and kept them off." For doubters that Dachman became an eighth of a ton less of his former self, the smiling super-thin author appears on the cover holding up a spread-out pair of his old pants. They look to be at least 60 inches in the waist, which is close to the girth line of the Aga Khan when he would hit the public scale annually to be paid his weight in gold by his followers.
The gold for America's diet book writers may not be automatically panned for long, which is why Peggy Ward should tell her father to stop wasting his time before the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission and help her get started on Chapter One. The threat is not that the medical schools are not turning out a sufficient supply of Dr. Reubens, Dr. Tarnowers, Dr. Atkins, Dr. Coopers and Dr. Solomons to tell us how to become lightweights. It's worse. Books are now coming out with an anti-skinny message.
Acropolis Books is offering "Big and Beautiful: Overcoming Fatphobia" by Ruthanne Olds. Her message is: stop dieting and start living. The body language of Olds includes instructions on Fatphobia Awareness Training (FAT). She is "tired of being told I have to reduce to be considered human" and gives an address for big and beautiful people to get a "Thin's Not In" button.
The current bookstore rival to Olds is Carole Shaw, the author of "Big Beautiful Woman," which is subtitled "Yes! There Is Life After Size 16 -- or There is More To Life Than a Tiny Tush." Shaw is a sensitizer who wants her readers to overcome their "thinomania" by changing their mind shape, not their body shape: "When someone tells me now that I'm overweight, I always say, 'Over whose weight?' I'm not over my weight; this is my weight. Maybe I'm over your weight! It's like saying that I am over-age. How can I be over-age when this is my age?"
A bit of this uplift might be needed back in Monongahela. According to an older sister, Peggy Ward's efforts to become sightly in the eye of the beholding band leader has meant that Sis "hasn't been eating much of anything. She's really run down and depressed."
But that's useful. All books on weight, whether they push the bodily comforts of thinness or fatness, have chapters on how to overcome the run-down feeling. The authors project themselves as getting tough and mad, and challenging all the quacks who have come before them. Whether eating or not eating, the end justifies the meanness.