imageI appreciate the New York Times' coverage of the cookie diet. The normal problem with crash dieting is that you inevitably go through periods of obsession with denied foods, then cheating on the diet, and then eventual reinvigoration of the original diet in an effort to punish yourself for cheating. Cookie diets (more accurately, "puck of random undisclosed shit" diets) are brilliant, because they take the whole process and wrap it up into a cohesive, yet insanely expensive package. The very food you obsess over is the food you're asked to eat - because they're cookies! - and so the inevitable failure of the diet is the diet itself.

And you get to pay a ton of money to do it, because otherwise you just have an eating disorder.

“I thought, ‘That diet looks so incredibly easy,’ ” said Ms. Kane, 43, a legal secretary in Washington, who started paying $56 a week for the prepackaged cookies in June, when she weighed 255 pounds. Three months later, she was 40 pounds lighter. “If you can make it through the first week you’re in the clear,” she said.

Ms. Kane is one of an estimated 500,000 people who have lost weight on Dr. Sanford Siegal’s diet — at least according to Dr. Siegal. The gist of it is simple: Eat cookies and lose up to 10 pounds a month.

Or, in blunter terms: Consume a substance whose ingredients and nutritional value are somewhat vague and drop weight, because how can you not when you’re only consuming 800 to 1,000 calories a day?

Now, when you think about it, paying $224 a month for cookies as a starvation metric is the perfect counterbalance to (and evidence for) the epidemic of poverty-linked obesity. We push calories lower and lower on the socioeconomic scale, making cheap, calorie-rich food with mysterious ingredients a common dietary staple while creating a separate niche of insanely expensive, calorie-deficient food with mysterious ingredients for people who don't want to look like they eat the other shit.

Luckily, though, cookie diets function in clear and explicable ways that are not at all reeking of bullshit:

Never mind that there are no clinical studies on any of the diets and that a key ingredient in Dr. Siegal’s cookies — special amino acids, which supposedly curb appetite — is known only to Dr. Siegal and his wife.

“It’s the particular mixture of proteins that does the job,” Dr. Siegal said. “All foods do not handle hunger the same way, and high protein foods curb hunger.” The cookies, he said, contain protein derived from meat, eggs, milk and other sources. They also contain microcrystalline cellulose — a plant fiber that acts as a bulking agent, emulsifier and thickener — and are sweetened with sugar.

While Dr. Siegal is circumspect about some of the ingredients in his product, the people at the Hollywood Diet are eager to share. “There’s nothing magic in ours, it’s all based on the formulation of the protein and the fiber to satisfy your appetite for a relatively low amount of calories,” Mr. Turner said.

The main ingredient in the Soypal cookie is okara, or soy pulp, which absorbs any liquids you drink with the cookies. “To let the okara fully absorb the liquid and expand in your stomach, two glasses or more are recommended,” they note on their Web site, “Feeling full is an important part of weight-loss success.”

So, basically, one diet is based on a secret "amino acid" mixture coupled with food thickener, the other is a glorified water diet with 22-calorie cookies as your gorging mechanism. I, for one, am ready to start this thing. Alternately, I may just put some wallpaper paste in bottle of low-calorie Gatorade and sell it for $300 a month. Health!