May 8, 2017 | Short Order

      Diet Guru says Eat What You Really Want

In our booth at Fiorello lunch, Diet Guro Brigitte Weil assures Diane Velletri it needn’t be all celery sticks.

          Diet Guru Brigitte Weil offers to give me a sample session of her slimming tricks to write about on I agree that many of my readers might benefit from a lesson in sensible eating.


          “It’s too late for me,” I tell her. “I’m going to eat whatever I want until the last moment.”


          My next door neighbor has been struggling to shed some unwanted pounds and she agrees to be the test subject. We meet for lunch in a booth at Café Fiorello.


          Brigitte is small and thin with long dark hair and very long polished fingernails. All indications that she must be eating healthy. I notice that all three of us have bangs. (Saving on the Botox? I’m speaking for myself, of course.) She asks Diane to describe her life, her professional duties, and her eating day. “I believe in being realistic about how you live,” Brigitte assures her. “I don’t believe in talking about calories or eating too little. That only resets your metabolism and makes it harder to lose weight.”


Diane pointedly studies the lunch salads, ignoring the creamy burrata and the crispy fried artichoke.

          Diane is a graphic designer who does branding and web sites and recently took a fulltime job with the Arts Council of Staten Island. That has ended her morning Zumba classes, which were devouring calories. She has a dog and a husband who often cooks dinner before she gets home. “And it’s likely to be pasta,” she notes.


          “I worked in bakeries growing up,” Diane confides. “I gave up ice cream for 20 years…I never ate dessert. I only had ice cream at somebody’s birthday or when I was out with Gael. But suddenly I’ve fallen off and there’s nothing I won’t eat.  And wine. I have to have my wine with dinner.”


          “I never tell anyone to give up red wine. I was raised by a French father,” Brigitte soothes her. “I’m named after Brigitte Bardot,” she confides.


Diane seems thoughtful about the challenge of choosing something sensible for lunch. 


          A busboy brings thick slices of bread. “You can leave it,” I say, wanting to see how Diane handles that torture. “I’d like some of your lavash, please.” Diane ignores both.


          “Last time we came after the movie, we shared a burrata Caprese with tomato, the fried artichokes, and a Caesar salad,” I report.


          “Sharing is good,” Brigitte agrees. “But I wouldn’t order the Caesar. It has all that cheese on it.”


          For lunch today I’m ordering the classic wedding soup, to start. I’m wild about Fiorello’s wedding soup. It’s a huge portion. It usually has many small meatballs and wonderful vegetables. The waiter asks if you want grated parmesan and, yes, of course you do. Normally that would be lunch, but I’m playing the thoughtless companion. I order a salmon burger to follow. (I rarely eat lunch out. I make a big salad in my office every day. That has helped me maintain an almost reasonable weight for 15 years.)


Brigitte is pleased with the salade nicoise as a sensible and delicious choice. Diane basks in her triumph.


          Brigitte suggests that Diane look at the menu and decide what she wants for lunch. Diane focuses on the salads. Salade nicoise sounds good. Brigitte says she’ll have the same. It comes with fresh tuna and a choice of French fries or an arugula salad. Brigitte suggests she get the dressing on the side so she can control the amount. “Don’t be shy about telling the waiter what you want and how you want it,” she tells Diane. “Paul Newman’s low calorie balsamic dressing is very tasty,” she adds. “You can cut it with extra balsamic vinegar.”


          “You need to be accountable to someone,” she tells Diane. “If you’re not being accountable to me, tell your husband what you’ve eaten, or your trainer or a friend, maybe a friend who’s trying to get in a slimming way too.”


The salade nicoise does not look like deprivation at all. Brigitte takes a crisp. Diane does not.


          Brigitte delivers a collection of her usual tricks: “Every time you open your refrigerator, think about it for five minutes. And then go back. Keep an assortment of healthy snacks. Don’t go three hours without eating something. Use all the motivational tools you have. Like the dress that will fit when you lose ten pounds.

          It doesn’t have to be celery sticks. It could be a celery stick with peanut butter. Real peanut butter.”

Brigitte gives Diane a little gift, a small plastic container to carry diet dressing in her purse at all times


          “The goal is to master fabulous meals with looking and feeling just as fabulous.” That’s the mantra. I have a feeling Diane wishes she hadn’t volunteered for this. I’m getting nervous too. I didn't really want the salmon burger but, wow, is it good.


          “Popcorn simply tossed with Frank’s Hot Sauce is fabulous at 31 fat-free calories per cup,” I hear Brigitte suggest an irresistible snack option.


          Usually I stop at the big silver bowl of chocolate candy just before the Fiorello exit. Today it’s a cinch to just march right by. I promise myself I’ll go back to salad at my computer tomorrow. Maybe the salad should be smaller, I muse.


          Next morning I get this email from Diane:


          Funny that last night we ended up at my dear Texas friends’ house for an impromptu dinner of refried beans, black bean soup, cheese quesadillas, guacamole, tortilla chips, pico de gallo - tequila and beer. And it was all delicious. And we had such a great time catching up.


          Do I detect a note of triumph?


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