Word of Mouth

Journal of a gastric bypass alternative: My week with the beFull Solution

I am not a dieter.

I am not equipped with the willpower required to say no to delicious morsels like pork belly buns or triple creme brie or basically anything that's battered and fried. Likewise, I'm never going to forgo a particularly good bread basket; in fact, I'm going to slather that slice of sourdough with plenty of butter and then pop it into my mouth. With conviction. And when it comes to dessert, I've got the evolutionary tendencies of a goose: Put it in front of me, and I'm definitely going to eat it, probably without thinking, until it's gone.

But I am at least slightly vain, and I do what I can to maintain my girlish figure. So when a case of snacks was delivered to the office with a note from a doctor who'd invented a line of healthy junk food that was supposed to mimic the effects of bariatric surgery -- i.e., gastric bypass or the lap-band procedure -- in order to help dieters feel more full on fewer calories and so lose weight, it took me about two seconds to decide what I was going to do: I was going to eat those snacks and either rake diet food over the coals, or get thin trying. I was hoping for the latter. It's summer, after all, and my swimsuit has been staring me down and taunting me (skinny bitch).

Without further ado, the journal of my week with the beFull Solution:

Day 1: Just had a heart attack when I went to the beFull website and Dr. Michael Snyder started yelling at me. Not sure what's more stressful here: that all my co-workers who were silently hacking away at their computers now think I'm a diet-food fiend, or that in my panic to find the mute button, I dropped my bagel with extra cream cheese face down on the desk. How clean is this place? Can I still eat it?

Day 2, 2:11 p.m.: En route to a meeting with the doctor himself, I'm hoovering a bag of FullBites. The reason for this is twofold: 1) I lied and told Dr. Snyder's PR guy that I'd already tasted them, so I should probably make an honest woman of myself if I'm to have credibility in this chat. 2) Lay off me, I'm starving.

2:14 p.m.: These nuggets look like Cap'n Crunch but have the density of the stones birds eat to digest their food. That's good; I had two lunches today. I could use a little digestive stone action. I'm pleasantly surprised by the flavor, though. Is that MSG I detect in the sour cream and onion powder? Why are these so savory? Why is my mouth watering like a bell-tormented Pavlov's dog? One eye on the road, I scan the back label while trying not to rear-end anyone. No MSG, but what in the hell are medium chain triglycerides?

2:36 p.m.: I waddle through the doors of Dr. Snyder's office at Rose Medical Center. He proudly tells me he's already performed six bariatric procedures today. I want to proudly tell him about my two lunches followed by my FullBites snack. I refrain. I wonder if he can smell the sour cream and onion on my breath. I try not to breathe.

2:37 p.m.: Dr. Snyder tells me he invented the original FullBar when a friend of his challenged him to create a non-surgical imitation of bariatric surgery. Apparently, an infomercial launched his business and forced him to move into a commercial kitchen. Can't imagine why: Having the blessing and wisdom of a gastric bypass surgeon right in your very own individually wrapped snack food sounds like a terrible marketing idea.

2:40 p.m.: Woops. Apparently I was supposed to eat the FullBites with some water, wait thirty minutes, then eat a meal. I start sweating. What's going to happen? Will my intestines explode? Maybe I should excuse myself for lunch number three.

2:43 p.m.: I am getting a run-down of Dr. Snyder's weight-loss philosophy. He doesn't believe in diets. He believes in lifestyle change. Apparently, this little bar of rice puffs is more than a well-advertised profitable snack; it's a vehicle to get people to think about their hunger level and subsequent meal choice. I like that, but I kind of doubt I'll spend the thirty minutes in between snacking and dinner contemplating the contents of my stomach. I'm a forward-thinker, and I'd rather spend those thirty minutes thinking about more important things, like where I'm going to dinner, and what appetizer is going to be the most delicious.

2:48 p.m.: Dr. Snyder tells me that I look great, and that I don't need to lose weight. In my head, I Stephanie-Tanner-fist-pull. This guy is just really great.

2:52 p.m.: I think I'm being won over by the doctor's infectious energy. These are harmless snacks. This is just a strategy. I should totally eat these with zeal and unlock my svelte hot self. I think it's because he compared the snacks to an iPhone: It's a tool to help me eat right. I like my iPhone. It's pretty. It helps me do a lot of things right. Like text while driving.

Day 3, 10:13 a.m.: I decide to try the original FullBar. It tastes like a rice cake, except that it's so chewy it kind of makes my jaw hurt. I hate rice cakes. I hate jaw pain. And I hope coffee counts as water, because I'm not forgoing caffeine for this plan, and I can't drink that much liquid.

10:15 a.m.: My stomach is making loud, high-pitched whining noises, and everyone in a ten-foot radius is looking at me quizzically, like I might spontaneously combust. Is this because of the coffee? My skepticism over diets? Am I being punished?

10:43 a.m.: The noises have subsided, but I feel slightly nauseous. I wonder vaguely if another cup of coffee counts as a meal. No? How about another bag of FullBites?

Day 4, 12:07 p.m.: Rushing to finish a story, I decide to test the limits of the beFull Solution and eat three TrufFulls for lunch. They taste like chalky pretend-chocolate that's actually made of fiber. I want real chocolate to get this taste out of my mouth. I am upset.

12:10 p.m.: l feel like I ingested a tub of cement. I need a nap, and this journal isn't writing itself. I am still upset.

Day 5, 7 p.m.: I've got a 7:30 dinner reservation, so I should be downing a glass of Berry Bliss AquaFull or another FullBar snack so as to quell my hunger come supper time. I'm conveniently forgetting to do so, though, because I don't want a stomach full of puffed-rice and strategically placed air to restrict my ability to eat pork belly and cheese soufflé, which is what I've already decided I'm ordering.

9:12 p.m.: Three glasses of wine into dinner, I think a little bit about the idea of beFull as a tool. If I were to assign a type of tool to this magical little program, I'd probably say it's a mallet, specifically designed to beat my appetite straight into the cold, hard ground. This is great news for dieters. This is terrible news for a girl who derives all of her joy from stuffing her face.

Day 6: I've GAINED two pounds. This is probably not surprising given last night's soufflé binge. I'd rather blame FullBar, but since I skipped it to allow myself more room for pork and cheese, that's out the window.

Day 7, 11 a.m.: I tell my old roommate that I'm eating gastric bypass surgery snacks. "FullBar?" she asks. I ask her how she knew. "I've eaten them," she says, "And let me tell you something: I'm still fat."

11:02 a.m.: I call my mom and ask if she wants the rest of my beFull snacks. They make more sense for her; she's a teacher who sometimes needs something filling that she can eat fast. She also doesn't mind fake chocolate. She is thrilled to take them off my hands. I am thrilled to be free of the meal-inhibiting vessels of health.

11:04 a.m.: I'm making a very important life decision. I didn't get skinny, and I definitely can't rake beFull over the coals -- but from now on, I'll be staying firmly planted in my diet-free, calorie-rich world, where I calculate I've got at least ten more years until my doctor shakes her head at me and tells me my cholesterol is off the charts.

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Laura Shunk was Westword's restaurant critic from 2010 to 2012; she's also been food editor at the Village Voice and a dining columnist in Beijing. Her toughest assignment had her drinking ten martinis and eating ten Caesar salads over the course of 48 hours. She still drinks martinis, but remains lukewarm on Caesar salads.
Contact: Laura Shunk