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I want to set some cheese on fire!

“Opa!” Our waitress exclaimed and then she lit our cheese on fire.

This was one of two reasons my mother and my brother had decided to go to the Greek restaurant to celebrate his birthday (the other being the rumor of a belly dancer that remained a rumor). We never miss an opportunity to set dairy products ablaze, especially if we’re not the ones risking 3rd degrees burns on our forearms.

After the flames died down in the silver platter of cheese in our waitress’s hand, she set it on the table and placed a basket of bread right under my nose. After she walked away, I picked up the basket and placed it as far away as my unburned forearms would reach.

“No cheese for me,” I said before anyone could ask. I kept my hands folded in my lap, waiting for the salad I had ordered earlier. I stared at the map of Greece on the far wall next to the CD player who’s LCD let me know track number fourteen was playing. The three-tiered dessert case in the corner was rotating slowly, displaying chocolate pastries I don’t know the names of but I know would have tasted delicious.

“Opa!” Some more cheese met its maker.

Man, this was so fucking lame.

People were lighting cheese on fire, and I was waiting with my hands in my lap for a salad. This celebration dinner had been my suggestion, so any lameness I felt was my own fault. When the waitress had taken my order earlier, I felt like I had a neon sign above my head flashing, “Girl on a diet!” I don’t eat out much, so when I do I like to eat the flaming cheese (after the fire has been put out), but I knew eating that slab of curd was going to be the difference between me fitting into my pants tomorrow morning or not. Literally. My weight had been on the way up lately and it had finally reached a point of no return where it needed to go down again. I don’t want to deprive myself of good foods all the time, but I’ve got to admit there are times when I have to deprive myself of treats if I want to maintain my weight.

This is one of the roughest parts of maintenance for me because I think diets are lame. I think supermodels who eat half a side salad and only drink water are lame. I think people who eat 600 calories a day have serious problems. I don’t want to live like that. I like eating real food and having bagels from time to time and eating a cookie if it’s offered to me. But I’ve realized in the past 6 months or so that if I eat the cookie all the time and I have the bagels every time they’re offered to me, I’m going to gain 10 pounds. So there will come times when I will have to order the salad and buy lots of vegetables and feel like a girl on a diet because I sort of am a girl on a diet (at least until my jeans fit again). Which sucks.

However, I also think people should be allowed to eat whatever the hell they want to eat, be it the triple-cheeseburger combo meal with a milkshake and large fries or half the side salad with a glass of water. Hopefully I can find a balance somewhere between the two extremes. I’ll try not to whine about it to my dinner companions either, who should be allowed to enjoy their cheese and spinach pie without someone moaning, “Oh, none of that for me, I’ve got to watch my weight!” It annoys me when people say things like that and I hate it if I’m even temporarily transformed into someone who does the same.

Today, my pants are looser. Which means eventually there will be a tomorrow filled with flaming cheese. Just not today.

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Hannah • June 30, 2008 at 8:19 am

I completely agree about hating looking like the girl on a diet when you’re at a good restaurant. For me, I feel fine about turning down junk food, but turning down the marinated haloumi, arancini balls and goats-cheese stuffed field mushroms at my favourite restaurant makes me feel like a philistine who doesn’t know how to appreciate good food.

But you’re right, you can’t lose weight if you always say yes to treats. So I guess we just have to deal with looking lame, some of the time.


Sarah • June 30, 2008 at 8:35 am

It’s awesome that you had the strength. I find restaurants are my weakness. We don’t go out very often, so I always feel like it’s a treat. I’m in the same boat. I want the pants to fit and I don’t want to gain the weight back.


fd • June 30, 2008 at 8:46 am

you are strong and brave. i’d never have managed that ever ever ever. hats off to you. little party for those nicely fitting trousers of yours! my vanity not to look like the girl on the diet combined with my desire for flaming cheese would have won the day with a resounding “but the pie has spinach in it! it must be healthy…”


Thirkellgirl • June 30, 2008 at 9:12 am

I don’t know if you fall on the love-him or hate-him side of Dr. Phil, but in his book on weight loss he says something pretty profound: that you don’t have to exert willpower 24/7, only about six or seven times a day. I’ve found that when I’m restraining myself from reaching for the trail mix *with chocolate chunks at Trader Joe’s, it helps to remind myself that this is really only a momentary struggle. In other words, this cheese will pass.


