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Saying goodbye to ‘Fat Dad’
Nine years ago Dawn Lerman reached out to me with a story about growing up with a chronic dieter. Her father, Al Lerman, was a “Mad Men”-era advertising legend linked with a number of iconic slogans including “Coke Is It,” “Leggo My Eggo” and “Fly the Friendly Skies of United.” He also was overweight — reaching 450 pounds at one point — and his lifetime of dieting affected the whole family.
When I was 9, my father became convinced that he had a unique concept that would revolutionize the dieting world. He believed that if he did not eat — and only drank — he would lose weight, no matter what he was drinking. While most of the week he carried out his liquid diet solo, on Saturday mornings, I had the chance to be his trusted assistant, and we would prepare all kinds of creative shakes together.
I loved those Saturday mornings when my dad was in his die-hard liquid diet shake phase. We would blend everything you could think of — carrots, tomatoes and tortilla chips, mashed avocado and banana shakes. My dad said, “If you sip through a straw, you will get full faster and consume less calories.” He even consulted with a dentist about wiring his jaw partly shut so he would not be tempted to cheat.
He had created the ultimate diet, so we experimented with any combination of ingredients we could blend and drink. You name it, we blended it, and we always slurped down our concoctions with pure joy — even the ones that tasted terrible, like the spinach and ice cream monster shake that we both tried so hard not to spit out. My dad lost a great deal of weight within the first couple of weeks, even though he would often dump a couple of scoops of ice cream and chocolate powder into many of the shakes.
I told my grandmother about all the liquid meals we were making. She always had a practical approach to food and diet. Even though she was skeptical and not a fan of my dad’s liquid diet phase, she suggested blending a bowl of vegetable soup or a hearty lentil chili. I was excited to share her suggestions with my dad, but by then the excitement of the liquid diet had passed. He had decided to embark on a high-fat diet that was becoming really trendy in his advertising office. Cheesy bacon omelets cooked in butter were now the new staple.
Dawn expanded her columns into a wonderful memoir called “My Fat Dad: A Memoir of Food, Love and Family.” It doesn’t spoil the book to tell you that Dawn’s father became a vegan later in life. Dawn shared that her father, who was 85, recently passed away. “I think he would most love to be remembered for his award-winning slogan, ‘You only go around once in life, so grab for all the gusto you can!’” The slogan was for Schlitz beer. “Grab the gusto he did!” Dawn wrote. “You will be loved and missed, Daddy.”
Read the original series:
Growing Up With a Fat Dad
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