By Jeff Mullin, columnist
Enid News and Eagle
ENID, Okla. —
As we struggle in the nascent days of the new year to remember to write 2013 instead of 2012 on our checks, we also look back on the year just past and declare it an abject failure.
How else could you explain the phenomenon of New Year’s resolutions?
Every year at this time we vow to be better, happier, kinder, fitter, thinner and richer, thus admitting tacitly that we failed miserable at all those things in the 12 months just past.
According to the website statisticbrain.com, 45 percent of Americans usually make New Year’s resolutions, while 38 percent never make them. Only 8 percent of those making resolutions say they have successfully stuck to them, while 24 percent say they fail to fulfill their resolutions every year.
Seventy-five percent of people who make resolutions say they can stick to them for a week, 71 percent for two weeks, 64 percent for a month and 46 percent for six months.
The top New Year’s resolution for 2012, as it is for most years, was losing weight. I expect the same to be true in 2013. Heck, I suspect the same resolution has been around since the year 13.
Everybody resolves to lose weight after the holidays, even skinny people. We all spent the weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day making short work of Christmas cookies, candy, chips, dip, egg nog, pie, dressing and gravy-soaked mashed potatoes — sometimes all at one sitting.
So now we approach the new year as bigger people than in the days before Thanksgiving. And while we have grown, our clothes have shrunk.
There are any number of diets out there, many touted by firms whose stock in trade is weight loss, as well as a variety of fitness machines and regimes designed to melt the added pounds away.
A number of years ago, I tried a weight-loss program involving dietary shakes eaten morning and evening, while you were allowed to eat real food for lunch.
I lost weight, all right, but feared I was likewise beginning to lose my mind, as well. Every night my dreams were haunted by giant pizzas rolling past me like tractor wheels, marching ranks of bacon cheeseburgers, hills made of french fries and spewing fountains of gravy. Needless to say, I didn’t stick to the diet long.
There are any number of odd diet plans out there today, like the acai berry diet, the cabbage soup diet, the apple cider vinegar diet and the grapefruit diet.
Fad diets seem like a modern anomaly, but nothing could be farther from the truth. Around the turn of the 20th century, health food enthusiast Horace Fletcher promoted “Fletcherism,” which involved chewing a mouthful of food until all “goodness” was gone, then spitting out what was left.
Participants were instructed to chew their food a certain number of times, as many as 700 in some cases. During the height of the craze, adherents were timed at dinner parties to assure they were chewing the proper number of chews.
The tapeworm diet likewise came along in the early 1900s. That involved swallowing beef tapeworm cysts, normally in pill form. When the tapeworm reached maturity in the intestine it would absorb food, thus causing weight loss, not to mention vomiting and diarrhea.
Once a dieter reached their goal, they would take a pill to kill the tapeworm, which then would have to be excreted from the body — which often caused problems because tapeworms can grow to 30 feet long.
Tapeworms also could cause headaches, eye problems, meningitis, epilepsy and dementia.
No less dangerous were the diet remedies of the 19th century, many of which contained arsenic and strychnine.
In the early 1800s, British poet and leader of the romantic movement Lord Byron touted a diet consisting primarily of vinegar. Byron drank vinegar every day and would eat potatoes soaked in vinegar. Besides losing weight, proponents of this diet also experienced diarrhea and vomiting. How romantic.
If you can’t get thin, you can at least look like it. Charles Goodyear’s discovery of vulcanized rubber in the mid-1800s prompted those hoping to slim down to don rubber knickers and corsets.
Not only did the bouncy britches rein in the fat, but also prompted sweating, promoting weight loss.
Unfortunately, prolonged wear also caused tissue to break down, leading to infection.
The fad of wearing rubber undies lasted until World War I, when rubber was needed for the war effort.
Which leads us to New Year’s resolutions. I resolve not to ingest tapeworms, excessive amounts of vinegar or any type of poison, I am not being fitted for rubber boxers and I eschew that whole chew and spit thing.
I resolve to not sweat the small stuff, to be nicer to people, to look for the best in everything and everybody and not to dream about rolling pizzas or marching cheeseburgers.
Mullin is senior writer of the News & Eagle. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.