Merry • June 30, 2008 at 9:34 am

This is good material that you can use in the sequel to your book. (“My Better Half”? Okay, it was just a thought.)

Seriously, there are books on weight loss but how many books on maintenance are out there?


Wendy • June 30, 2008 at 9:42 am

I feel your pain even if I have never encountered flaming cheese. I remember writing an entry talking about how I took my dd for cake and I had to order fruit for myself, and I felt as though I had a flashing sign over my head saying “Too fat for Cake!” I suspect the feeling you had was similar!

Well done on resisting. Staying in your pants is better than cheese in the long run.

Why do they set the cheese on fire? I’m feeling a fixation coming on that won’t be satisfied till I’ve hunted down and tasted this delicacy for myself!


radiosilents • June 30, 2008 at 9:49 am

Brava! This was a wonderful post, so well said and so, so true. Good for you for making this important realization! :)



sally • June 30, 2008 at 10:22 am

Flaming cheese… hot, melted goodness with a crispy coating… YUM! Sounds delightfully sinful! Kudos to you for staying strong and resisting temptation!


Tena • June 30, 2008 at 10:32 am

Flaming Cheese? OMG! It would have been really difficult to pass that up! Good for you! Being a cheese-a-holic, I probably would not have been able to skip it. Then I would have hated myself in the morning!

You know what else I hate about being the girl on a diet…when people say “oh, that’s right, you can’t have that!” Makes me want to scream!!!!


Michelle • June 30, 2008 at 11:18 am

Sometimes I’m glad for weeks when I’ve got no social/family events going on just so I don’t have to deal with this sort of thing. Sad isn’t it? But you’re right, if we have a lot going on we have to limit ourselves now and again. Which sucks. Congratulations on avoiding the flaming cheese. I’m going to have to seek out a Greek restaurant to try some.




Janine • June 30, 2008 at 11:23 am

Protein. Protein and fat. Satisfying and good for you. Have the cheese next time. And maybe a chicken kabob along with that salad. See Dana Carpender.


JEM • June 30, 2008 at 11:26 am

Because I didn’t understand this (well in my head I do but I didn’t practice it) I gained back my weight all 3 times I have lost it. I think I can loosen up…and I can, but only about once a week, they rest of the time I have to really pay attention or the pounds come right back.

Go you! This is why you will stay thin and healthy.


PastaQueen • June 30, 2008 at 11:41 am

I think I’ll stick to eating what I choose to.


Moni • June 30, 2008 at 11:43 am

Okay, I’m with you on all this. I love anything thats flaming. But my main reason for commenting is to say, you know you’ve made it big when your book is on my yahoo front page as I log in…Check it out http://www.thatsfit.com/2008/06/30/half-assed-giveaway-win-a-signed-copy-of-the-book/


nolafwug • June 30, 2008 at 11:57 am

Awesome post. I think I worry more about making my dinner companions uncomfortable (especially other women) than I do about resisting temptation. And I don’t want people to think I’m starving myself to lose weight because I’m not. My solution is since I calorie cycle, I shift my high days to days I’ll be eating socially. I love eating cake in public while people compliment me on my weight loss. But it got a bit awkward at a recent gathering at my in-laws. The women were saying, “You’re making us look bad” and “I have to catch up!” and the men were telling their wives they needed to get on a program! How horrifying! I know it was partially in jest but sheesh! I don’t want to make anyone feel bad.

Have you ever tried Asiago cheese all by itself? It has such intense flavor I only use about 1 teaspoon of it at a time, usually mixed with other cheese but you don’t have to. It’s delicious on a omelet for example.


Meagan • June 30, 2008 at 12:05 pm

Hurrah for small victories. I have to remind myself of that kind of thing – especially when Ben & Jerry’s is on sale.


