I came back from my May book tour with an ugly souvenir -- six pounds of flab.
I went back to a healthy diet: Green tea. Steamed vegetables. Salads with low-cal dressing. Two stingy squares of 70% dark chocolate for dessert.
Those six pounds hung around like an unwelcome houseguest.
I couldn’t see how else I could pare down my food. There was a fat trap in my diet. I needed an expert detective to solve this mystery. A doctor recommended a nutritionist called Sunny. Her name suited her: she was smiling, smart and slender.
"What do you have for breakfast?" Sunny asked.
"Green tea, fresh fruit and one scrambled egg," I said.
"You should probably eat more for breakfast," she said.
More? My favorite four-letter word.
"Add half a cup of oatmeal," Sunny said. "Don’t load it with milk and sugar. Try a tablespoon of honey and some walnuts."
I liked those, too.
Suddenly, Sunny frowned. "How much cooking spray?"
"Well, I cover the bottom of the pan."
Actually my single egg was swimming in a sea of canola oil spray. "PAM doesn’t have any calories," I added.
"Read the fine print," she said. "It’s zero calories per serving size. That’s one-fourth of a second."
A quarter of a second? But that’s nothing.
Thanks to a quirk in the US regulations, Sunny explained, manufacturers can claim food has "zero calories" if it has less than five calories per serving.
That sneaky PAM.
My stop watch shows fractions of seconds. Know how much PAM I sprayed in one-fourth of a second? A spot about the size of the cap on the can.
I thought of the minutes – no, the hours – I’d been spraying my food with PAM.
I also sprayed the baking pan with PAM when I made what I thought were low-fat oven fries. Those potatoes were surfing in canola oil. But the front label said "for fat-free cooking" and I took PAM at face value.
Canola oil has 120 calories in one tablespoon, so I was unknowingly adding an extra 500 to 600 calories a day to my food. No wonder I didn’t lose weight.
Sorry, PAM, but I’m not sticking with a slick like you.
The label said there were "about 571 servings per container." So what am I going to do with some 500 servings of PAM?
The Internet is awash with suggestions.
I can use it on my car, said Gomestic.com. "Bugs will wipe right off your car grill if you spray it first with cooking spray. Spray oil on a soft cloth and rub onto grill. Not only will it keep bugs from sticking but it will brighten and shine your grill."
That will work. An 1986 Jaguar is a fat-cat car. I’ll oil the grill.
Cooking spray can keep grass from sticking to lawn mower blades. Baseball players spray it on the bottom of their shoes to keep mud from sticking to them. Moms use it on kids’ soccer cleats for the same reason. PAM can get gum out of children’s hair.
There seemed to be a thousand uses.
But what’s the chance that I’ll ever use PAM with my old abandon?