Potayto Potahto

Mark van Dijk weighs up the – his versus her approach to dieting.

by: Mark van Dijk | 12 Apr 2007

I say potayto... you say 320 kilojoules and 19 grams of carbohydrates per 100 grams. I say tomayto... you say 80kJ and four grams of carbohydrate.

And that's because when we both say "diet", I say "OK, sweetie, I'll cut down to just three meals a day then", and you say "Atkins, South Beach, Weigh-Less, The Zone, No-Grain," and I stop listening.

Potayto, potahto diet
One of the bumpiest battle-fields in the war of the sexes – apart from the regulars like toilet seat positions, chick flicks and what constitutes an acceptable masculine wardrobe – is the fierce, furious fight against flab.

The way guys see it, men's diets are much like men (simple and sporadically effective), and women's diets are like women (complex and hard to follow).

This dietary dichotomy landed on my plate this summer after a particularly ill-fated visit to the beach. After one wide-eyed look at our post-hibernation tummies, my wife decreed that she – by which she meant we – needed to go on an immediate six-week crash diet.

Her goal was to lose five kilos. Mine, after a long winter of Currie Cup rugby and boerewors rolls, was to lose 10! And that was where the trouble began.

My diet was fairly straightforward, and it required neither a nutritionist nor a self-help book. All I'd do is switch from tea with full-cream milk to a cup of plain black rooibos, and cut my daily intake from seven meals (breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, supper, snack, snack) to the more universally accepted three meals a day.

My wife, on the other hand, compiled a comprehensive list of possible diets, and – not knowing precisely which to try – took the one at the top of the list: Atkins

Unfortunately for her, the Atkins Nutritional Plan left her feeling tired, cranky and – worst of all – hungry and, though I dared not tell her, her Atkins-prescribed zero-carb/high – protein meals had started to give her mildly manky breath.

Two weeks into our respective diets, I'd lost three kilos and she'd lost her will to live. "Atkins isn't working," she said one night over dinner. "I'm going to try the South Beach Diet."

"Whatever you like, sweetie," I said, my thoughts already drifting to a faraway breakfast.

She instantly fell in love with South Beach, and especially with its dubious science. She spent the next week guzzling ice cream instead of eating white bread because, according to the South Beach's, Good Fats vs Bad Fats debate, a tub of Rum 'n Raisin is less fattening than a plain, unbuttered sarmie.

It came as no surprise when, at the end of Week Four, our records revealed that I'd lost six of my excess 10kg, and she’d gained a kilo. "Maybe I’m not doing it right," she sighed, tossing her copy of The Delicious, Doctor-Designed, Foolproof Plan For Fast And Healthy Weight Loss into the dustbin.

With two weeks to go and now six kilograms to lose, drastic action was needed. "I'm going old-skool," she said. "I'm going Weigh-Less."

Loosing your patience
It took 10 days of weighing up each individual meal to finally crush her spirit. "I think I've bitten off more than I can chew," she sobbed one morning after breakfast. Just six hours 'til lunch, I told myself.

By the end of Week Six, I'd lost every one of my allotted 10 kilos (admittedly, I had about 105kg to begin with). My wife, battered by a string of bafflingly complicated dieting regimes, had lost nothing except for her patience.

Of course, she had the last laugh: after my triumph shedding all that weight, I didn't fit into any of my old clothes any more... and guess who got to re-stock my wardrobe?




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