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One man's tale of dietary hell

By By Robert St. John / food columnist
Oct. 29, 2003
Robert St. John is the executive chef/owner of the Purple Parrot Caf and Crescent City Grill in Hattiesburg and Meridian. He can be reached at or at (601) 264-0672.
I am in Atkins hell.
I made a bet with my wife and our friend, Jessica, that I would join them on the Atkins diet until Thanksgiving. I shook on it. What a fool I am.
Just in case you've been in orbit for the last two years, the Atkins diet is a miserably slow and painful method of body-altering torture that gradually disintegrates the individual cells in your brain through dull, tasteless, mind-numbing and severely painful carbohydrate-deprivation.
When I was told about this diet my first reaction was, "You mean I can eat all of the ribeye steaks I want? That's a breeze. I'll have this diet thing licked!" I love meat. Or, more accurately, I used to love meat. I have eaten more meat over the last three weeks than Hannibal "The Cannibal" Lecter devoured over the course of his career.
It just isn't fair
Our bet was made three weeks, and 15 pounds, ago. That's 21 days without a banana, strawberry or grape. And, 504 hours without bread (I really love bread). And, 30,204 minutes without a doughnut. And, 1,814,400 seconds without a french fry (I really, really love french fries).
No corn, no butterbeans, no Cap'n Crunch, no Count Chocula, no ice cream, no baked potatoes, no potato pancakes, no hash-brown potatoes, no fried potatoes, no potato logs, no potato croquets, no twice-baked potatoes, no new potatoes, no mashed potatoes (I really, really, really love potatoes).
Did I mention no ice cream?
Meat and eggs, meat and eggs, meat and eggs. Last night my wife found me sleepwalking in the front yard chewing a cud of centipede grass (sleep grazing) and laying eggs in the flower bed. The night before, I dreamed of french fries and doughnuts (a shrink would have a field day with that one).
The wife has no problem with this diet. She loves cheese. She is a cheesaholic. I, on the other hand, am a chocoholic. There is no need for a 12-step program for cheesaholism, just grab a piece of brie and gnaw on it until you're ready for some more meat and eggs.
Every day, I get an afternoon craving for a Milky Way bar. "Just eat some pork rinds or beef jerky," they say. I tried that. Pork rinds are smelly and greasy, and it takes approximately 37 hours to chew one single piece of beef jerky.
Note to future Atkins dieters: 50 pounds of dried beef or fried pig skins can't come close to one tiny bite of a chocolaty, silky, heavenly, wonderfully delicious Milky Way bar.
So what if it works?
I will testify that the Atkins diet works. The spare tire around my gut is deflating at the rate of half-a-pound a day. As I write, I have four weeks, four days, two hours and seven minutes until I finish the bet.
At this present weight-loss rate I will drop from my current, svelte weight of 234 pounds, to somewhere in the vicinity of the game-day playing weight of your average Pee Wee football player.
An Atkins dieter cannot have milk but he can have heavy cream and half-and-half.
Someone please explain this logic to me. The dairy case is full of dairy products whose sole purpose is to get as far away on the fat-scale from heavy cream as they can 2 percent milk, 1 percent milk, 5 7/8 percent milk, skim milk. Skim milk is basically water, but at this stage, I would welcome that milk-like water with my skinny and bone-bare open arms.
How am I going to eat cereal with heavy cream? Oh, that's right. I forgot. I can't have cereal because it contains carbohydrates. Those nasty, dreaded carbohydrates. What did carbohydrates ever do to us?
Think before you make a wager
There are four things that anyone thinking of subjecting themselves to this cruel and unusual punishment should know:
No matter what you thought while you were a starving college student, you CAN get tired of eating steak every day.
One should never take for granted the sheer and satiated joy one experiences while eating bread and potatoes.
If God had wanted us to be on the Atkins diet, the Lord's Prayer would have stated, "Give us this day our daily egg, and forgive us our"
I forgot what No. 4 was. See No. 2.
I have to go now (I have more meat and eggs to eat) (Also, I have used my quarterly quota for parentheses in this one column). Four out of five editors surveyed agree: sudden loss of tasty, sugary and starchy foods in one's diet creates a sudden urge to use random parentheses for no reason whatsoever.