I'm telling myself that I am not on a diet this time; I am on a quest to renegotiate my relationship with food. I am trying to solve a psychological problem, not a physical one, so I am not making lists of do's and dont's. Normal people (I've heard) don't do it that way. They eat all sorts of things, but they are less compulsive about it than I am. So don't expect me to always say no to ice cream after dinner.
That said, there is one thing on my "NEVER AGAIN" list: buffet tables. I can never go through another buffet line as long as I live.
That sounds dramatic, but it's true. In the seven years that I have lived in Wichita, I have pretty much located every all-you-can eat dining experience in the town. Pizza Hut (11-2 lunch buffet), Tonios Pizza (buffet all day long), Two Brothers Barbecue (the best in town, all you can eat for $12.00), Kabobs (excellent Pakistani food and very reasonable lunch buffet), China Star and Buffet City (both fairly typical Chinese buffets, with crab legs at China Star every evening). An, of course, the Golden Corral.
There are more, but this is going on too long, and it doesn't really matter what they are called because they are all wholly owned subsidiaries of Satan. In fact, the buffet line is the perfect Satanic torment for people like me: an environment in which our own greatest weaknesses compel us to torture ourselves.
This is pretty much exactly how in works in Dante's Inferno--my go-to guide to infernal geography. In most cases, sinners are not actively punished as much as they are placed in situations in which their sinful natures become their punishments. The lustful are propelled through the air by their lack of control; the materialistic are placed in a room with a huge boulder, which their own natures force them to push around in a circle; the wrathful are placed on the banks of a river with each other, and they spend all of eternity tearing each other to pieces.
And the gluttons? Dante never really hit a rhythm with gluttony. He has them sloshing around in the muck being eaten by a three-headed dog. Pretty lame, really. What he should have done is just put them in a Chinese buffet and let their own natures take over. They would have eaten to the point of discomfort and illness and then gone back for another plate of General Tso's chicken and egg rolls. Gluttons would have been exploding left and right right in front of his eyes--suicide by Moo Goo Gai Pan.
The problem is that I take the phrase "all you can eat" as an absolute directive. If I don't eat to the absolute capacity of my not insignificant stomach, I feel like I have lost the game, let down the universe, and utterly failed as a human being. If I have already paid for a buffet, I cannot even consider leaving it until I have eaten to the point of extreme physical discomfort. And even then, I usually go back for one last plate. And don't even get me started on the ridiculous PC neologism "all you care to eat." Like there's a difference? Please.
I am convinced that the culprit is evolution. It's a simple case of survival of the fattest. On the Pleistocene savannah (I tell myself) people like me--who ate everything in sight whenever they could--survived the cold winters with their built-in food storage system. A recently killed giraffe or zebra was like a primordial buffet table, and since one never knew when the next meal would come along (and since refrigeration was, like, 80,000 years in the future), the world belonged to those of us who could really pack it away. I'm not fat. I'm "differently evolved."
And, while I am pretty sure that I could now resist the temptation of a dead zebra rotting on the savannah, there is pretty much no way that I am ever going to make it out of another buffet line again--for in the day that I eatest thereof, I shalt surely die. And now that I've let it be known what hell will be like for me, I am sure that I don't want to go.