A few weeks ago, I clicked on a news story and my jaw dropped. It dropped because I was trying to insert into my mouth a big fat bratwurst smothered in butter-sauteed onions.

Then I read the news story. It said that millennials are reporting an average weight gain of 41 pounds since the start of the pandemic. Wow, I thought. Those poor young men and women are stress-eating themselves to an early death. Alas, they lack the self-control and resilience of us older people. Then I decided, just for reassurance, to visit my bathroom scale. It had been a while.

My scale is one of those electronic ones, where you don’t see your weight right away. First, a display flashes and rolls, like on a slot machine, and then it settles on your weight. In my case, it didn’t settle gently like a leaf, it thudded down like a gunnysack of organ meat.

A few days later, in a panic, I started the worst diet of all time, one largely of my own invention. It’s quite easy to summarize, and even easier to name: You only eat foods that repulse you. I call it the Eat [Feces] Diet.

Laugh if you want, but after 12 days I lost nine pounds. I do not feel sick. I feel terribly, terribly, horribly sorry for myself, but, hey, that’s pretty much the state we’re all in.

I should note that in the past I have launched other lunatic diets — anything that could cause the loss of a pound or two and result in a column. Once I ate only dog food for a week. Another time I devised a diet where you could eat anything you want, and as much as you want, but you had to shovel the day’s worth down in one five-minute sitting.

The E.S. Diet is worse than either. No fat or sugar or starch. No butter. If you use oil, it can only be a single spray-dot less than the diameter of a quarter, the sole purpose of which is to avoid pan-bottom charring, because char tastes kinda good. You can’t eat fruits and veggies you like, such as tomatoes or beets or bok choy, but raw kale is fine because it tastes like crepe paper. If there are low-fat things you kind of like, you have to ruin them before you can eat them. I like chicken, but not the wan and fatless white meat, unless it is slathered with gravy. This diet requires you to eat only the wan and fatless white meat, but you have to first boil it to culinary death. Hot sauce is legal, but you have to use too much of it. You may also use salt, but only if you over-salt and over-pepper, and add three other emphatically flavored spices that notoriously quarrel: Mix and match among garlic, fennel, basil, cloves and cinnamon.

On the E.S. Diet you simply lose all desire for food. You’d be better off consuming protein pills on a spaceship. There is no limit to the serving size because there is no need for a limit. It is most effectively self-limiting.

Oh, and beer is okay in moderation. One does not last weeks on this monstrous regimen without spiritual help.

After the diet was done, I was so resentful, and so desperate for the sheer taste of taste, that I put myself on a second diet. This one was the photo negative of the E.S. Diet. It was confined only to my favorite food in the world. For the next three days, I had only raw oysters and clams. Lost another two pounds.

Then it was over. My first meal back was my favorite childhood comfort food, a peasant Russian dish called matzoh brei, a name my young kids had manhandled to “monster pie.” It is ostentatiously opulent, involving matzoh, butter, cottage cheese, eggs and dollops of strawberry jam, all previously verboten. It was heaven. I had seconds.

By Day 2, post-diets, I had regained three pounds. Thirty-eight pounds to go, I guess.

Email Gene Weingarten at gene.weingarten@washpost.com.
Twitter: @geneweingarten. For previous columns, visit wapo.st/weingarten.

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