[clari.feature.mike_royko] STRESS AND DRAIN

clarinews@clarinet.com (Mike Royko) (01/16/90)

	Diet books have become about the hottest products in publishing.
And soon there might be a new diet book on The New York Times
best-seller list.
	I recently interviewed Ralph Peptic, author of the soon-to-be
published book: ``The Stress and Misery Diet Book.''
	Peptic, formerly an accountant, used to be a typical overweight
American male: 5 feet 11 inches tall, 225 pounds.
	Now he's still 5 feet 11 inches. But he weighs 125 pounds.
	I asked him how he did it.
	``To begin with,'' he said, ``I had tried all the diets.
Carbohydrate diets. Protein diets. Weight Watchers. Pritikin. Youn name
it, and I tried it. But none of them worked for me.
	``Then I discovered my own plan, which I call the Stress and Misery
Diet. In my diet, you don't count calories. You don't omit this food or
that food. You don't worry about eating three small but well-balanced
meals a day. You don't even think about what you eat or when you eat
	That's incredible. How does it work?
	``The way it worked with me was this. One day I came home and found
a note on the table. It was from my wife. It said:
	```Dear Ralph: You remember that piano-bar player we both liked so
much when we went out to celebrate our last anniversary -- the one who
played `our song' and you tipped him five dollars? Well, I liked him
even more than you did. In fact, I liked him so much that I have moved
out and I am now living with him. Best of luck, Norrine.'''
	That's awful.
	``Yes, it was. But it led me to my diet. I went into total shock. I
was in a deep depression for weeks.
	``Then one day I ran into an old friend, and he said: `Ralph, you
really look good.' I said: `I do? But I really feel bad.' And he said:
`I don't care how you feel, I haven't seen you look this trim in years.'
	``So I got on the scale and weighed myself. I had dropped about 35
	``After my wife left me, I was filled with such stress that I
couldn't eat. My stomach was knotted up.''
	But you've since lost a lot more weight than that.
	``Right. You see, just about the time I was getting over my wife
leaving me, and my appetite was starting to come back, my wife returned.
She said she had realized that she had made a terrible mistake.
	``I was so happy I started eating again, and in one month I gained
about 10 pounds.
	``Then she left me again.''
	That's terrible.
	``No, I didn't feel as bad the second time around, but what really
clobbered me were the bills she left behind. She had bought a whole new
wardrobe, jewelry, she took off for the Bahamas and put everything on my
credit card and cleaned out the bank accounts. I was hopelessly in debt.
I had bill collectors coming at me from every direction.
	``I was a total, psychological wreck. The stress was incredible. In
two months I had dropped another 30 or 40 pounds. And everyone I met
told me how great I looked, except for the haunted look in my eyes. So I
wore sunglasses.
	``About that time, my boss told me that my work had fallen off. Of
course it had. The stress and misery from my personal problems were
driving me crazy.
	``But he told me that if I didn't shape up in one month, he was
going to fire me.
	``So for a month, I worked night and day. I was like a man
possessed. I was taking a Maalox pill every hour. I had stomach cramps,
anxiety attacks, I hyperventilated, and I couldn't eat a bite.
	``At the end of that month, I looked like a marathon runner. But my
boss didn't fire me. He said I did fine. Except the company went
bankrupt, and I was out of a job anyway.
	``About that time, the divorce papers came through, and my wife got
the house, the furniture, the car, the camper, the kids, and I got the
debts and the child-support payments.
	``By the time that was over I was down to my present weight of 125
	How have you kept it there?
	``By trying to pay off the debts, trying to find a job, trying to
stay out of jail for failure to pay the child support, and brooding
about being rejected by my wife. The stress is terrific. Look, here's an
experiment. Here's a paper bag. Reach in the bag and take out the
	I reached in the bag and took out a piece of plain bread.
	Peptic began retching. He bent over and moaned in pain. Then he
gasped and said:
	``See? I'm so filled with stress and misery that even the sight of
a plain piece of bread revolts me.''
	That's amazing. But shouldn't a diet be combined with exercise?
That's what all the experts say.
	``Right. And mine gives a lot of exercise. My legs are in terrific
shape from nervously pacing the floor for hours. Look at the muscles in
my forearms. I've developed them from constantly wringing my hands. And
my shoulder muscles have become much more powerful from slamming my
fists into walls as I cry out in frustration and agony at the
wretchedness of my life. My stomach muscles are hard as boards from the
constant stress spasms. And there's the constant trembling of my hands.
Look at the way they shake.''
	Is that much exercise?
	``It is when your hands shake even while you're asleep.''
	But if this book is a success, you're going to make a lot of money,
and you'll be able to eat again. You'll be able to clear up your debts,
pay off your wife and you won't have anything to be stress-filled and
miserable about. You could gain weight again.
	``I know. And I'm terribly worried about that, too. The thought of
all that success is causing me terrible stress. But I think I have the
answer to all that money.''
	What is it?
	``I'll worry about my taxes. That'll get me down to 100 pounds.''
	Good luck.
	``Don't say that -- it would ruin my life.''