Sharona • June 30, 2008 at 12:09 pm

Why do you have to add “because I’m on a diet” to “none for me, thanks”?

You’re there– you’re celebrating. You eating flaming cheese won’t make your brother’s birthday any more festive.

If you know any particularly socially graceful vegetarians, watch how they handle social eating. I’m related to someone who won’t make you uncomfortable for tucking into a pound of cow at dinner, but hasn’t herself eaten flesh in over twenty years. Maintaining your own eating standards CAN be done without making you or anyone else uncomfortable, and when it happens it’s pretty cool.


Red • June 30, 2008 at 12:17 pm

Woah, someone who has THE answer to nutrition, sweet!

I shall refer to you in the future, dear sir.


eva • June 30, 2008 at 12:49 pm

wow. looks like carbs are conquering dairy! pasta queen took on the big flaming cheese! i know what you mean about feeling like a girl on a diet. it’s even worse when you’re super heavy…bc people kinda assume it’s a short term thing. like you’re destined to fail. hmm. that sounds awfully negative. well. it FEELS that way sometimes. i’ll think of you the next time i’m offered a sizzling treat.


Jill • June 30, 2008 at 12:55 pm

I chose to NOT have a piece of cake at my daughter’s friend’s birthday party. I did chose to have some the next day at my mom’s birthday party, because celebrating my mom is more important than some 7 year old I won’t see for another year.

It’s all about choices – and you made the right one for you. Excellent!

It’s funny but when I know other people are making good choices, it makes it easier for me to do it too, because I guess I’m a leemur or something. But anyway, thanks for posting this. Awesome as usual.


Helen • June 30, 2008 at 1:15 pm

It sucks to be the “diet” girl when everyone else is whooping it up, true that. At least you are not having to eat this however:



Karen • June 30, 2008 at 1:32 pm

You can always eat whatever you like. It just depends how you feel about the possible consequences :-)


Sharona • June 30, 2008 at 1:41 pm

Think about your last birthday or other celebration for yourself. Was your day any less special because someone didn’t eat everything they were offered? Do you even remember who ate what?


deanna • June 30, 2008 at 2:37 pm

Well said. I agree on all points. Some days you make the choice to have the cheese, cake, chips whatever is gnawing at you and other days you don’t. Balance. And everything in moderation.


Gail • June 30, 2008 at 3:31 pm

I just want to say that I like how you find humor in every situation. It’s also admirable that you are able to resist temptation from time to time. Hopefully, I’ll get there some day. Thanks for inspiring everyone out there who is experiencing the same struggles.


Gail • June 30, 2008 at 3:31 pm

I just want to say that I like how you find humor in every situation. It’s also admirable that you are able to resist temptation from time to time. Hopefully, I’ll get there some day. Thanks for inspiring everyone out there who is experiencing the same struggles.


asithi • June 30, 2008 at 5:18 pm

There is no way I will tell people that I am on a diet when eating out. I just feel like they will start judging me. I rather make a lame excuse such as I am lactose intolerant (which I am, but only to milk) and not eat the cheese. When I eat a salad while my friends are downing burgers, I usually tell them I feel like a salad because my husband has been grilling all week.


Cathy • June 30, 2008 at 5:54 pm

Hi PQ – these books were recommended to me and I have found them very helpful: It’s Not About Food by Carol Emery Normandi, Intuitive Eating: a Revolutionary Program that Works by Evelyn Tribole, and When Women Stop Hating Their Bodies: Freeing Yourself From Food and Weight Obsession by Jane R. Hirschmann.

You are right: diets are lame. These books take that statement and explain why. The most important concept I’m learning about is how to trust my body when it comes to hunger and eating. Learning how to eat when one is hungry. Seems simple but how many of us eat because we are lonely, sad, angry, depressed, needing comfort or deprive ourselves of the things we like to eat only to eat even more of them or binge on something else because we’ve forbidden ourselves from what we really want.

