"I will play for gumbo," sings Jimmy Buffett. Theresa-Venus and I can relate to this sentiment. We will beg, plead, and just generally make fools of ourselves over gumbo. And grits, fried green tomatoes, fresh grouper, etouffee, jambalaya, biscuits with red-eye gravy, beignets……..I could go on and on.

Which is why it was a unique challenge to the Girlfriend Guilt diet and exercise program when we went to visit the Gulf Coast and New Orleans last week. I’m happy to say we did extremely well.

We ate EVERYTHING Southern, Creole, and Cajun that our little hearts desired. And we only ate – say it with me – HALF! Yep, heavenly fried green tomatoes and blackened fresh grouper at Tug’s Wharf in Gulfport, Mississippi. (Thank you to the owner and staff, and thank you iPhone for finding us this great place so we didn’t have to eat freeway fast food!)

We sampled Royal Red shrimp in Gulf Shores, Alabama and Pecan-crusted Snapper in Orange Beach, AL artfully prepared by my baby brother. We gratified ourselves with my Mom’s home cooking – she worked out the portion control so that it was truly guilt-free. Gumbo, pecan pie, Paul Prudhomme’s magical lima beans (yep, lima beans as good as the pie – hard to explain unless you’ve eaten them.) When we finally were over the top with spice and roux, we treated ourselves to a Cheeseburger in Paradise at the Margaritaville Cafe. (That’s Theresa hiding behind the menu in the photo.)

We faithfully drank our water and we walked miles of the scenic coastline and the French Quarter. And when we got home, we weighed ourselves and voila – no gain! Except culinary memories that we won’t soon forget.

So the moral of this little story is: we can eat anything we want on the Girlfriend Guilt diet. Just make sure you’re actually vacationing WITH your girlfriend – that way you can keep each other honest. On second thought, it’s really the mutual support that makes this work. Just like Menopause. We may just have to change the name of our Food-Fun-Fitness program to "The Big Easy".

One last message from the menopausal goddesses we talked with in New Orleans: "We are not underwater – we are open and ready for business and can’t wait to see you all here in N’awlins!"

(For more great menopause and midlife tips, info, and commiseration from the Venuses, buy our book "The Big M". Right now, we have a girlfriend’s special going on – buy one at regular price, get the second one for half price to give to a girlfriend! Just click on the book cover on the right of the page or click on the link below.)