This shouldn't work, in principle. If you're on a diet, you shouldn't be eating pretzels, cookies, and chips at all, but evidently human nature is such that if you can cheat a little, you will.
It doesn't work with marriage.
Only with carbohydrates.
The idea is that it doesn't matter what the food is, just that there's 100 calories of it in the bag, and people like me will permit themselves one bag, but stop short of starting another. Because they know that if they open another, they'll have to eat that one, too.
I admit I exploit this fact of human nature, for my books. If I can write something at the end of a chapter that will make a reader start the next chapter, I know their natural inclination will be to read another whole chapter. This is a leftover from our Calvinist notion that you finish what you start, which is great as applied to books, but not as applied to pizza.
Case in point, when I was little, Mother Mary never asked me if I was full. She asked: "Did you make it all gone?"
The answer was, "Of course," and I still do. And now my waist is all gone.
So in a quest to have my portions controlled for me, I found a product called Morningstar Farms sausage patties. The good news is that they come two to a package, and have only 150 calories and no cholesterol. The bad news is they look like hockey pucks.
They're not real sausages, and that's fine with me. Most pigs are smarter than I am, so I don't mind not eating one. And the patties taste great, though I don't know what's in them and don't really care.
Anyway, every morning for three months, I ate two fake sausages with two egg whites. And at night I ate Bocaburgers, black bean burgers, or veggie burgers, which also look like hockey pucks.
I lost weight, though I didn't lower my cholesterol.
And I feel sure I could ice skate.
Now switch gears to Penny the golden retriever, who's getting older and fatter, and the vet said she needed to lose weight. I went to the pet store and told them my problem.
I mean, Penny's problem. I said to the salesman, "I have an old dog who needs to be on a diet, but she has no portion control."
He handed me a red bag. "Then feed her this. It's beef patties, but raw."
So I bought the dog food, brought it home, and took two patties out of the bag. They're round, flat, and brown, and they look like hockey pucks. If you put them on a plate next to my fake-sausage patties, you could easily mistake the dog food for the people food.
Or think you had invited the Flyers to dinner.
And like the fake-sausage patties, I have no idea what's in the beef patties. It says they're raw, freeze-dried beef, but I don't understand why they don't leave grease or blood all over my hands. I only know that every day, twice a day, I cut up hockey pucks for Penny, then I cut up hockey pucks for me, and we both enjoy our portion-controlled, vaguely foodlike meals.
Who said you can't teach an old dog new tricks?
Look for Lisa Scottoline and Francesca Serritella's new book, "Best Friends, Occasional Enemies: The Lighter Side of Life as a Mother and Daughter," coming Nov. 22. Visit Francesca at email@example.com.