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Jewish World Review Jan. 6, 2003 / 3 Shevat, 5763

Tom Purcell

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Consumer Reports

Exercise pills | All right, tubby America, it's the New Year and time for us to start getting the flab off. But let's do it in a uniquely American way.

It is true, my friends, that we are the fattest country on this planet. Our culture is saturated in an abundance of high-calorie foods. We work long and hard in sedentary office jobs, then eat our stress away two or three fast-food treats at a time. We've become so fat, to quote Rodney Dangerfield, our bathtubs have stretch marks.

But we should be sick and tired of feeling guilty about it.

Yeah, we know our increasing tubbiness isn't healthy. According to the Center for Disease Control, obesity-associated diseases such as diabetes nearly doubled since 1979. Gallbladder diseases have tripled. Sleep apnea increased five-fold. And tubbiness is a leading contributor to high blood pressure and heart disease, one of our biggest killers.

But the fact is that our excess weight is a reflection of the success of our political system. The experiment called America worked better than anyone could have imagined. Thus, even in these dour economic times, we still enjoy an affluence that is the envy of the world. And we carry our affluence around guts, thighs and chins for all the world to see.

Sure, we know we need to lose some weight. That's why many Americans have made weight loss their number one resolution for the New Year. But as I said, this uniquely American problem demands a uniquely American solution.

You see, there are some among us - non-patriots with communist leanings - who think the only way to lose weight is to deny ourselves. Frequently animal rights advocates, these people demand that we give up juicy steak, pork, chicken and even fish. They demand we avoid any mass-produced tasty treat, such as chips, nachos and the entire Dolly Madison line. To wit: they want every lost ounce to come through great fits of pain and suffering.

But the freedom lovers among us - "fr-eat-om fighters?" - are fighting back. We said nuts to low-fat, bland-tasting diets. We said nuts to the concept of dieting altogether. Instead, we rallied around one of the most heroic figures to emerge in the last 100 years: Dr. Atkins.

That is right, ladies and gentlemen, Dr. Atkins led us from the wilderness. He said we no longer had to suffer to lose weight. He said we could eat delicious steaks, pork, chicken and fish. He said we can eat as much eggs and cheese and other tasty treats as we could stuff into our bellies.

This courageous man was attacked from every corner. He was accused of lying to Americans, telling them what they want to hear. But three prominent studies in the last year have concluded that old Doc Atkins might be onto something. Low-carbohydrate diets may actually take off more weight than low-fat diets and may be surprisingly better for cholesterol, too.

Well, America, the best is yet to come. You see, another key component of weight loss and good health is exercise. Sure, the Atkins' diet might help you shed some pounds, the "deny us everything crowd" might concede, but we still have to go out into the cold and exercise.

Oh, really?

It would appear that another heroic figure has risen out of the ashes, a fellow whose magnitude could outdo even that of Dr. Atkins. His name is Dr. R Sanders Williams, dean of the Duke University School of Medicine.

Last year, researchers working under this fine doctor located the chemical pathways that muscle cells use to build strength and endurance. With this basic knowledge in hand, it may soon be possible to develop a pill that pumps up muscle cells WITHOUT the need for actual exercise.

That is right, my tubby American friends. The time is not far off when we will all be sitting in front of the television eating huge helpings of steak, beef jerky, eggs and cheese, and yet we'll still lose weight. And while we are stuffing our guts, our muscles will be pumping up. Our biceps will get as round as cantaloupes, our abs as rock-hard as stone. And we will coin a new phrase for this pastime. We will call it "working out."

And that is what I call a uniquely American solution to our weight and exercise problems.

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10/25/02: On edge in Washington, D.C
10/11/02: Giving new meaning to "selling your body"
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09/27/02: Conservatives, Liberals, Dick Armey and Barry Manilow
09/20/02: Are SUV drivers are the new GOPers?
09/13/02: Bubba is Dubya's man
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08/09/02: Vacationless prez and gutless Americans
07/26/02: Study gives women permission not to hide their emotions
07/15/02: Patriot food
06/28/02: Eavesdropping on a San Fran classroom
06/21/02: The crowded skies
06/14/02: Contemporary Father's Day: A conversation for the ages
06/07/02: Legal rights for animals?
05/19/02: Advice for prom goers this year: Hold onto your money
05/10/02: Don't take her for granted
05/03/02: Letter to the parents of a tubby teen
04/26/02: Zacarias Moussaoui gets expert legal advice

© 2002, Tom Purcell