You would think it would have taken more than a few unkind remarks about Quorn to cancel my date with a calorie- restricted destiny, and you would be right, of course. Adam’s skepticism got me thinking, is all—not so much about how the food tasted to him as about how the whole evening must have looked to him, and for that matter, how it might have looked to me just a few months earlier. The slightly messianic tint to Paul McGlothin’s every utterance; the casual yet total confidence with which Don and Michael had discussed their prospects for eternal life on Earth, like two born-again Christians guessing at the precise date of the Rapture. I liked these people, I really did. But in the end, I made my way home that night with the growing sense that I had just come closer than I ever had to falling down the bottomless black hole of cult membership.
I know: What was I thinking? But do you really need to ask? The workings of a heart and mind like mine are no mystery. I’m your average midlife secular professional—reasonably well adjusted, as the profile goes—a little tightly wound, but aren’t we all? Like the tail-end baby- boomer I also am, I grow more intimate each day with the fears of mortality already gripping the rest of my generation, and lacking spiritual faith, I am perhaps inordinately susceptible to scientific promises of longer, healthier life. I’m of the generation that made marathon running a popular pastime, for God’s sake, so fleshly discomfort in the name of self-involved achievement is a surprisingly easy sell. Throw in a promise that any undue pain and suffering will be masked or compensated by a psychic well-being possibly chemical in origin, and the deal is just about clinched.
I won’t belabor the point: Just take a good look around your neighborhood, your place of work, your therapist’s waiting room. Take a good look in the mirror maybe, too. That ought to be enough to tell you CR’s growth from cult to subculture to fact of mainstream cultural life is not so unimaginable. Yes, CR flies in the face of common sense, but it’s got the preponderance of scientific evidence on its side. Yes, it’s a little crazy, but the crazinesses it requires are only those already endemic to our age and area code. And yes, by any objective standard, the food is lousy, but believe me: Starve yourself long enough and even a tofu-coffee-macadamia-nut-and-flaxseed smoothie becomes ambrosia.
So if you’ve read this far and still think you could never, ever, do what my five dinner guests do to themselves every day, don’t kid yourself. I’ve seen the future, and it’s hungry.