The Secret to Staying Skinny ‘They’ Don’t Want You to Know

Smoking Truck Driver

The news has been filled for several years of reports that Americans are getting bigger.

It’s being called an epidemic, a problem our society will need to address in short order to keep from destroying any chance of America having a healthy future. But for many – like me – maintaining a healthy weight is a constant struggle. What I fight – in my opinion – is actually an addiction to food, which is also an addiction to the very thing that is also supposed to sustain my life. How does one battle that? It’s not like a person can just not eat. We all must eat to live, but somehow my body seems to be greedy. I’ve grown to tolerate – because my body can’t accept – the ties between portion size and feelings of hunger; if I eat regular size meals I’m constantly hungry.

Maybe there’s something wrong, or maybe I’m weak.

Ten years ago a doctor told me she couldn’t help with the hunger I felt. Three months ago – in the hopes that medical science had advanced since my last request – I asked a doctor again to help me, after losing 35 pounds and enduring comments from the nurse that I should lose weight. Doctor Two couldn’t help me either, stating there was “no magic pill” which would take that feeling away. Oh, and I needed to retrain myself while waiting for my stomach to shrink.

So that means medical science can create drugs like Viagra and Cialis, yet they can’t produce something to keep mankind from eating themselves to death.

I feel my body telling me to eat twice as much as I need to live. As I write this my hunger is nagging at my middle, but also down by 45 pounds from the summer of 2011; it has been the toughest struggle to get there. But I will say this: The hunger I endure – even right now – gives me compassion for the multitudes around the world who feel this inner emptiness every day / all day – and not by choice.

With doctors and the media telling us that our belt lines continue to increase, it makes me wonder how we Americans ever stayed thin in the first place.

Pictures from our historic past show well-proportioned landscapes of slender people working the magnificent jobs of an industrial America, void of any body fat and simply beaming with weight-healthy bliss. The Library of Congress archives on Flickr are teaming with these images, presented in vivid Kodachrome to further push our ancestors’ color-filled birthright of thin living on the rest of us. It’s a memorable image, ripe with sentimentality and patriotism.

“Honor our forefathers, who forged this landscape with the muscles in their backs and the remaining fingers of their bare hands.”

The can-do spirit of this majestic endeavor, creating a free land for all at the cost of a few, can be felt in Gordon Lightfoot’s Canadian Railroad Trilogy. But my question remains: How is that 1940s Man could go to work a 12-hour day on the budding infrastructure of America, while holding a paper sack holding only a simple sandwich and an small apple? I have a theory; a crude and untested one, but mine alone.

They all smoked.

Yes, the industrious worker of the 1940s was also a two-pack per day burner, enjoying with billowing freedom the toasted flavor of a filterless Lucky Strike while completely forgetting that his body needed more than nicotine. The ashtrays gracing the armrests and bathrooms of older theaters and 737s will attest to the breadth of the practice of replacing food with a good smoke. And why not? Doctors standing next to big Chryslers – while citing junk science like nicotine satisfying the N-Zone of the brain with little or no medical after effect – were telling readers from the ad pages of the 1950s to relax, and grab a light for that smooth rich tobacco flavor.

But now we’ve traded one epidemic for another.

From where I sit, food has replaced cigarettes as America’s guilty pleasure. State laws doom smoker-friendly restaurants like The Pine Cone, while giving permits to build another fast food restaurant that is rumored to use Pink Meat Paste. As I look at the calorie counts at restaurants – any restaurant to be honest – I’m amazed at how may can serve meals which contain an entire day’s allotment of energy. I use to eat like that. Three times daily. Okay, four or five. Now I only wish for it, looking sadly upon the menus while ordering something light that is sided with steamed broccoli. I’m thinking maybe the doctors couldn’t help me because the only weapon they had against hunger was a pack of Pall Malls. It’s the secret to staying skinny they can no longer let us in on, and the secret to staying skinny we can no longer use.

Think I’ll go grab another burger…I mean apple.

Originally published Feb 29, 2012

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The Food Shark

Food Shark 001

“Hot, Fresh, & Cheezy”

In January 1991 I had just lost my beloved 1959 International ½ ton pickup to a snapped axle on Snoqualmie Pass. By then my wife had graduated from WSU and moved back to Seattle; I was one year behind her. My only transportation in Pullman at that point was a choice of motorcycles – my Honda CB550 or her 250 Rebel which was still on The Palouse. Outside of The Bookie I saw an ad for a $100 car; from that ad a friend and I got an idea to share a vehicle to deliver pizza on different nights of the week. All told, this car would rack up 35,000 miles in 15 months, and it made a ton of money for whoever sat behind the wheel.

Pizza Pipeline offered us a larger cut of the profits if we painted the company colors on my own car. While I don’t recall exactly how the idea came up to put the teeth on, I do recall that the original name – which got nixed by the shop owner as unprofessional – was “Pie Shark.” The innuendo was all wrong, so the “Food Shark” it became.

Food Shark’s teeth and racing stripe were painted on the car in a WSU parking garage while the outside temperature was hovering around 20 degrees F. Obviously the paint didn’t stick too well in that chill, so it was repainted in May after the weather improved. Typical gas mileage for the Food Shark was around 11mpg when delivering, and 18mpg on the road. The Food Shark needed very little to be dependable. I gave it regular oil and coolant changes, did a tune up, u-joints, tires, and true dual exhaust (no emissions testing in rural Washington). It only stranded me only once, when the electronic ignition gave out ($12 fix).

