I have discovered an amazing new diet, the Justice Diet. Its novelty does not consist in the sorts of foods one eats or does not eat. It consists rather in the fact that this diet is the first one that is honest about the sort of principles on which it is based. Like most diets, the Justice Diet has nothing to do with nutrition, and everything to do with sin, punishment and just reward. Unlike other diets, the Justice Diet admits this, which allows for a revolutionary approach.

The basic premise of the Justice Diet, like all diets, is that the world is run on just principles, so if one suffers, one will be rewarded. On most diets, the suffering consists in one or more of the following: not eating anything, eating vegetables, and exercising. The Justice Diet thinks these forms of suffering are simply wonderful, and Justice Dieters are encouraged to not eat, eat vegetables and sweat as much as they feel like.

But the Justice Diet recognizes a fourth form of suffering, passing up food. It seems only fair that dieters should be rewarded not simply on the basis of what they eat, but also on the basis of what they wanted to eat and could have eaten but chose not to eat.

Let me give an example of how it works. You and I eat the same thing on a given Tuesday. Cantaloupe, coffee and toast for breakfast, a turkey sandwich and a light beer for lunch, and some sort of Thai dish with rice and such things for dinner. Our calorie and fat intake is exactly the same. But there is an important difference. You ate at home, making your own breakfast and lunch, and taking your dinner from the freezer. You ate basically what there was to eat. I on the other hand had breakfast in a cafeteria, where I had the opportunity to add a couple of fried eggs and bacon and a cinnamon roll, which I passed up. At lunch I went to a deli with pre-made sandwiches, and there on the counter next to the turkey sandwich I chose was a wonderful pastrami and cheese which I passed up, and I also didn’t take the piece of cheesecake that the cashier suggested. Finally, I had dinner in a restaurant, where I could have started with some deep-fried appetizers and ended with dessert, but I passed them up.

Now it is perfectly obvious that I have suffered a great deal more than you, in spite of the fact that my intake of calories and fat was the same as yours. Therefore, I deserve to lose more weight (or gain less) than you do. I deserve this just as much as if I had eaten less, or had eaten some sort of Vegen monstrosity rather than my turkey sandwich, or had gone running after dinner. Suffering is suffering.

How much should the things one passes up count? After a lot of careful research and deep thought, I have concluded that one should get credit for one-fifth of the calories that one passes up. Suppose that piece of cheesecake contained four hundred calories. Then I get eighty calories credit. Even though you and I ate exactly the same amount, it is only fair that I lose just the amount extra, or gain the amount less, that I would have if I had eaten eighty calories less than you did, or ran for however long it takes to burn up eighty calories (five or six hours, if I remember correctly). Of course I am not sure that one-fifth is exactly the right figure. Any scientific theory is subject to revision based on new evidence. Perhaps the right figure is one-fourth or one-sixth. However, the official figure chosen at present for the Justice Diet is one-fifth, and I’m pretty sure that when all the evidence is in that it won’t be far off.

Dieters have a tendency to deceive themselves about how much they eat. Those on the Justice Diet must fight the tendency to deceive themselves about how much they pass up. Suppose for example that when I had breakfast in the cafeteria I not only could have picked up eggs and bacon off the counter, but also a large stack of buttermilk pancakes, slathered with butter and dripping with maple syrup. But suppose that as a matter of fact I wasn’t in the mood for pancakes, but was very much in the mood for eggs and bacon. Then it is fair to count the eggs and bacon, but it would be contrary to the Justice Diet principles to count the pancakes. “Passing up” does not just mean “walking past”. One must be seriously tempted by the food in question for it to count. Otherwise we could all get skinny just by putting large fruitcakes around the house.

Like all diets, the Justice Diet can be abused, and when this happens the health of the dieter can be put in jeopardy. Jaime is a case in point. Jaime had good results on the Justice Diet, but then he got in a hurry to lose weight. Jaime would buy some pastries every morning at the pastry shop, and carry them around with him until lunch. Every few moments he would pull out a bear claw or a chocolate croissant and stare at it for a few minutes, letting the desire to wolf it down grow in him, and then pass it up. At lunch he would buy a turkey sandwich and a pastrami and cheese sandwich at the deli, return to his office and put the pastrami sandwich on his desk and stare balefully at it while he at the turkey sandwich. For dinner, Jaime would grill himself a sirloin, put it on a plate and lust after it as he ate his Tofu-stack-up. The problem is one cannot keep up this kind of suffering for long. Every couple of days Jaime would break down and eat a croissant or a pastrami sandwich or his steak. Given that the calories in the food one passes up count for only one-fifth of the calories in the food one eats, Jaime suffered a lot and ended up as bad or worse as if he had taken a more moderate approach, not to mention all the money he wasted on the croissants and sandwiches and steaks he didn’t eat.

Like all diets, the Justice Diet should be used only after consultation with a physician. Given the basic principles on which it works, a physician with theological training is a good choice.

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