“I think I’ve found out why we’re packing the pounds.”

These were my words in this space in January 2005, and in the spirit of “it bears repeating,” I’m repurposing the story.

Think about it: No matter what we read or hear these days, it’s the same message: America is suffering an obesity crisis. According to data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) of 2013-2014, “more than 2 in 3 adults (70.2 percent) were considered to be overweight or have obesity.” Simply put: We are a chubby lot.

And I should know … I am one.

But I think I’ve discovered the culprit: auxiliary food.

That’s right, auxiliary food. Oh, it could be variously called accoutrement, ancillary, or accessory food, but we all know what it is. Once the evening dinner contains a “with” or an “and,” there’s auxiliary food written all over it.

Soup and sandwich. Pasta with sausage. Pie and ice cream. Hamburger with fries. Chips and salsa. Roast beef with gravy.

It’s those “ands” and “withs” that are the real diet killers. If we’d simply choose the food on one side or the other, we’d probably be safe. For example, pasta is fairly decent fare all by itself. But once we insist on spicing it up with all that Italian sausage, our good intentions go the way of our collective waistline: out. 

Soups and sandwiches are huge offenders, too. Seriously, can one really have a bowl of steamy tomato soup without a grilled cheese sandwich? I suppose it’s possible, but the soup would be very lonely; it simply wouldn’t be properly accessorized.

I think purists fare better in the diet department. They’re folks who’ve embraced not the “ands” and “withs,” but the powerful “without” or “hold.” Their dining vocabulary goes something like this: “I’ll have the dinner salad without dressing, please” or “Let’s try the turkey sandwich, hold the mayonnaise, please.” 

How I long to be one of these folks. I truly wish I could eat that salad and savor the taste of the veggies alone. I tried it once, but all I kept thinking was, “I could sure use some ranch.”

Some purists eat burgers wrapped in lettuce, for heaven’s sake. They’ll polish off a carton of yogurt without so much as a grain of granola. I ask you, what’s the point? An open-faced sandwiched without a lid suits the purist just fine, but I say that sandwich needs a hat. 

Purists, or minimalists as they’re sometimes called, thrive on dry toast and plain jello, Believe it or not, they truly can eat the soup without the sandwich, the biscuit without the sausage gravy, and the spaghetti without the meatball. 

They simply don’t fall for the “ands” and “withs;” they’re not hoodwinked by ancillary food. No sirree, they know better.

I, on the other hand, don’t. Old habits die hard, I suppose. I find myself looking for the dipping sauce for the carrot sticks or a sandwich to accessorize my soup. Could I ever really consume a hamburger without French fries? Could I ever munch a salad without accessorizing it with a dollop of bleu cheese?

My waistline has but one answer: You probably ought to give it a try.

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