The “Shark” Concept proved to be popular and profitable. During the first part of the year, friend Paul and I shared the Food Shark and traded off evenings delivering as we had planned. In May he purchased his own Shark – another Cutlass, this one a 1976 – for $50 and drove it home on bad brakes after the City Of Pullman threatened to tow it. Paul repaired the second car, painted it with the obligatory teeth and stripe, and dubbed it “Shark Tooth.”

Oddly, Shark Tooth got horrendous mileage and averaged a dismal 7mpg while delivering pizza.

The Sharks were loved and hated equally in Pullman; as we drove around, children would smile and wave while public safety officials would stare and glare. With the racing stripes and the shark’s teeth, the cars cut a very high profile when on the road. This worked to a financial advantage for Pizza Pipeline but worked against the people driving them, as we were watched very closely by the local authorities. While I tried hard to stay within the law, I still managed to rack up 3 or 4 traffic stops and one messy court date. Paul drove Shark Tooth hard and was pulled over often.

In the Spring of 1991 I had attached the front license plate above the driver’s side headlights, in an attempt to keep the plate from coming off the bumper every time I entered a parking lot. I had considered mounting it with zip ties on the grill, but it covered too much and would have caused the car to run hot. I then consulted the Revised Code Of Washington and determined that I could move the plate from the bumper to the upper panel and still be within requirements. Code indicates that the front license plate on a Washington vehicle should be mounted level in such a manner that it can be read “left-to-right” at all times. It says little else, other than indicating the maximum height from the ground (I was within limitations here as well). Mounting it above the headlights was admittedly in a gray area, because top-to-bottom angle was extreme; I asked the Pullman Police Department if they had a problem with it, and they said “no.” Then one summer day, on the lonely way home on Highway 26, I was pulled over by the Washington State Patrol because the trooper didn’t like how the plate was mounted on the Shark. After I showed why I had mounted it in this manner, indicated what Code I had consulted, and that I had spoken with my local enforcement, he tried to cite me for drunk driving (I hadn’t been drinking at all). This incident is one of the contributing factors to my current status as an occasional drinker, and never when I am going to drive somewhere.

My favorite memory of the Sharks involved an impromptu session of Front Bumper Scrummage; I was coming back to the pizza place in the Food Shark as Paul was leaving in Shark Tooth. We then went bumper to bumper and pushed each other around for a while. I won, presumably because my car cost $100 and his cost $50.

I retired the Food Shark from pizza delivery in December 1991 after graduation from college, using it as work transportation after that. I removed the Pizza Pipeline lettering & logos and replaced them with the simple door inscription “For Recreational Use Only.” In April 1992 – knowing the Shark would never pass the stringent emissions test for the area – it was sold to my brother in law, who promptly parted it out. Paul drove Shark Tooth until 1993 and then traded it in for a new Geo Storm.

The Infamous And Diabolical Brownmobile

Brownmobile 01

In March 1996, my Toyota 4×4 was totaled by a Chevy Suburban. The accident almost totaled me along with the truck. After that, we were down to one car – a Corvette – and needed something that could haul more than two people and a sandwich. So we went searching for a cheap Toyota to replace our totaled Toyota. We found the Brownmobile for $1200 on a car lot in Seattle’s University District.

The full name was actually “The Infamous & Diabolical Brownmobile.”

It was brown, and had been sitting on the car lot for a long time. Hey, it **must** have been diabolical in some way. The Brownmobile was a 1979 Toyota Corona wagon, grandfather to the Camry. It was powered by the famous Toyota 20R 4-cylinder engine and a 5-speed transmission. One unusual feature was its hydraulic clutch, instead of cable or linkage. Having a juice clutch made the car very easy to drive. With 124,000 miles on the odometer, it was not perfect; the power steering howled slightly, the second-gear synchronizer was just about shot, the windshield had an annoying (but legally acceptable) crack along a lower corner, and the rear of the car had been upholstered in beige shag. But it had an factory AM/FM radio, front seats that would adjust in a gazillion different directions, and a roof rack.

The Brownmobile put its dark-colored hook in us.

It was cheap, drove very well and had a certain worn familiarity that many Toyotas get after 100,000 miles. The engine burned oil; oddly the oil level would remain full for the first 1500 miles after an oil change, at which point it would require a quart at 2000 miles (I usually just changed it then). Tune up took about ten minutes. With the purchase of a Thule bike rack, the Brownmobile became the car of choice for trips and commuting. For the next 27,000 miles I drove it everywhere on little more than a tune up and a new set of tires, and was rewarded with steadfast dependability.

I considered keeping the car forever, but it went through 2 fuel pumps over the course of 8 months; on Brownmobile, the fuel pump was in the tank ($$$). It also failed Washington’s emission test. At that point I decided that it needed to go elsewhere. The Brownmobile was sold for nearly the amount we paid, and the bike rack went to some bike-loving friends. About a year later, I got a notice in the mail that Brownmobile had been sitting – abandoned – in Renton for several months, and that I was still the registered owner.

I suspect it went through a third fuel pump.

Brownmobile 02