Trying out the General Motors Diet

When I came back from vacation last week, I felt that I had done my part to contribute to the national obesity crisis — and I felt a great shame.

It used to be that people would be excused their excessive weight on the grounds that they were "big boned." Unfortunately, that no longer applies, because too many people have grown big bones inside their bellies and spoiled it for all of us.

As it happens, Pittsburgh is not the worst place to be tubby. It’s not one of those fashionable places like Los Angeles where if you are not thin you are socially dead. Quite the contrary.

In fact, I have long thought that Pittsburgh’s promotional motto should be: "Want to Look Slimmer? Come to Pittsburgh and Stand Next to Us."

Even so, I became concerned on my return when I noticed that crowds of Pittsburghers were now standing next to me in their attempt to look thinner.

I also missed my shoes. I knew they were down there somewhere but felt that I should be monitoring them or they might walk off and get up to no good, for example, by taking me to a doughnut shop.

So I resolved to do something about it. Of course, there is only one sensible and healthy way to lose weight — by exercising and eating sensible foods in small portions. This requires patience.

But on vacation, I ran two miles to the beach every morning and plunged into the surf, much to the consternation of beachgoers on towels who were surprised by the sudden rise of the tide. And who has patience? This is America. I believe patience is against the law in most states.

But the only other alternative is a fad diet, and a man would have to be mad to try one of those diets. Wait a second, I thought, that may be right for me.

Sorry to say, I have been down this sorry path before. Years ago, I tried the Cabbage Soup Diet, which caused grumpiness, gave me bad breath and made me a menace to others in confined spaces, some of whom have not forgiven me to this day. I did, however, lose weight.

This time my wide-bodied vehicle for weight reduction would be the General Motors Diet, which is available on an Internet near you.

Not that I recommend it. This is crazy stuff, as one would surmise given that the diet is supposedly named for an auto manufacturer that went into bankruptcy. Please, speak to your doctor first if you are interested — a chat with a psychiatrist might be advisable, too — just like I didn’t. Fools rush in where angels fear to step onto the scales.

The only reason I went forward with the GM Diet is a) my sister-in-law lost weight quickly on it and 2) the right to be personally irresponsible is one of the cherished rights of the American people secured by the Founding Fathers.

By the way, the diet purports to have been developed by GM in 1985 but the company is on record as saying that this is an urban myth. In some ways, GM felt like an update of the old cabbage soup diet. It even has its own supplemental cabbage/vegetable soup with similar room-emptying potential.

It is so wacky that I have come to suspect that GM really stands for Gastro Madness. One day I ate nothing but fruits and vegetables, another day just steak and tomatoes.

That was the day that saw me get up at the crack of dawn to fire up the old barbecue to make steak for breakfast, unusual behavior even for the suburbs. I just couldn’t bring myself to grill the steak the previous night because that was the bananas-and-milk day and it would have been a special torture.

Take it from me: It is hard to eat eight bananas over the course of a day. By the end of it, I was swinging off the rafters and there was no chance of monkey business either — not with the bad breath. Perhaps GM stands for Gorilla Madness.

Of course, it is typical for fad diets to throw unlikely menus together. I once wrote my own version that called for chicken without its skin on one day and skin without its chicken the next. For some reason, this never caught on and so the larger type of person is left to seek out diets like the GM, which, come to think of it, may also stand for Goofy Meals.

On the other hand, I did lose eight pounds in six days and the crowds around me have started to disperse. Moreover, my shoes have come back into view — hello shoes, how do you feel about walking to the doughnut shop?

(Reg Henry is a columnist for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. E-mail rhenry(at)