|Title:||Till We Eat Again|
|SubTitle:||A Second Helping|
|Pub Date:||May 21, 2012|
|Category:||NONFICTION - ADULT: Biography & Autobiography|
Synopsis . . .
“I had my fat tested today. It came back positive.”
Facing this inescapable observation, Judy Gruen set out to lose fifteen pounds in time for a college reunion. But as she discovered, no two diet “experts” agree on anything, even whether lentils are good for people with Type A blood. Originally published as Till We Eat Again: Confessions of a Diet Dropout, this revised and updated edition, Till We Eat Again: A Second Helping, is an even more hilarious chronicle of one woman's real-life attempt to make sense out of diets named “Bad Carbohydrates and the Women Who Love Them,” and compounds like “Hyper-Meta-Phedra-Bolic,” which may boost metabolism but also might cause cardiac arrest.
During her quest for thinness, Judy also belly dances to the “camel,” runs laps while an Army major blows his whistle at a fitness boot camp, and gets tangled in yoga positions so bizarre the paramedics need the “Jaws of Life” to get her out. She also tries to avoid diet despair as medical researchers conclude that even drinking too much water can kill you. After months of these and other indignities, she’ll even earn a little star from Weight Watchers for losing five pounds.
This book offers equal measures of comedy and inspiration for anyone who wants to lose five or fifty pounds.
Sample Chapter Excerpt . . .
Let Me Eat Cake!
am hugely relieved to report that my friend Ingrid has justleft after a weeklong visit, taking her almond milk and healing crystals with her. Actually, “friend” may no longer be accurate. Since I had last seen her two years ago, Ingrid got religion and now bows to the gods of organic kale, spelt bread and Kundulani yoga. Unfortunately, she now also resembles those missionaries who come to the door early Saturday mornings, ready to witness to you. Quite frankly, I’m glad she is gone. Having her in the house was like running a bed and breakfast for a band of weight-loss zealots. The woman was obsessed with low glycemic foods and protein counts, more terrorized by the thought of saturated fats than by the prospect of an Al Qaeda attack, and hell-bent on getting at least two hours of exercise a day. Oh, and she greatly preferred that anything that went into her mouth was organic and bore a “free-trade” label, as long as the label was biodegradable. As the saying goes, with friends like this, who needs enemies?
Even before she unpacked, Ingrid surveyed the contents of my pantry, her mouth going all pouty. Sighing, she asked for directions to the nearest Whole Foods market, and she breezed back an hour later, invigorated by the aroma of sizzling tempeh stir fries in the store’s take-out section. Ingrid’s taut and toned arms were laden with two bags full of exotic health food, including chicken-less chicken, egg-less eggs, rainforest, gluten-free vegan cookies made with real barley malt, and bread that was oddly shaped like a missile and surprisingly heavy considering that it had no flour, yeast, salt, sugar, oil, or any other ingredients. We put away this bounty of nutrient-charged provisions on a shelf I had “cleared” of our family’s two main food groups: potato chips and snack cookies, whose most vital ingredients were refined white
sugar and BHT.
The next morning, Ingrid strode purposefully into the kitchen while the kids were pouring an avalanche of SugarCocoa-Yum cereal into bowls. Figuring the kids were a lost cause, Ingrid offered to share her breakfast of steel-cut oats with me. I declined. That cereal would chip the enamel off my teeth.
As I sat down with my own bowl of whole-grain cereal (sprinkled, I admit, with some cookie crumbs that would otherwise have gone to waste), Ingrid warned, “That lump of refined carbohydrates might make you think you’re full, but your body will still be starving for nutrients.” She then confidently stirred her steel cut oats to their bland conclusion. I had known Ingrid since college and was seized with jealousy that she now wore jeans two sizes smaller than she had worn in the good old days, when our idea of a great time was hunting through the frozen foods section of the supermarket, plotting our next rendezvous with Sara Lee, Ben & Jerry, and other comrades. Ingrid used to rail that fitness was “a patriarchal social construct.” Why had she turned on me?
