Surviving the Holidays Without Gaining Pounds

This has been a rough couple of weeks for the tens of millions of Americans like me who are fighting to fit into our favorite pair of jeans through the holidays. Two ominous recent developments, though seemingly unrelated, caused me to tighten my belt and put down my curly fries. (Put down some of my curly fries, anyway.) First, recent photos of a personal hero of mine, Jared the Subway guy, seem to suggest that he might be going back to his old eating habits, which is worrisome for the rest of us who look to him as a shining example of someone who's lost weight and kept it off.

Second, Unilever announced it was recalling 10 million cans of Slim-Fast due to possible contamination with Bacillus cereus, a micro-organism that, according to the company's press release, "may cause diarrhea and possibly nausea and/or vomiting." That may be the least comforting "or" ever written. The timing couldn't be worse. The holiday season is here, a magical time when many Americans prepare to celebrate the birth of the baby Jesus in the traditional way: by knocking back diet supplements to dull our cravings for eggnog and to keep us from coveting our neighbor's rum balls.

The Unilever news seems terrible at first glance, but if I were running the company, I'd embrace this possible contamination and use it to sell more. You'll definitely lose weight if you get lucky enough to land one of the possibly tainted cans: "Slim-Fast: Now With Bacillus Cereus!"

As if the diet-drink situation wasn't bad enough, even more devastating for me personally were the recently released photos of Jared the Subway guy. I was watching TV the other night when a disturbing image flickered across the screen: It was a photo of him walking through an airport in a plus-size Indianapolis Colts football jersey, only he looked like he might be eating his way from Colt to Clydesdale.

What happened, man? In the photos, you seemed to be on your way back into those giant "before" jeans you used to hold up as an example of the tonnage you'd dropped. The pics unleashed a bottom-feeding media frenzy, and the nasty celebrity gossip blogs went for the kill. One said you were in Miami to launch Subway's new "Foot-Long Chocolate Brownie and Cream Cheese Frosting on Wheat" sandwich. Which you have to admit is a pretty funny line. Mean, but funny.

But mean people suck, Jared. Hold your chins up. Sorry, I did it again. But the truth is, you didn't look that big in the photos, certainly nothing like you did in the bad old days when you posed in an Indianapolis Colts T-shirt that was roughly the size of Indianapolis. You can still nip this in the bud, and I think together we can get through this. That's right, I am offering myself up as your wingman. (Mmmmm…wings . . .) We are going to get you back on track. I feel like I owe you that much because I've been there. You've been an inspiration to me over the years. Really.

Sure, I just wrote a couple of weeks back about my dream fast-food meal, which weighed in at about 3,000 calories, but that was fantasy, mostly. In the real world, I lost 60 pounds using a combination of Weight Watchers, Subway, and running. That, and the soul-crushing denial of everything that I enjoy. Except bourbon. And Mike and Ikes. And the occasional Tastykake. And Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. But always in moderation, and not usually at the same time.

There were a lot of reasons why I was finally inspired to lose my spare tire, but the main one happened on a summer day several years ago. I climbed into my dad's truck after an outing at the local swimming hole, and my young daughter, Grace, looked at me and said simply, "Daddy's belly." Six months later, I weighed 60 pounds less, or "12 bags of sugar lighter," as I like to think of it.

To shed the pounds, I followed Jared's example of eating six-inch turkey Subway sandwiches for lunch several times a week. I couldn't follow Jared's monastic devotion to the fast-food chain by sticking to veggie subs for dinner, though. I didn't want to be thin that badly. (A friend once asked the Subway counter lady what came on a veggie sub. Her answer: "vegetables.")

Jared, I'm begging you. Get back on the Subway. If you haven't noticed, the economy is miserable. Jobs are hard to get. You get paid to eat sandwiches and not gain weight—this is not a bad gig. You need to think about all of the other people, like me. Especially me. I've kept the weight off, but sometimes your inspiring story of losing 245 pounds eating air sandwiches—what wonder blade allows them to slice turkey flesh so thin?—is the only thing that has kept me from free-falling.

Oh, how many times have I longed to ring up Domino's at midnight and order extra–Cheesy Bread with a large pepperoni pie. And what the heck, toss in an order of Cinna Stix. But you were always there to stop me, standing guard at the refrigerator door. Stay strong, man. Because deep down, at places I don't talk about at parties, I want you on that wall! We need you on that wall!

At the very least, if you can't bear to stuff down another Subway sub, you can always hustle down to the grocery store and grab a six-pack of Slim-Fast before they take them off the shelves.