Unprompted: The Gene Diet 

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Doctors predict new popular weight-loss pill may end obesity within the next five years. … Experts predict weight-loss clinics will be shuttered. … Diet doctors will be obsolete. … And virtually no one in this country will ever be fat again.

This paid advertisement appeared in a really important local newspaper April 2, 2014. The ad may be valid, but I doubt it. Such a claim, if true, would have been a front-page news headline, not a paid advertisement. Still, I decided to conduct a follow-up. I went to the mall to see if it had been overrun by skinny people. Hmm. … Perhaps they didn't know about the magic pill. I guess it needs more publicity.

Two things: First, whoever paid for the ad knows that some of us will believe anything. The promise of great rewards without work has always had its appeal. That's why we have a lottery. Second, some newspapers have fallen on such hard times that they'll print almost anything for a dollar. But false and misleading advertising isn't exactly new. Don't forget Jim Bakker, or that you can buy a mattress at 85 percent off any day of the week. They talk about it on television all the time. The noses of some advertisers are constantly growing.

Several years ago a television station I worked for aired an ad for Grapefruit 45, a miracle pill that would chase away unwanted pounds. We ran the ad because we got money to run it; no attention was paid to its credibility. After a period of time when enough foolish people bought the pills, the ad disappeared. Somebody made off with their money. Customers didn't lose weight, but our station lost the account.

Of course, we could simply not worry about it. It hasn't bothered Chris Christie. I mean, you don't have to have a body like Anthony Weiner to be happy. But most of us overweight people would like not to be. Our culture has convinced us that popping a pill will do almost anything we want if we choose correctly. There are more diet pills than mosquitoes on a hot summer night.

So, what's an obese person to do? Well for starters, don't be stupid. The weight isn't going away without effort. Weiner, bless his heart, didn't get his body without hard work. Of course this essay isn't easy for me to write because I too am overweight. But I know how to get rid it if I decide to. It's called the Gene Diet, guaranteed to work, won't cost a dime and is very simple: I must stop eating so damn much.

To be fair, there are some people with legitimate eating disorders who qualify as exceptions. But in general, the main disorder is eating too much, and mostly bad stuff. Lack of exercise also plays a major part. But the bottom line is that we have full knowledge of what causes obesity and we know for certain that most fat people will try anything except what's known to work.

While a friend and I were sitting at a bar for a drink, our overfriendly waitress struck up a conversation about her obese roommate. My friend and I looked at each other, and then at the waitress, who herself was extremely overweight. We said nothing. Was she making a joke, or did she really not know? We left shortly after without disturbing the allusions of the fatty chatty server. Conclusion: One is unlikely to lose weight if one doesn't know about it.

The weight-loss industry thrives on us. We really want to be what we're not. We want to be like those cool people on television. So we pay out the nose for placebos that are probably just that. Then we head for the drive-thru to keep both Ronald McDonald and Jenny Craig happy.

Obesity is an issue always in search of an answer, and fortunately it's one that always has an answer. But except for the few exceptions I mentioned, don't look for cheap fixes. There aren't any. We should do what works: Stop eating so damn much. S

Gene Cox is an author and inventor who recently retired from a 35-year career as a television anchor in Richmond. Connect with him at letters@styleweekly.com, or on Twitter at @genecoxrva.



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