As she spoke, I took a large swig of my coffee and defiantly spooned up another mouthful of my vitamin-challenged cereal, simultaneously craving a hunk of chocolate chunk brownie. With our visit less than twenty-four hours old, Ingrid was already getting on my nerves. She had lost the fifteen pounds that I hadn’t and fairly burst with vitality. Meanwhile, I pondered my day’s schedule, trying to see when I could possibly sneak in a nap. I stole a glance at Ingrid as she poured the thick, steaming gruel into her bowl. I wondered if she would let me use the leftovers to spackle the hallway.
Unfortunately, things got worse. At six a.m. on day three of her visit, I heard a knock at the door. I ambled down the hall, my eyes barely peeled open, only to find Ingrid unbuckling her inline skates on the porch. She was glistening from a six-mile blading excursion.
“So glad I got an early start!” she chirped. “Did you know rollerblading burns 400 calories an hour?”
I waved her in and started up the coffee, sickened by the knowledge that at this ungodly hour I was already 400 calories behind schedule. I comforted myself that if nothing else, at least Ingrid and I still shared a love of fresh-brewed coffee. Over her steaming cup of fair-trade joe and mound of steel cut oats, she recited a recipe for seven-layer carob cake, but I tuned out after hearing the first three layers were flaxseed, prune puree and lecithin. What kind of twisted mind thinks up something like this? While images of glazed donuts danced in my head, I began to wonder, “Could this friendship be saved?”
The question gnawed at me until I snuck out for a midday burger and fries, wearing dark shades. Thanks to Ingrid I was already reduced to prowling around town incognito, like a criminal. Blast! Why didn’t I have her sense of discipline? Her commitment to exercise? Her zeal to make the world safe from Snickerdoodles?
Later that afternoon, Ingrid told me about an upcoming reunion for members of the college co-op where we had been housemates twenty years before. The co-op had been a small, funky, independent dorm, and it had attracted Birkenstockwearing students like us who turned up our noses at the very idea of a sorority or fraternity. The ramshackle building housed about thirty students and a few recent graduates who continued to hang around, stalling for time before figuring out whether to buckle under family pressure and join the family business selling plumbing supplies, or to extort more money from their folks for grad school.
Since our “relaxed” policies allowed more students to live there than was legally allowed, life in the co-op fostered a certain ill-advised intimacy among our housemates, many of whom had nothing more in common than that they were waiting to use the washing machine at the same time. In these hothouse circumstances, relationships that blossomed while laundry was loaded into the machine were already flailing by the last spin cycle. Ah, the recklessness of youth!
“Twenty years! Hard to believe it’s been that long!” I said. I was curious about who might show up at a reunion.
It would be fun to see a lot of old pals – friends like Lana, a real live wire who not only aced all her finals without seeming to study, but also worked weekends as a cook in one of the campus restaurants. But I especially wondered about the two housemates who had broken my heart in rapid succession and whom I had lost track of completely. First was Gary, gifted with drop-dead gorgeous blue eyes and a mischievous grin, who never realized that I was in love with him. I had waited in vain for him to drop that mousy, humorless, Savethe-Whales girlfriend of his, but by the time they split up we had all graduated and gone our separate ways.
And then of course there was that cad, Hank, who eventually pushed me into the arms of a therapist after he discarded me like so much used notebook paper. Hank moved into the house during my senior year, and I was a goner the first time I saw him. He possessed the most important qualities that any young woman would want in a young man, namely, tousled blonde hair and a rakishly handsome face. To top it off, Hank’s impromptu recitals of Shakespearian sonnets and scenes from “As You Like It” rendered me incapable of focusing on anything other than him. Hank had wit, brains and vanity galore, but at the time I thought his vanity was a small price to pay for a guy who would look meaningfully into my eyes as if I were the only girl in the world and declare, “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? Thou art more lovely and more temperate…” What else did I expect from a theater arts major?
