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Dieting and cooking - Ronda Rich

Publisher's Weekly, a trade publication for the book-publishing industry, is always full of interesting tidbits. Annually, it publishes a list of books that sold more than 100,000 copies in one year. I am always interested to see how these numbers shape up.

For instance, I, who am an avid reader of biographies and autobiographies, was surprised to learn that rock star Eric Clapton's memoir (by the way, I found it to be truly terrific) had sold only 660,000 copies, even though it had stayed on the best-seller lists for months. I would have thought it had sold much more and surely crossed the million-books mark.

But here's what really caught my attention: The best-selling non-fiction books were those written on two subjects: cooking and dieting. I couldn't help but laugh out loud. It seems like such a paradox. But that got me thinking. That's my life. I cook and I diet. I diet and I cook. In the course of a year, I probably am evenly divided on the weeks I spent dieting and the weeks I spend cooking and eating, which is probably why I stay around the same weight. In two weeks of eating, I gain five pounds then in the next two weeks of dieting, I take it off.

Of course, I only know if I have gained or lost weight by how my clothes fit. I never weigh. I stopped that self-destructive habit years ago. When I go for my annual check-up, I always tell the nurse as she leads me to that mean ol' scale, "OK, here's the deal. I close my eyes while you weigh me and you are not to tell me how much I weigh. OK?"

She nods obediently, then stealthily records the ominous number.

Which is why, last year, when I tried to convince my doctor that she should give me a month's supply of diet pills, my plea was in vain since I didn't know my weight. She started flipping through my chart, checking my weight for the past few years, as I eloquently - or so I thought - stated my case.

"That's very interesting because my chart shows you have not gained one pound - zero. In the past year and you have only gained two pounds since five years ago."

I looked appropriately sheepish. "So, I take it you're not going to give me any diet pills, right?"

"Right." She slapped my chart shut.

But apparently my habit of splitting my time equally between dieting and eating works. And, also apparently, the rest of America is doing the same. For every cook book Americans buy, they buy a diet book to go with it.

Once I wrap my mind around something, even if it's wacky like this, I ponder on it for quite a while. My pontification over the matter led me to this conclusion: That is absolutely par for the course. I realized that regular conversations with Karen, Bridget, Louise and Nicole are pretty evenly split between new recipes we want to share and new diets we're trying. I honestly do not think that Karen and I ever have a single conversation where we don't discuss equally cooking and losing weight.

"I made your macaroni and cheese recipe yesterday, but I only had a tiny amount," she said the other day. "It's so good. I could eat the whole bowl." From that, we segued into dieting, exercising and drinking lots of water.

It's never ending.

I noticed something else interesting about the annual best-selling list. Right behind popular books on cooking and dieting were books on God, Jesus and praying. That, too, was logical. After all, if you're gonna eat and you find you can't diet it off, just pray it off.

Made perfect Southern sense to me.

Ronda Rich is the best-selling author of "What Southern Women Know (That Every Woman Should)." Sign up for her newsletter at www.rondarich.com.