The ultimate Bing diet
by Stanley Bing, FORTUNE Magazine columnist

(FORTUNE Magazine) - Ah, Spring! Season of growth (even if it is in the low single digits). Time, too, of balmy air and retreats to semitropical locations that involve ostensible relaxation in humiliating clothing! And by that I mean shorts and T-shirts and ... swimsuits.

So here we are again, ladies and gentlemen, thinking about that last 20 pounds. In a suit, the weight of years may confer a little gravitas. Big job. Big office. Big butt. But out there on the beach? Sitting in a conference room with a Hawaiian shirt on, spreading like a narwhal over a folding chair? I think not. It is time, once again, for a campaign to conquer Mount You.

Let's look at what we know so far.

In the 1980s we explored a diet founded on three food groups: gin, spinach, and cigars. It worked, but it was tough to stay on it, particularly if you wanted to kiss anyone. That's the thing about cigars, which tells you something about guys who smoke a lot of them, possibly excepting Ron Perelman. What survived from this exercise was the core concept that large portions of green, leafy vegetables make you want to stop eating altogether and drive quick weight loss. So let's keep that.

In the early '90s, another tactic was developed by this author. It involved eating as many Lean Cuisines as one wanted at any hour of the day or night. This, too, was effective, since it is impossible to eat more than six of these 250-calorie honeys in one 24-hour period without thinking about driving a laser pointer through one's ear.

At that time I discovered another important dietary concept: that while brown beverages--beer, Scotch, bourbon--are fattening, clear drinks such as Sprite, Fresca, and vodka (often in combination) cut adipose tissue and clear arteries, veins, and brain tissue the way a Roto-Rooter does pipes. This theory has yet to be accepted by hidebound nutritional science, but it has served me well, even though the diet itself was unsustainable. So let's hold on to our vodka, and perhaps the occasional Celentano chicken cacciatore.

In the late 1990s I went totally Atkins. This shaved the pounds from me as TB did from Kafka. After I got out of the mental institution, I had a few loaves of Wonder Bread and tried to figure out what could be retained from such nonsense. It's this: Eat nothing but meat, eggs, and cheese, and you will die thin.

In the early years of this century, I lost 20 pounds temporarily by limiting my intake to foods I had no desire to eat. Halibut, primarily. This did well for me, but it made me very sad, and so a conceptual problem ensued. I usually console myself with slenderizing alcoholic beverages. Years ago I made a choice between these and chocolate.

But the commitment to Calvinist self-denial broke down my rigorous divide, and I found myself chasing my evening martini with a couple of Mallomars. Lesson learned? Any real solution must involve some component of joy.

Finally, I have realized that our quest for appropriate sizing must involve physical activity. Running produces a six-pound weight loss, as I cough out a lung immediately afterward. Walking also works, and driving while yelling, which is aerobic.

So, putting it all together, here is the drill I've come up with:

Before breakfast: Walk back and forth between the living room and the kitchen 100 times, while deciding what to do about breakfast. Use business-related anxiety to raise heart rate.

Breakfast: Two hard-boiled eggs, one-quarter-pound of crisp bacon, one pound of spinach, two Frescas, if Tab is not available. On Sundays a nice stack of pancakes with well-drained sausage, as long as you don't eat anything much until nighttime.

Mid-morning snack: One halibut.

Lunch: Cobb salad, with no avocado, bacon, dressing, or Cobb. On Fridays, a clear beverage.

Pre-dinner workout: Two choices. The first is to join a health club and not go. The second is to walk up and down a stairwell in your building until you feel like puking. I recommend the second, if you can't afford the first.

Dinner: When dining out, meat. No bread! And no rice or potatoes. No cheating. Dining at home is somewhat easier. You may have up to four Lean Cuisine--style microwaveable dinners, eating until the desire for lethe overcomes you. You may then go to sleep, after downing a tumbler of either ice water or vodka.

Midnight snack: No diet can be sustained if it doesn't allow you a little bit of fun! So here you may allow yourself one mouthful of anything you like. But just one. When it comes to a staple of my former diet--tobacco--I confine myself to a stogie a day. It still tastes pretty good, as long as I chew it slowly enough.

That's my plan. I think it will work. Of course, I've been there before and sort of failed in one way or another. But you know what they say: You can't lose if you don't play. Wish me luck!

STANLEY BING's new book, Rome, Inc.: The Rise and Fall of the First Multinational Corporation (Atlas Books, W.W. Norton), is available at finer bookstores everywhere. Top of page