In my standard college uniform of appallingly unflattering denim overalls that failed to hide a chunky physique, it may have been unrealistic to expect a guy like Hank to fall for me. It may have been sheer coincidence that we dated for the six months during which I became Hank’s backstage gopher while he rehearsed a play that he had both written and directed. I ran to get his coffee, helped paint stage scenery, made copies of new script pages, anything that would make Hank’s life easier. The play was a smashing success. My grades that semester simply smashed. As far as I was concerned, this devotion on my part made Hank and me as good as married. This notion had not occurred to Hank. Flush with the heady success of a twonight run in a seventy-five seat theater on campus, he loped off to New York to seek his fortune, taking the female lead of his play with him. I felt like Nora in “A Doll’s House,” and I was almost ready to meet her fate.
It was Ingrid who helped me snap out of it. She brought me purple tulips -- my favorite -- and tried to lift my spirits in her own inimitable style. One day, I came back to the house after class and found she had slapped a bumper sticker on my bedroom door that said, “A Woman Needs a Man Like a Fish Needs a Bicycle.” She also brought me fiery feminist tracts about the general loutishness of men and recruited me to work in a local soup kitchen. I never agreed with her sentiments but at least Ingrid forced me to realize things could have been worse: I could have volunteered to work in a soup kitchen regularly. Or, I could have been born a fish.
Naturally, I have felt indebted to Ingrid for pulling me back from my despair over Heartache Hank, though even that ancient gratitude had begun to wear thin. As soon as Ingrid mentioned the reunion slated for the following summer, I shifted from obsessing over her finicky foodism and instead became like Alice in Wonderland, “curiouser and curiouser” to discover what happened to Hank, Gary, and the other alumni. I realized one thing: In case Hank or Gary showed up, I wanted to look more dazzling than dowdy. Besides, I’d done pretty well for myself, too. I married Jeff after graduate school, and we had produced four children who, by any objective standards, were good-looking and with above average IQs. I’d achieved my goal of becoming a writer, with a few books to my credit. But did I look successful? Would people at the reunion see me and say, “Wow! Judy hasn’t aged a bit!” Or would they say, “Gee, too bad she didn’t take better care of herself,” as they sadly shook their heads and walked away, feeling giddy with superiority.
If I allowed Ingrid and her health-consciousness to inspire me, perhaps I could be the one to feel giddy with superiority!
“It sounds like a great idea,” I said to Ingrid. “A good reason for me to finally get in shape.”
Ingrid visibly brightened. “Your own life is a good enough reason for you to get in shape, Judy, but if it takes a reunion to get you going, take ownership of that thought! Maybe you’d like to help me organize it. I’m the reunion co-chair, but I could really use some help with PR and logistics, since I live out of town and the reunion would be here. Only thing is, I just want to be able to plan the menu, if you don’t mind.”
That figured. I guess we could count on a dinner of organic bok choy and marinated tofu steaks. It’s a good thing that Ingrid and I now had the logistics of the reunion to talk about. Otherwise there might have been little to prevent me from killing her during the remainder of her stay. She had morphed into a health food harridan, issuing dire warnings about everything I fed my family and myself. Fortunately, she couldn’t go for more than four hours without running off to lift some weights or stand on her head on her yoga mat, which minimized the amount of psychic pain she could inflict on me during any given day.
As her visit mercifully drew to a close, Ingrid offered to cook dinner for the entire family. A risky proposition, but I didn’t want to appear ungracious. I was exhausted just watching her prepare the meal. Wearing organic cotton yoga pants and a t-shirt that said “Make juice, not war,” she spent the entire afternoon soaking beans, double rinsing barley and pummeling a roll of something called “Betsy’s Bulgur Burger” into submission. No wonder her pectorals were so firm.
“Dig in!” Ingrid ordered as she set the repast in front of us. I forced down a few bites while my children sat there looking terror-stricken. Finally my daughter spoke up.
“When are you leaving?” she asked Ingrid.
