Losing Weight the Easy Way


This short blog on losing weight is a departure for this website – which is devoted to my three volume memoir – but sometimes I simply feel the urge to share a bit of hard-won wisdom.

In a way this essay does relate to the third of the books, Waiting for Elizabeth, in that the wonderful woman of the title with whom I have shared the last fifty years (with a brief but seemingly endless nine year hiatus – it’s in the book) is the person who patiently inculcated this wisdom into my sometimes impenetrable skull.

Some background: There is a reason that there is a higher percentage of fat people in the South; southern cooking aka “soul food”. (My contention is that it’s earned that moniker because the longer one eats that cuisine the sooner one leaves the body and returns to the soul state.) But I digress. My mother was an excellent creator of fried chicken, fried steak – never saw a steak without breading on it ‘til we moved from Tennessee to California – in fact fried everything. Then there were the beans cooked in fat-back, sweet potatoes with brown sugar, butter and marshmallows. I won’t even get into the desserts. Just thinking about the puddings, pies and home-made ice cream makes my taste buds jump up and dance the boogie.

From eight or nine on I was a pudgy kid. From then on, in varying degrees, I’ve fought an ongoing battle with the bulge. During my high school and college athletic careers I stayed quite fit but as soon as I let up on the extreme exercise the flab gradually relocated to my waistline. While I never quite reverted to the butterball of my childhood I swung between 32” pants and 36” pants with a degree of regularity that required at least two sets of trousers into my seventies. There were few diets I didn’t try and most of them worked … for a while.

In 1964 to get a role in the LA Civic Light Opera production of Kiss me Kate I went on the most extreme diet ever: Steak, Salad and Water until I fit into size 31 pants! I got the part and stayed that size for the run of the show and then, well you know.

Kiss Me Kate ’64 Ned Romero, Roy Fitzell, Elizabeth Allen, Himself

The next year in NYC a month of two-a-day JoJo Smith dance classes, two weeks of rehearsal and a seventeen week run of West Side Story got me in better shape than football ever did but then it was exercise-free winter and the tummy returned.

West Side ’65 Me top L Chris Walken front R

Thus my off and on waistline adiposity continued through my 40s, 50s and 60s swinging between 185 and 195. In 1996 when I was 61 Elizabeth and I separated then divorced. (See the aforementioned tome, Waiting for Elizabeth, for details.) Both depressed by the event, she lost weight and I gained weight. In a couple of years I was up to my personal worst 205 pounds! Size 36 pants were tight.

Fortunately for us both, nine years later she moved back in and domestic bliss ensued. (We remarried five years later hence the title Waiting for Elizabeth.)

Don’t worry, I’m now getting to the point.

A lifelong consumer of prodigious quantities of coffee I’d always eschewed tea. Six or seven years ago Elizabeth introduced me to Green Tea. I liked it and began making quarts of “sun tea” and sipping a mug or two with and after dinner. It is said to promote weight loss but I was drinking it just because I liked it. Sometime during this tea period I began acting on advice that my beloved and wise partner had unsuccessfully been giving me for years.

“When you’re no longer hungry, no matter how good it tastes, stop eating.”

I had been hoping in vain to get down to a reasonable, if slightly overweight, 185 (34” pants). Then a couple of years ago while continuing daily consumption of green tea and finally having been following the above advice I noticed that my Levis seemed loose. The last time I’d braved the bathroom scales they read a disappointing 190-ish. I climbed on again and staring at the dial, got off, retrieved my spectacles, got back on and learned that my unbelieving eyes had not deceived me. One Hundred Seventy Eight Pounds.

I’ve leveled off at around 175 for well over a year, continued the green tea and the “push-aways” from the dinner table and, at a vital 82 years of age have finally won my personal battle of the bulge.

Author Ben Bryant: Mirror Selfie

Author Ben Bryant: Mirror 2015

If losing weight is your goal try green tea and push-aways. For more of the love story that is the spine of Waiting for Elizabeth click here.

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