You wouldn't think that a professional glutton could be addicted to weight loss, but it's happened I am now claiming the title of world's fattest anorexic. All I want to do is not eat. When I tell people I'm a food writer, they frequently ask, "How are you not 400 pounds?" Well, I'll tell you, dear reader. Last spring, I was inching toward three bills. But since then, I have lost 22 pounds and have kept them off for the past four months, all without going near a vegetable or getting up from my chair. It was an unwholesome and unhealthy business, and I wouldn't recommend it to anybody. I can't write a diet book (because I'd probably get sued) or make an infomercial about it (because it would be mistaken for a PSA about depression). But I'll share with you the highlights of how I did it with the caveat to not try this at home.
1. Don't Eat
Any amount of time I could spend not eating or not thinking about eating was a blessing. That's why for breakfast I'd have a meal-replacement shake it didn't matter which one, since they're all equally vile which had some kind of appetite-suppressant effect. I don't know what's in it. I think it must be the kind of thing they gave Judy Garland. But, combined with endless cups of saccharine-laden coffee and iced tea, it kept hunger strangely foreign to me, like high fashion or vore porn. I also took to a daily vegetable-powder drink, which, once also sweetened with saccharine, gave me the key nutrients needed to flush out toxins, or something. I was told by a friend it helps, and it seemed harmless enough. Then again, people used to say the same thing about fen-phen too.
2. Self-Loathing is a Good Thing
I had low expectations to go with my low self-esteem, and both turned out to be great allies in my war on myself. Even better, from a weight-loss point of view, was the shame and guilt that are hard-wired into every fat person, the sense of acute self-loathing that keeps us away from mirrors and public spaces. Something needs to drive us to deprivation, and a vague wish to be healthier never made anyone turn down fried chicken. "Feeling good about yourself" is what you do when your diet fails.
3. Cobble a Plan Together
I knew going in that I was never going to be able to stick to a Jared-like regimen of turkey sandwiches on whole-wheat bread. Forget that! I'd rather be as fat as Barry White than eat whole-wheat bread. Nor would any other structured system work. I am weak-minded, irresolute and largely governed by impulse. That's why I'm into food to begin with. So I cobbled together three or four different habits that were easy to follow, and if I found myself actively fantasizing about sliced-pork sandwiches on soft buns, or red plastic-mesh baskets overflowing with crusty Tater Tots, I would eat a little something and move on.
4. Have a Sausagefest
The one thing I more or less had to stick with was being a hawk on carbs. Normally, this would have made me only want them more, but my discovery of a super low-carb pasta helped sate my lust when that got out of hand. The main thing I did was fill the refrigerator with high-quality meat treats: the opulent charcuterie produced by Blackberry Farm in Tennessee, the kotlety (meat loaf) made by Russian butchers in New York City, Ikea meatballs, spam, breaded veal patties and jerky. I also treated myself to sugar-free candies, especially mints and toffee squares that went well with my coffee.
5. Use a Release Valve
Despite the anorexic motto, "Nothing tastes as good as thin feels," a dieting fat person needs regular fixes, life-giving pleasure boosts to keep them from obsessing about egg foo yung. The trick is just not to binge. I find that 80% of the pleasure in a slice of pizza is in the first bite; 15% in the second; and 5% in the rest, which gets eaten compulsively and melancholically, out of nervous habit or "pure piggishness," as my father used to say, between bites. Every now and then I give myself little bursts of happiness a single Original Recipe thigh from a passing KFC, part of an Eggo waffle, three or four slices of bacon rolled up in a single half slice of buttered toast and then go back to my regular state of semiconscious austerity. The key is not to eat all of anything. Two bites of braised pork belly rather than a Jared sandwich that was the golden path.
I'm as shocked as anybody else that this diet actually worked. I didn't do any exercise, since that requires organization and commitment and giant chunks of free time, all in the service of something that's not fun. So I just drank coffee and ate salumi and it came out right. My blood pressure is lower, I've had a dramatic drop in cholesterol, and I can close my collar without a Wonder Button. But is it healthy? I asked my longtime friend and former physician, Dr. Michael Richter. "What you have done is all right for a quick weight loss," he tells me. "But you're still eating an unhealthy, high-fat, high-protein diet, and without exercising. It's not good. This is not a healthy way for a person to lose weight."
I know that he's right. But I don't care. As long as chicken is sold by the piece and Sweet'N Low comes in bulk, I aim to keep fatness at bay in my own particular way. Even if my dieting methods had raised my cholesterol and my blood pressure, I still would have done it. There seems to be a direct correlation between how nice people are to you and how much neck fat you have. They look you in the eye longer. Your pants, paradoxically, stay up easier. For some unfathomable reason, people take your opinion about food more seriously, rather than less. That's all I know. And I can't stop now.
Josh Ozersky is a James Beard Awardwinning food writer and the author of The Hamburger: A History. His food video site, Ozersky.TV, is updated daily. He is currently at work on a biography of Colonel Sanders. Taste of America, Ozersky's food column for TIME.com, appears every Wednesday.