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Indulge yourself, sometimes

Posted: July 15, 2011 10:01 a.m.
Updated: July 18, 2011 5:00 a.m.

WASHINGTON -- I'd like to speak up for Michelle Obama's 1,700-calorie lunch the other day at Shake Shack. ShackBurger, 490 calories. Fries, 470. Chocolate shake, 740.

And, oh yes, the Diet Coke. What woman who's watched her weight hasn't incongruously washed down the slice of cheesecake with a diet drink?

I'd like to speak up for the first lady's meal even though, as luck would have it, I was lunching down the block that day and happened to see the serious-looking guys with earpieces standing outside Shake Shack.

My lunch involved asking for the dressing on the side and eyeing the fried calamari on my companion's plate the way a grizzly eyes a leaping salmon. Uncharacteristically, I didn't pounce.

That word, uncharacteristically, is everything you need to know about the difference between my situation and the first lady's. She's in great shape. Have you seen those arms? She doesn't need to lose an ounce.

As for me, well, I can't exactly say the same. I can say that, since yet another New Year's facing the same flabby old resolution, and even more of the same old flab, I've lost almost 25 pounds. This is a lot of weight, especially if you're as short as I am, but I've got more to go.

I did it with the help of a program, but the basic theory isn't magic: Exercise more, eat less, keep track, get support. And -- which is the reason I'm sharing this simultaneously embarrassing and gratifying personal information -- don't deprive yourself. Do it slowly, and in moderation.

Everyone needs a little Shake Shack in her life. You can't diet on lettuce alone, with or without the balsamic vinaigrette. Well, you can, but it probably won't last very long.

Which is why there is no contradiction between the fundamental message of the first lady's anti-obesity campaign -- eat healthy, get moving -- and her visit to Shake Shack. Or her earlier outings to Five Guys, the equally calorie-laden burger joint. Or her paean to potatoes on her recent trip to South Africa. "If I picked one favorite, favorite food, it's french fries," she said. "OK? It's french fries. I can't stop eating them."

Going to Shake Shack is not a highhanded matter of the first lady proclaiming, "Do as I say, not as I eat." It's an illustration that you can eat your cake and stay healthy, too, as long as you don't have too much of it, too often. And you walk or otherwise exercise it off.

Recently we miraculously managed to survive a week in France, land of the cheese plate at every meal and patisserie on every corner, without gaining weight.

Speaking of we, time out for full disclosure: My husband is a grand fromage at an independent agency that works with the first lady on obesity issues. Even fuller disclosure: He's been hewing to her advice and lost weight too. Not, as we're quick to say in my house, that he needed to.

Still, as the first lady reportedly once said, "Life would be boring without a burger and fries."

Indeed. Mrs. Obama, 10 more pounds and I'll meet you at Shake Shack? Maybe we could split the fries. But I'm going to drink that whole darn shake.

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