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DARRELL HUCKABY: When it comes to dieting, nothing tastes as good as success

All my life I have read about Jesus being led into the wilderness after his baptism, where he fasted for 40 days. I was always amazed by that. Forty days is a long time, y’all. Once upon a time a 40-day deluge covered the entire world with water. That’s why we have shrimp hatching in those little pools on top of stone Mountain. But that’s another story for another day.

Now I don’t know if Jesus went completely off food during that time or just cut back. I used to think fasting meant that you couldn’t have anything. Now I realize there are different degrees. But knowing Jesus like I do, I’m pretty sure he went pretty close to whole hog. Except he probably didn’t eat pork, anyway, so that might have been a poor choice of expressions. Speaking of which, I am sure glad Simon Peter had that dream where the tablecloth came down with all the good barbecue on it.

But anyway, the Bible tells us that after 40 days of fasting, Jesus was hungry. No kidding! (A lot of Porterdale people I know would have used an expression that involves a guy named Sherlock, but I am cultured these days.)

Well I told you all of that to tell you this. (I really miss Barbara Knowles at the paper. She always liked it when I said that.)

I set out 40 days ago on a fast of my own. I wasn’t going to give up eating entirely, but I was giving up all red meat, all added sugar — including drinks — all gluten, which means all bread and wheat products, and all dairy products. In other words, if it tasted good, I couldn’t have it. I’m pretty sure I told you about this project when I started out.

Believe it or not, the 40 days has come and gone — as of midnight Saturday — and I have done it! I did. I stuck with the plan and only deviated once. My son, Jackson, and soon-to-be daughter-in-law Brittney came into my kitchen during the snow storm and baked made-from-scratch Toll House cookies, and I had one. OK. I had two. But that was it. I promise.

I’ve not had a sip of Coca-Cola over the past three fortnights, nor a single glass of sweet iced tea — the Champagne of the South, as my dearly departed friend, Louis Van Dyke always called it. Having not had a sip of sweet tea means that I have not darkened the door of Henderson’s Restaurant for 40 days, which is the longest I have stayed away from that establishment since 1967. Do you understand how serious this has been?

No red meat. None. And I am a meat eater.

No cake. No white bread. No rolls. None of Ms. Sharon’s buttermilk pie. No ice cream. No hamburgers or hot dogs or junk food of any kind. I hope Ronald McDonald has missed me as much as I have missed him.

And understand, I go to a lot of places where food is very prevalent. During the 40 days that we are discussing here I have attended 23 banquets and had enough baked chicken, baked fish and tossed salad with vinegar to last me the rest of my life.

I almost broke at Gum Creek Presbyterian Church Wednesday. They had a covered dish dinner and they did it old school. We are talking everything homemade. I have rarely seen a tastier looking array of food. Somebody brought homemade sweet potato biscuits wrapped around country ham. I almost cried when I had to pass it up. Someone else brought chicken and dumplings that could have come from my mama’s kitchen. There was a beautiful strawberry trifle and homemade cakes and a coconut pie that I could have devoured before you could say “don’t do it.”

But I was good. I was determined. I held out. And I made the 40 days.

“So,” might want to ask, “how did that work out for me?”

Well, I have lost 26 pounds. I have gone from 226 to a svelte 200, and now I am merely grossly overweight instead of obese, according to my Body Mass Index. My measurements have gone from 51-46-45 — yes, those were my measurements and not those of the Goodyear blimp — to 44-39-40. I still have a ways to go, but at least I am on the right road.

More importantly, to quote Billy Crystal, “I feel marvelous.” I really do. The joint pain that has been, at times, almost debilitating, is now nonexistent. Halleluiah.

So I have finished my fast, just in time for Lent. I had intended, at the outset, to give up healthy eating for Lent this year, but very few things taste as good as skinny is beginning to feel, so I won’t be so drastic as I have been, but I honestly don’t think I will ever return to the gluttonous habits of my past.

Having said that, I am certain there is a fried catfish in my immediate future.