A little bit goes a long way (The Diet, Day 33)

There is a story my family likes to tell about me. It goes something like this. I was in kindergarten. I had been told by my teacher to remember that “a little bit goes a long way.” So as I slathered glue all over the construction paper I wanted to stick stuff too I kept repeating “a little bit goes a long way.” I knew the words. I just hadn’t quite caught on to exactly how much a little bit was anyway.

I’m still working on that.

Today’s lesson is ranch dressing. I read somewhere–forgive me, I do not remember where–that a typical salad dressing ladle on a salad bar holds three tablespoons of dressing. Now if you’ve ever looked at the back of a salad dressing bottle, you’ll know that they don’t list three tablespoons of dressing as a serving size. The numbers would just be too shocking. A serving of salad dressing on nutrition labels is always one or two tablespoons.

Yet how many times have you dipped that ladle into the salad bar ranch more than once? How many tablespoons do you think you might have slathered on? Six? Nine? More?

Let’s say six so as not to tax my math skills too much.

According to Calorie Count at About.com, two tablespoons of ranch dressing at Shoney’s has 114 calories and 11.9 grams of fat. Thus, your double-dipped portion has 342 calories and 35.7 grams of fat. Congratulations, you’ve just taken your twenty calorie pile of lettuce and given it more fat grams than a Big Mac.

All of the diet books say to ask for salad dressing on the side when you eat in a restaurant. I usually don’t do this because I’m so busy asking them to leave the meat off that I hate to be a bother about anything else. I don’t think they stop at two tablespoons when they make that salad in the kitchen, though. If it isn’t swimming in oils, after all, most people would probably send it back.

Beware the good dressings, my friends, and just remember that a little bit goes a long way.

Hattiesburg American Column: 8/27/2010

My column that appears today in The Hattiesburg American.


ON July 26, I read Robert St. John’s column, “The Earl of Sandwich,” and decided I was going on a diet. I know it was July 26 because I wrote about it on my blog. I’ve written about my diet nearly every day since. You can follow my triumphs and tribulations at www.writerlyhaphazardry.net if you are so inclined.

Though I was already keeping a daily blog, I did not set out to write daily about dieting. I just started it one day and kept going. Like the blog itself, diet blogging could fade from my focus at any moment. There’s a reason the site is called Writerly Haphazardry.

I’m glad I’m doing it, though, despite the fact that I sometimes find this process of writing out my life in food to be truly and excruciatingly embarrassing. Despite all that, it is keeping me on track. Writing makes me mindful of what I’m doing. It helps me sort out my priorities. It makes me accountable. My mother reads it and then calls to deconstruct the rightness and wrongness of my choices.

The blog also keeps me in a constant process of self-education. I look up information for my posts. I find books to inform and/or motivate me so that I will stick to my diet and will keep having something to say about it.

The blog also challenges me. I started exercising. I wrote about it, and in the act of writing I committed myself to keep going in front of my mother and my three friends who read my blog.

That put me on the treadmill where I started listening to audio books for the sheer purpose of entertaining myself long enough not to quit before a respectable amount of time had elapsed. Then I found myself listening to books like Lance Armstrong’s “It’s Not About the Bike” that were simply motivating in and of themselves.

If the guy recovering from cancer can stay on his bike, the easily distracted English teacher who spends too much time in front of a computer can certainly make it through 10 more minutes on the treadmill.

This is the story I tell myself every day when I try again and every day when I sit down to write. So far it is working out for me, but that may only be because I haven’t seen Robert lately to talk sandwiches.