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Moderation in the land of plenty

In Las Vegas, where the buffets stretch as far as the eye can see, there's an epiphany.

Published July 26, 2005

Weighing In, John C. Cotey's column about his effort to lose weight, appears Tuesdays in Floridian. His starting weight on July 1 was 250 pounds. To read previous columns and his Web log, The Skinny, please go to


LAS VEGAS - A month ago, if you had asked me to compile a list of the 10 worst cities to travel to if you are trying to lose weight, avoid fattening foods and drink, and go for daily walks, I'm guessing it would have looked something like this:

1 through 10: Las Vegas.

So, on my first road trip in my new life of eating well and (hardly ever but really trying to get into) exercising, I got to go to Las Vegas.

How perfect. For four days, I would get to hang out in a city where the buffet is king and the drinks are free and it costs $25 a day at the MGM Grand to use the workout facilities.

Honest - $25.

Like I have that kind of money. Okay, fine, I did have the money. But the principle of the thing kept me from paying (too bad principle doesn't keep me from shelling out $71 for the YMCA; hey, a guy has to draw the line somewhere).

The truth was, however, I could not let the $25 deter me from exercising the whole trip, but I also knew that was five hands of Pai Gow Poker. So the next morning, I compromised by walking the Strip, one end to the other, in a 110-degree heat wave.

Again, beautiful timing. They say, however, it's a dry heat, so there was minimal sweat and I'm sure the bubbles on the back of my neck will eventually subside.

I did a lot of walking. On the Strip. In the huge MGM Grand, from the blackjack table to the ATM back to the blackjack table. To the bathroom to cry after another loss. To the sportsbook to see if one of my baseball bets paid off. So I felt good, light, active.

Then my voracious breakfast appetite kicked in. And when it did, I was standing at the buffet, staring down a row of eggs, bacon, grits, gravy, biscuits and pastries.

Done right, as they so often are in Vegas, the buffet is truly a thing of beauty.

Alas, I sadly looked away from the sweet rolls and turned instead to the oatmeal, the fruit, some whole wheat toast and a small scoop of boiled egg whites. At home, that's a great little meal. At a buffet?

Worst . . . breakfast . . . ever.

Keep in mind, on previous trips to Vegas, the buffet was the highlight. When my wife found out I was going again, her first words were: "Oooooooh, the Mandalay Bay buffet!"

Good times, I told her, my eyes welling up. Good times.

I think I can trace my fatness to roughly 1990, when I discovered a Ryan's Family Steak House in Tampa around 10 a.m. and stayed through lunch.

That day started a beautiful and destructive relationship with bad food. It was probably the first buffet I remember indulging in, and all through college and beyond, Ryan's was my breakfast, lunch and dinner (and usually all at the same sitting).

Eventually, I graduated to Golden Corral, and Shoney's, and even KFC and Wendy's when they added buffets (wow, I'm old).

A bad habit - quantity over quality - was born. For a measly $6, I lined up at the trough, ate until I could no more, and waddled away.

Now that I am taking a few seconds to think about what I eat and focusing on moderation, the whole concept of buffets disgusts me. They are a scourge.

After two breakfast buffets in Vegas, and only because I knew finding oatmeal and fruit would be impossible anywhere else, I was done. It was over.

No more buffets, anywhere, ever.

On my way out, I reached out to touch the sneeze shield one last time and said goodbye.

[Last modified July 25, 2005, 19:07:03]

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