mad in pursuit memoir notebook

DISPATCHED FROM THE intersection of yesterday and forever

Pre-Atkins Dieter

It was the summer of 1966. I was going into my senior year of high school, studying Chinese at the Mark Twain Summer Institute. My friend MK was taking Linguistics. Even though we lived at opposite ends of the St. Louis universe, we managed to find a place where our bus lines joined so we could travel together every morning and again at noon when classes let out.

We decided to have a diet competition. I can't remember what our goals were -- probably somewhere between 10 and 20 pounds. Saccharin and diet soda were new phenomena, so I drank barrels of Fresca. It was also before Atkins published his "Diet Revolution" in 1972, but someone was onto the evil of carbs. I had a tiny book of carb listings. (It had a photo of a Manhattan cocktail on the cover.)

And so I tracked my carbs. I ate lots of eggs. The weight came off.

I have an image of myself that summer. Shifts were in style -- sleeveless sacks. My mother sewed up a couple for me. One was orange and white. I can still see myself wearing it, towering above MK in her lime green. By the end of the summer we were both looking good. Gorgeously svelte.

A flaw in our strategy: we decided that if we made our weight goals, we'd have a party featuring all the food we were dying for. So, before school started, all our girlfriends came to my house for a pajama party. The dining room table groaned with food. Our featured item was a sundae bar -- ice cream with every imaginable topping.

Unfortunately, the party didn't stop when my pals went home. I ate and I ate and all the weight reappeared before I knew what happened.

It's not like I didn't try carb-counting again and again after that. Those were the years before "exercise" and before "lifestyle changes." Carb-counting worked no more miracles for me. I had to wait for college and diet pills for the next miracle.