Atkins, Atkins, Atkins.
It's everywhere you look. America is in the middle of one of the biggest and most enduring full-blown diet crazes in living memory. Everybody knows at least three people who are on it; everybody might know at least one person who even appears to be benefiting from it. The bread companies are worried about going bankrupt, for the love of God.
But the overwhelming public embrace of the Atkins Diet is hardly a new cultural phenomenon. Strange weight-loss practices are a constant undercurrent of our society. One of them just grabs the attention of the public en masse every once in a while -- usually after the ninth or 10th nightly news report detailing what insane-sounding percentage of Americans are obese these days.
There are always fad diets, and there are always fad diets quietly offering alternatives to the one currently in vogue. Here are 10 of the latter, in case you're interested in slimming down in a different, less trendy way. We're not saying they're all guaranteed to work, but as you read, we're sure you'll find that at least some of them will definitely live up to their promises.
The Fake Hollywood Diet
Some sort of goop that comes in a Gatorade bottle. Drink it instead of eating, poop out everything but the absolute minimum nutritional value required to keep your system nominally on-line, and lose 10 pounds for maybe a week. A concurrent regimen of vitamin supplements is highly recommended, in order to reduce the chances of occasional nervous tremor or dysentery-induced fainting.
The Real Hollywood Diet
The steady ingestion of illicit stimulants, followed by rumor, scandal, public remorse and the steady ingestion of physician-prescribed stimulants. Then, surgery. Lots and lots of surgery.
The Sinatra Diet
Old Blue Eyes famously said he never ate anything after 6pm, crediting the practice of always going to bed hungry with keeping him in reasonable shape. It could work for you, too; if you get the munchies, have a Jack Daniel's -- or six. As for maintaining upper-body tone, try throwing emotionally damaged starlets through plate-glass windows and plenty of flexed-out Rat Pack-style man-on-man hugging.
The Hilton Diet
It's how Paris, the more readily exploited of the infamously social heiress sisters, keeps so telegenic. The Hilton diet works on a combination of integral elements -- a liquids-only diet that includes the ingenious use of alcohol to evaporate unwanted water weight, rigorous partner-oriented aerobic and stretching exercises, and frequent protein injections.
The Montana Diet
No, it's not some beef-heavy Atkins clone named after a particularly steer-rific state. The Montana diet honors Antonio "Tony" Montana, the Colombian businessman played so convincingly by Al Pacino in Scarface. The trim, energetic Montana championed the use of an obscure South American powdered dietary supplement to keep his spirits up and his weight down; in fact, one might say he made it his life's work to introduce this "wonder drug" to a segment of America that desperately needed it. The diminutive importer enhanced the powder's power with plenty of exercise and the invocation of an exponentially heightened sense of consciousness. He dismissed sleep as a chance for extra pounds to slip in under cover of darkness. The Montana Diet can be expensive, but many who use it quickly become unable to imagine any other lifestyle.
The Fixx Diet
Named after Jim Fixx, the famous running guru and health nut. Undertaking the Fixx Diet involves lifelong observance of a regimented routine that emphasizes serious circulatory and respiratory exercise, particularly jogging. Unfortunately, strict adherence to this one involves dying early and ironically at the age of 52 of advanced, undiagnosed coronary artery disease.
The Carpenter Diet
Very popular with high-school girls during the 80s, and an enduring open secret among supermodels, it was reportedly brought back into West Coast vogue at the turn of the millennium by Ally McBeal star Calista Flockhart. You can eat all you want, and you never have to exercise; the diet works on a program of "revisiting" your meals immediately after ingestion, counting calories backward down to a slimming zero. This might seem unpleasant at first, but soon you won't be able to keep yourself from evicting pesky fats and nutrients that would otherwise take up residence on your lovely, lovely bones.
The Bata'an Death March Diet
Who says you can't walk yourself thin?
The Kevorkian Diet
This one works by introducing an agent into the body that permanently halts its ability to increase its own mass in any way. Again, no real effort or exercise is needed. There is one drawback to the Kevorkian diet, however -- you lose only 21 grams. You do lose it instantly, though, and you won't ever have to worry about your figure again.
Scott Harrell ate a foot-long double-meat Italian hoagie with extra oil and vinegar while writing this column, then napped.