Bread. That’s what I’m giving up for Lent.
So from now until Easter, no pizza. No epic sandwiches. No perfectly poached eggs on toast.
Dang, what have I done?
Reflective penance, that’s what. That’s Lent.
But that’s not the only reason I’m easing off bread for a while. While not obese, I do fall among that segment of Americans who – what’s the official medical term? – “could stand to lose a few pounds.”
And odds are you could, too. Don’t deny it.
I’m playing the percentages here. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, almost 70 percent of Americans are either overweight or obese. Yes, you with the doughnut.
It seems like, more than ever, food is oozing into every aspect of the nation’s culture. Food fills magazines. Food fills TV. Just a couple of generations ago, there were only two celebrity chefs you could name off the top of your head: Julia Child and the Galloping Gourmet. Now you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a celebrity chef – and “dead cat” is bound to be the new secret ingredient on next week’s Iron Chef America.
Food’s even a hobby now. If you like seeking out new, interesting culinary experiences, you could be best described as “a foodie.” If you like seeking out buffets, you could be best described as “a gravy-spattered glutton.”
Not that I’m knocking buffets. The closest I came to a genuine spiritual out-of-body experience was at a catfish restaurant in Russellville, Ark. But when it’s becoming a more common experience to see an impossibly huge person on a battery-powered mobility scooter parallel-parking at an all-you-can-eat buffet line, you’ve got to question the wisdom what’s going on.
Food’s also getting cheaper. Not the good stuff – the processed, empty-calorie garbage. That’s the most likely reason why America, hands down, has got to have the fattest poor people in the world. You think they got that way nibbling on kale or Korean pears on the way back from spinning class?
And food’s getting angrier. There’s a fast-food chain with the motto “Eat like you mean it.” Like you’re some kind of sissy if you’re not choking down one of their burgers in a frenzied attack. Which I fully intend to do once Lent is over.
Whether it’s good or bad, food is becoming an extension of the freedoms we enjoy as Americans. “It’s a free country,” you say between bites of that fourth slice of pie, “and I can eat what I want!”
What a catchy epitaph for a tombstone: “He ate what he wanted.”
I wonder what’s going to be on John Alleman’s tombstone.
Alleman, 52, was the unofficial spokesman of a Las Vegas restaurant called the Heart Attack Grill. I say “was” because about a week ago he died of – but I don’t have to tell you what he died of, do I?
The Heart Attack Grill – where anyone who weighs more than 350 pounds eats free – features waitresses dressed as nurses;
diners draped in hospital gowns; and such entrees as the “Quadruple Bypass” burger, which with two pounds of meat clocks in at almost 10,000 calories.
I’m not saying that the restaurant killed the guy – both of Alleman’s parents also died of heart attacks in their 50s – but if I were a criminal lawyer building a murder case, I’d have to put this restaurant on the list of accomplices. Chowing at this place did not do his arteries any favors.
Oh, and the restaurant’s last unofficial spokesman, Blair River, was 575 pounds and dropped dead of complications from pneumonia in 2011.
At age 29.
What does restaurant owner John Basso think of Alleman’s death? Basso – who, true story, used to own a Jenny Craig weight-loss center – says the Heart Attack Grill provides a valuable public service on the consequences of unhealthy eating habits.
“I honestly do believe I help more people now than I ever did when I owned the diet center,” Basso told ABC News. “(Alleman’s) death serves as another lesson for people. ... I often say I serve burgers and fries, and I also serve food for thought.”
Suuuure. And if he were a cigarette manufacturer, he could brag about how cancer victims who used his product are spreading the valuable message that smoking is bad for you.
Even if you’re not on board with the whole business of giving up something for Lent, it might not be a bad idea to give up at least one unhealthy, life-shortening habit anyway – if not for you, at least for your friends and family who want to keep you around a few years longer.
It wouldn’t kill you to at least try.