Another concept is acceptance. And learning to love myself right this second, whether I’m at the weight I want to be at or not. After maintaining a 130 pound weight loss for the past two years, I struggle with reaching the arbitrary number I have in my head. I know that even if I could reach it, it still wouldn’t be enough. My therapist puts forth the idea of discovering my true weight (which these books address), and even suggests that my true, natural, healthy weight might end up being more than what it is right now. Honestly, that seems completely crazy to me but, really, I get what she’s suggesting and am trying to work towards accepting that idea.

Overall: it’s a process. These books present some ideas to get one thinking beyond the numbers and diets and deprivation by considering how to find a way to eat, live and be happy. Whatever the weight.

Sorry – didn’t mean to go on too long. But, really, these books have allowed me some new perspective for the first time.


Esmeralda Rupp- Spangle • June 30, 2008 at 6:03 pm

You are so darn cathartic to read.

You say that it’s sort of compromising to gain some measure of fame, that it limits what you feel you can say- but these little things, these downs and then the ups that will follow- these make everything so real. No one diets, hits the weight they want, then goes on like they were never fat. It’s a struggle, and it sucks- and it will ALWAYS suck on some level, but reading you makes MY stuggle less acute and alone.


ginna • June 30, 2008 at 7:30 pm

The cool thing is PQ, is that you had the experience of pyro-cheese without having to feel badly about it later. It might have tasted good, if not great, but in this case, it was all about the show, and you enjoyed that.


cindy • June 30, 2008 at 7:35 pm

“Just not today.” It is lines like that—straight, simple, and well-timed—that keep me coming back. You are AWESOME! THANK YOU for this post—like so many others, it was exactly what I needed in this moment.


Natalie C • June 30, 2008 at 8:45 pm

I so agree that it makes it so much legitimate to feel that way if Pasta Queen admits she feels that way, too. And if you can deal with a lame situation and find success, so can I next time. (So hard!!!!!!!!!!)


Jerry • June 30, 2008 at 9:06 pm

Hi, Jeanette, I am in the same boat as my weight has gone back up after losing 110 pounds. I’ve gained about 20 pounds in the past year and can’t seem to go back to proper eating. Thanks for your post.


karen • June 30, 2008 at 9:09 pm

Yum – saganaki! Kudos for resisting. Your day for flaming cheese is coming.


BB • June 30, 2008 at 9:43 pm

Oh I enjoyed your flaming cheese rant! You make me laugh through this process of trying to lose weight. I came back from a weekend vacation at the coast and feel like the huge elephant seals we saw on the beach! I told myself I would be good–yeah right. Where was my Weight Watchers mentality? Once I saw a photo of myself (I can’t look like that–oh–it was taken minutes ago-guess I do look like that) I knew it was get back on track time. I agree with you about people being able to eat what they want to eat. I just wish I didn’t eat to celebrate being on vacation or not being on vacation. Sigh….emotional eater.


Katrina • June 30, 2008 at 10:02 pm



dena • June 30, 2008 at 11:15 pm

meanwhile, on a totally unrelated topic, did you see that your book was mentioned in the July/August Women’s health??? pg 78!!!! Wooot!


Walter • July 1, 2008 at 12:59 am

A good post. I can appreciate your struggle. This week holds two birthdays and a holiday. Tempting food galore. I will remind myself that I am on a journey to fitness and repeat your words, “just not today.”


Marla • July 1, 2008 at 7:29 am

Diet=suck, that’s simply the equation. I totally feel you on your attitude about it, but at the moment we don’t have any other tools for dealing with weight gain. I guess the trick is to manage doing it without any more emotional flailing than is absolutely necessary, and you are the BOMB at that.


Amy • July 1, 2008 at 6:30 pm

I so want to go to Santorini’s now.


Mr Calorie Counter • July 6, 2008 at 2:12 am

I agree that people should be able to eat what they want occasionally. I think that one day a week we can indulge.


Zentient • February 23, 2010 at 2:41 pm

sounds like you went to the Greek Islands. Good place to eat!


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Jennette Fulda tells stories to the Internet about her life as a smartass, writer, weight-loss inspiration, chronic headache sufferer, and overall nice person (who is silently judging you). She does this at JennetteFulda.com now, but you can still have fun perusing her past here.

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