Travel vs. Diet (and a New Pair of Boots)

I made a bet with my sister-in-law over the holidays: the first to lose 30 pounds gets a $30 gift certificate from the other; the first to lose 50 pounds gets a new pair of boots. She rides horses. I ride a motorcycle. We like boots.

The problem with dieting is the food. I was a skinny kid who added 80 pounds since graduating high school. That’s only 2-3 pounds a year. I’ve eaten steaks that (almost) weighed that much, but I’ve been yo-yoing the entire time; hit an unacceptable high three years ago and turned serious about dieting. I set a goal: lose 53 pounds; a reward: a new Mustang; and wrote everything down to chart my progress. I lost 35 pounds in three months, then lost momentum after realizing my reward wasn’t realistic and floated back up.

I’ve been disgusted ever since. Having someone challenge me to a dietary duel was the incentive I needed. But what method to use?

I tried Nutrisystem once. It worked, but I didn’t like most of the food in their kits. One of their scientists must have decided tomatoes are the secret ingredient that washes weight away. Tomatoes were in almost all their dinners—even recipes in which they don’t belong. I’m sure, if you read the fine print, they’re in the snacks and deserts also. If you like tomatoes, this diet’s for you. I’m not a big tomato fan, so I ordered a la carte (which costs more). After tiring of the food and the cost, I tried something else.

South Beach Diet worked well for me. I like meat and have known for a long time that my enemy is carbs, but Phase One is austere and lasts for several weeks before the diet relaxes to Phase Two which slows weight loss, but broadens food options. The only thing is, my partner in this diet is my wife and she’s a vegetarian.

So, we devised our own individual plans. I’ll keep mine to myself until I’m wearing new boots. My sister-in-law might be reading this, you know. I’ve dropped over 2 pounds a week overall. I say overall because some weekends have caused spikes.

At a pace of almost 3 pounds a week, my plan works great—when I stick to it. Unfortunately, it doesn’t travel well. I’ve had two weekend trips since the first of the year. Each created a spike on my progress chart that took days to erase and I’m traveling every weekend in March.

I’ve lost a total of 19.4 pounds. My goal is to have $30 more gas money for a family gathering Easter weekend, so, if you see me out and about at a conference, please refrain from offering the Guinness you know I crave and have worn prominently for several years. Buy me a shot of Crown Royal. In dietary terms: It’s a better buzz per calorie.

M. Scott Douglass


It’s About the Jelly

I want to say today’s subject is jelly, but it’s not. I even tried to find a word to properly describe my relationship with the subject. As a word guy that should be easy, right? It’s not an addiction. I am attracted to it, but not in that way which also eliminates the word affinity. Although the word fetish was an early contender, placing it in close proximity to jelly implies something kinky.

So, I’m falling back on Facebookian profundity: I really like black raspberry jelly. But not just any black raspberry jelly. It must be Smuckers. I have sampled others. Some—most notably the Amish—do a pretty good job, but no one does it better than Smuckers. Unfortunately, it’s harder to find in North Carolina than in my home state of Pennsylvania. For years I’d pick up a couple jars at Giant Eagle with every visit north.

Harris Teeter doesn’t favor the stuff. I guess they think that, if someone really wants black raspberry they can mix a jar of red raspberry with blackberry. Sorry. A black raspberry is a separate critter. Comparing it to a blackberry/raspberry duet is like calling a catfish a bass because they swim in the same water.

Two years ago Lowes Grocers built a store a mile from my house. They carried Smuckers Black Raspberry. I’d shop there over other options because they carried that one thing unavailable anywhere else. Life was good. Then Harris Teeter learned that Publix was expanding into the region and bought up all Lowes locations to prevent them from selling to a competitor it feared more. Now I have five—yes, five—Harris Teeters within 4 miles of my house and none sell Smuckers Black Raspberry.

On top of that, last year’s intern stayed with us over the summer and discovered my stash of SBR. She, too, became addicted, attracted… liked the stuff. Our pantry got wiped out down to the last jar which I managed to stretch through October. But I waited so long to order directly from Smuckers—which I’ve done before—that I did so in a hurry and made a mistake. When it arrived, I was in a rush to taste it and didn’t read the label. I’d accidently ordered blackberry and I can get that anywhere.

I called Smuckers the next day, explained my mistake, and asked if I could return the 5 unopened jars for 5 jars of SBR. They let me. They wouldn’t even accept additional payment for shipping a second time. To my surprise, when the box arrived, it was a full 6-pack. They now have an even more devoted fan.

So, is this about jelly? Brand loyalty? Is it about how companies value customers? How they try to keep them? Is it about customer service or how the internet makes shopping for specialty items easier? I’ll let readers decide. I just heard the toaster pop up. Gotta go.