We are a nation of losers.
At least we hope so.
It's January. Americans from every walk of life are on a diet, embracing steamed vegetables with a side of rice cakes. And that's because we have indulged in gastronomic excesses during the holidays that would make Henry VIII look away in disgust.
Included in that group is this columnist, who emerged from a fall full of parties and assorted other celebrations looking like an inverted pear. Pass me the broccoli flowerets, hold the cheese sauce.
You can always tell when it's weight-loss season. All those jewelry ads on TV that appeared during the holidays and suggested that men can purchase eternal love and devotion for the price of a bracelet have been replaced with something worse.
Now we are deluged with diet commercials that promise to quickly make us movie-star svelte or exercise plans that will convert us from walking burritos to Navy SEALs in 20 minutes a day.
These ads are easily identifiable by their use of the words "miraculous" or "medical breakthrough" or "secret formula." Many also contain the phrase "results not typical" in small print.
But since Americans spend somewhat north of $30 billion a year on weight-loss products, the odds that diet hyperbole will vanish are, well, slim.
Let's face it. For the most part, losing weight is just a matter of using more calories than you consume. Diet and exercise will do the trick. Simple enough, right?
Sure, except for a couple of things: Counting calories might require the use of math, which will discourage a large portion of the population. And while you're trying to shed some pounds, the fast food industry in an act of unfettered self-preservation is blanketing the airwaves with commercials that ooze burgers, bacon and cheese.
Just try watching an In-n-Out commercial while sipping clear bouillon with a watercress garnish.
So we continue to search for some magic bullet to quickly and painlessly shed our excess weight. To underscore that point, here are some of the most commonly searched diets, according to the folks at Google.
» The Melissa Miller diet. Want to look like this Victoria's Secret model? Drink lots of kale juice. Better yet, be genetically disposed to be a Victoria's Secret model.
» The Feeding Tube diet. This is not a joke. The New York Times profiled several brides-to-be who used a nasogastric feeding tube, usually for the gravely ill or injured, because they wanted to lose weight fast. One New York doctor called it "appalling because it opens up a whole new world of shockingly bad ideas."
» The NV Diet Pill, popularized by Carmen Electra, promises to burn fat, tone the body and improve the appearance of skin, nails and hair. It won't. And besides, would you follow the advice of someone who was once married to Dennis Rodman?
» The P.I.N.K. Method was designed specifically for women, and stands for "power, intensity, nutrition, and kardio." While it has its supporters, one nutritionist said that "even in the best circumstances, many of the claims are overstated and not based on research. Foods are not fat burners and not everyone is going to rejuvenate skin, hair, and nails, and heighten their energy and libido on this plan."
» Raspberry Ketone Diet. None other than the wildly popular Dr. Oz of TV fame proclaimed raspberry ketones the "No. 1 miracle in a bottle for burning your fat." The problem is that the evidence for the fat-burning features comes from animal studies by researchers in Japan and Korea. Besides, a 100 mg. daily dose is the equivalent of 90 pounds of fresh raspberries. You might turn red and bumpy on this program.
» Michael Phelps Diet. Phelps won a suitcase full of gold medals as an Olympic swimmer while sucking up 12,000 calories a day. This is just the plan for you if you plan on starting a five-day-a-week, six-hour-a-day training regime. If you're not an elite athlete but want to eat like one, you may find fame in a different venue: "America's Biggest Loser."
If all else fails, try the Junk Food Diet. According to CNN, Mark Haub, a professor of human nutrition at Kansas State University, ate Twinkies, Nutty Bars and powdered doughnuts every three hours, instead of meals for 10 weeks. To add variety, Haub munched on Doritos chips, sugary cereals and Oreos.
His premise: That in weight loss, pure calorie counting is what matters most, not the nutritional value of the food.
The premise held up: On his "convenience store diet," he shed 27 pounds in two months.
Chew on that.