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APRIL 30, 2003     PAGE TWO      
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                      Ode to an Errant Crouton
                                                     by Aaron Gillum

NOTE FROM LORA:
Have you ever wondered how the rest of the world sees us? Unless you're very new to low carb, you might no longer be aware of how the world at large sees this diet when they have not been given an opportunity to learn more.

Have you ever been treated like a crazy person in a restaurant for asking for low-carb accommodation? There might be reasons why that you aren't aware of.

The article below was written by a gentleman whom I first met when he waited on me in a restaurant last Summer. Since then, there have been a lot of dinners for which Aaron has been my waiter. Obviously, he's become a friend... a friend with a unique perspective. A friend who I can trust to always be honest, and to be kind enough to share a part of his world; his thoughts; his perspective. Not only with me, but with all of you.

I'm not like you.

In fact, as I type this, I'm drinking a Mt. Dew, smoking a cigarette, and thinking of which Super Value Meal I'll get from McDonald's for lunch.

I thought I knew you. You see, I work in the restaurant business. I've seen people raise their voice when I tell them that we have no low sugar desserts and I've had people look at me like I'm a complete idiot for bringing bread to their table. You were all neatly filed away in a nice little box somewhere between "cult" and "cause-head". Can you blame me when I watch people ruin their entire evening over an errant crouton?

Through complete random chance, I happened to bump into Lora as a customer one evening and through her I've learned just enough to know that your diet is actually healthy. We, the masses, don't realize that. Low carb has the reputation of being some sort of "cheat"...a trick you play on your body to lose weight. To us, it's another fad diet. Perhaps it is the ultimate fad diet, which would explain it's longevity, but a fad none the less.

After meeting Lora, I was left with a dilemma. I couldn't stick her in my pre-configured Low Carb file. She didn't fit. She wasn't preaching, she wasn't ignorant, and she didn't expect a non-initiate like myself to know every minute detail involving flour and sugar on the restaurant's menu. What was I to do with her then? What box was she to live in, and why hadn't I seen one of her type before? I've spun this around in my head for days and I think I've finally come to a realization. You aren't the problem. You are the exception to the rule. The problem as I see it, is that there is another person out there that has taken it upon themselves to be the spokesperson for low carb. I call this person the "Dinner Party" low-carb dieter.

This person doesn't really know a thing about the health benefits of the low carb lifestyle beyond Cosmopolitan's most recent issue. They might have a little knowledge that cutting carbs will help them squeeze into a dress one size smaller, but that is the extent of it. What they do know, however, is that "Atkins" is a trendy buzzword amongst their office friends, and that your involvement and dedication to the program is measured by how much you talk about it. In this circle, your level of knowledge is determined by how emphatically you preach to the masses or by how condescending your smirk when you tell the waiter to remove the breading from your food. These are the people that shriek as if a mouse is on the table when they see a crumb of bread, and then grab fast food on their way to work the next morning. In other words, it is all about the image.

"Image—" you say? Indeed. There is a powerful image surrounding low carb. It is an image of noble sacrifice... almost of martyrdom. I see what I can only describe as fights as the socialites try to establish their Atkins pecking order around the table. A contest of exaggeration occurs until one person manages to convince the others that they are the ultimate low carb dieter. Fact is irrelevant. They don't have to have any idea of what they are talking about as long as the person beside them knows even less. I hear "Uh, no I do not eat BREAD." in the snottiest attitude you can imagine and then watch that same person wash down their meal with sugared sodas. These people will intentionally order something that is clearly described as having a high carb ingredient, only so they can cause a scene when it arrives and once again "prove" their dedication to Dr. Atkins.

As a restaurant worker, I'm stuck in the middle as I'm a great tool for them to show each other the extent of their low carb dedication. Their loyalty can be easily measured amongst the pack by the amount of anguish they are willing to put me through. These people love the fact that most of America is unaware of the true nature of the low carb lifestyle. Without the ignorance of people like myself, theirs would show through.

You are not like them at all, but they cast a very poor light on you, and it is unfortunate. I'm sure most everyone reading this has had a restaurant experience go south when the waiter gets an attitude after you request special items or preperation. We don't mind making the changes...truly. It's really no trouble at all. We just don't appreciate being run through hoops like a dog and pony show for no valid reason. THAT is the impression we have of Atkins and Low carb: a bunch of pseudo-dieters looking for a trendy cause.

So please have a little compassion for me, Mr. Joe Waiter, the next time you have to order outside the menu. It's not you that is driving me crazy, but rather the baggage from the others riding your coattails.

I'm off to get that McDonald's now. I'll be eating a baked potato instead of fries... That's a start at least, right?

AFTERTHOUGHTS:
It was very enlightening to me to discover, through long talks with Aaron, that low carbers like us (who truly understand the diet) are in the minority in restaurant diners, and that people who make us all look like idiots are making themselves quite visible in the restaurant arena.

I've found that it pays to establish a good relationship with a few waiters at restaurants you frequent, letting them understand your dietary needs, and working with them to make your experience a good one.  Then always request those specific waiters.  In my case, I was fortunate to find Aaron, a bright man, eager to learn and understand.   And the more we talked, the better friends we became.

Oh, yes, and should we tell Aaron that skipping the fries is a great choice since it avoids the dangerous trans-fats, but that the baked potato is only a few steps better with its highly glycemic carbs?  Nah...  the guy's paper thin, and every improvement's a good one, right?  (Besides, as I write this, I got him to try both DietRite and Mich Ultra just this week!)



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