How Pepperoncini Saved the Diet

My husband is on a diet. Men should really not go on diets. Even if the result is that they look like Paul Newman in the hard-boiled-egg-eating scene in Cool Hand Luke. When they get big stomachs, we should think one word: baldness. Handle it the same way. It’s part of the species. Get over it.

Much like applying mascara, arranging things nicely on a bathroom counter, and carrying babies around in your uterus, men just aren’t good at dieting. Even the skinny vegetarian ones are only thin because they’ve adopted a cause, not because they know how to lose weight.

I have my doubts that men can actually even lose weight on purpose. I suspect that those ads for weight loss programs that use photos of men holding out the waistband of their husky pants are actually mannish women with short haircuts or guys who were bed-ridden or held captive in a food-less room for months at a time.

When my husband first suggested that he might need to lose a few pounds, I said nothing - kept my mouth shut and waited until he asked for my advice, because I knew he wasn’t going to like what he was going to hear. When he asked, I suggested that he do three things: limit the number of glasses of wine he drank during the week; stop eating a big bowl of ice cream after dinner every night; and stop eating the candy on other people’s desks at his office.

“Those things alone might be enough to drop some weight,” I told him. He just looked at me.

“No. Seriously. How do you think I could lose a few pounds?”

“How about continue to eat as much as you want and complain more? I hear that speaking in a whiny voice for an hour a day burns up to 250 calories.”

Men would be better dieters if they would just ask a woman for advice. We’re always on a diet. Even skinny women have at least once in their lives had to diet. And the super skinny ones (aka models) are making themselves throw up, which is the ultimate girl diet.

For the bulk of my childhood, our house was 5/6ths full of women, so we always had one diet or another going. Our frig was covered with before pictures and calorie counter charts. We drank out of measuring cups.

Remember Ayds? We had a drawer full of them. Poor Ayds. They were the golden child of diets for a long time. Little cubic, chewy candies that tasted like a Brach’s caramel but when eaten with a hot beverage, made women lose weight. Then in an unfortunate acronymic accident, people started dying from the other AIDS and their advertisements scared the bejesus out of even the fattest person. “Ayds helps you lose weight!” “Thank Goodness for Ayds!” “Why take diet pills when you can enjoy Ayds?” In the early ‘80s those ads suddenly became the creepiest things in Family Circle magazine. They had to stop making them altogether and now they’re collector items.

I think women are better dieters than men because they don’t have to be ashamed of ordering a spinach salad without bacon for lunch. They don’t feel obligated to eat two helpings of a pork product daily and wash everything down with a Sam Adams. Plus we’re better at projects. And you have to think of a diet as a project, with a time line, a schedule, spreadsheets, goals, rewards and yogurt.

So my husband has successfully lost 6 pounds so far and it’s largely due to pepperoncini. We like happy hours at our house. And our happy hours have always been full of cheese - cubes of smoked cheese, bleu cheese spread on crackers, feta cheese stuffed into anything with a hole, and if all else fails, a Kraft individual slice of American folded in half and wrapped around whatever else was sitting on the kitchen counter. The happy hour isn’t really about the drink at all. It’s about the cheese.

He lost those 6 pounds largely by replacing cheese with pepperoncini, those little light green peppers that are in jars of vinegar. We’ve gone through many jars of them at our house during those 6 pounds. He eats them as the starch side dish at dinner, puts them on salads, eats them for snacks, and they’re the star attraction at happy hour.

He’s lucky, because I don’t think you can OD on pepperoncini. They’re cheap and easily accessible. Just by throwing a couple of jars into my grocery cart every week, I feel like I’m doing my part to help a man lose weight.

If a new deadly disease is nicknamed “Pepperoncini” we’re screwed.

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