“I’m leaving tomorrow for a Worldwide Oneness Forum in the mountains,” she said, swilling a green beverage of pureed spinach, zucchini and royal bee jelly, “but I’ve had a great time. Thanks so much for your hospitality!”
Realizing that her leftover whole grains and organic brown rice would probably exceed FAA regulations for allowable weight on the airplane, Ingrid left the remaining wholesome groceries with us, and none of it is going to waste. Our hamsters love to cozy up in their new beds of puffed spelt, I’m using that weighty, missile-shaped kamut bread for bicep curls, and no one would ever guess the treasure trove of vitamins hidden in my steel cut oat-spackled hallways.
About the Author . . .
Judy Gruen has crafted a career of writing sophisticated, relatable, clean humor that has earned her an international following. Whether writing about her angst at having a husband who brags about still fitting into his wedding suit 24 years later, the tyranny of book club bondage, the plague of the school science fair, or why bad contractors happen to good people, Judy’s writing is consistently entertaining and thought-provoking. She also writes on more serious topics related to culture and Jewish spirituality.
She is the author of four books: Till We Eat Again: A Second Helping; MBA Admission for Smarties: The No-Nonsense Guide to Acceptance at Top Business Schools; The Women’s Daily Irony Supplement; and Carpool Tunnel Syndrome: Motherhood as Shuttle Diplomacy.
For many years Judy has been a regularly featured columnist on Aish.com and MommaSaid.net, and her work has also appeared in the Saturday Evening Post, American Thinker, Beliefnet.com, Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune, Christian Science Monitor, Family Circle, Jewish Journal of Los Angeles, jewishwoman.org, Ladies' Home Journal, Los Angeles Times, More.com, Northwestern, Woman's Day, and many other media outlets. She has been quoted in the New York Times and Better Homes & Gardens, and has been a guest on many radio programs.
Her humor and essays have been anthologized in more than 10 books, including Chicken Soup for the Soul: Shaping the New You; Fits, Starts & Matters of the Heart: 28 Stories of Love, Loss & Everything in Between; Mirth of a Nation: the Best Contemporary Humor; 101 Damnations: the Humorists’ Tour of Personal Hells; Chocolate for a Woman’s Courage; Misadventures of Moms and Disasters of Dads; and Parentlaughs.
Judy is also senior editor with Accepted.com, a graduate school editorial consulting service. She earned her Bachelor’s Degree in English literature from the University of California, Berkeley and a Master's Degree in journalism from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism.
Her book The Women’s Daily Irony Supplement earned multiple awards for humor, including a Gold award in ForeWord Magazine's Book of the Year, a Silver in the Independent Publisher Book Awards (IPPYs), and a Bronze in the PMA Benjamin Franklin Award. In 2009, she won an award for her humor columns on Aish.com from the National Society of Newspaper Columnists.
Contact Judy at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 310-486-4573.
Reader Review. . .
Judy Gruen was facing her 20-year college reunion with an extra fifteen pounds on her body. She set out to lose that weight by any means possible. She chronicles her journey as she navigates her way through the minefield of fad diets and extreme exercise programs. The reader is taken along on the wild adventure of the weight-loss industry.
For every one who has ever dieted, tried to diet, or just looked in the mirror and considered dieting, this book is almost as good as chocolate. It is laugh-out-loud funny, and I mean that in the truest sense. Not that LOL thing we all do at the end of an email, but I actually laughed out loud more than once. This is a road I have traveled for many years, and whether or not I ever achieve perfection, I enjoyed a good laugh. Ms. Gruen strikes just the right tone with this book. Those who have won the battle can enjoy her accomplishments, and those of us who are still fighting the battle can enjoy the humorous side of dieting. On a personal note, the best part of the book was the fact that I was reading it while getting ready to go to my 30-year high school reunion, so I related to the urge to completely revamp myself for one night. Just for the record, it didn't happen. But I still loved the book.
This is a 5 star book.