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I had an argument with my father a few years back. He had read Dr. Atkins book and, as is his custom, was preaching it as Holy Writ to anyone who was either A) willing to listen or B) too polite to flee. Naturally, I thought both he and Dr. Atkins were insane, since at the time, everyone knew that getting fat was a combination of eating too many calories and/or too much fat. Remember Snackwells? This was during the heyday of the no-fat cookie and ice cream sans fat. It sounds terrible now, but that Turtle Fudge Brownie was actually pretty good.

Anyhow, I felt my case was bolstered by the fact that, while Dad was carrying around some 40 extra pounds of lard, I was, literally, a lean, mean fighting machine. For two years, I ate nothing but coffee, cereal, yogurt, skim milk, tuna and protein shakes, and stacked on fifteen pounds of muscle while reducing my body fat to a level low enough to be immeasurable by the various methods available at the health club. This, I felt, was proof of my diet’s superiority, never mind the fact that I was not only young, but also doing two hours of martial arts six days a week, plus lifting heavily at least five days a week.

Dad, meanwhile, was loading up on the steak and eggs for breakfast, eating salads consisting of equal parts greens and meat, and devouring so much cheese you would have been forgiven for thinking he harbored a personal grudge against Wisconsin. So no one was more surprised than my own bad self when 60 days later, Dad showed up at my brother’s wedding absent 38 pounds. He claims he could have lost it faster, but he has this weakness for Cheerios, you see.

This was a bit of a blow, but I remained unconvinced until I went on a trip to Italy and Ireland. In Italy, the people were remarkably thinner than here in the U.S. despite a diet that, in the north, seems to revolve more around meats and cheese than pasta. Horse meat, elk meat, goat meat, rabbit meat, you name it, if it died a violent death it was on the menu, and the pasta dishes were approximately one-quarter the size of that to which I was accustomed. Contrast this with Ireland, where dinner consisted almost entirely of carbohydrates in one form or another. Another Guinness with that potato pie, sir? So I finally threw in the towel and conceded over a very nice steak, followed by a cheese course.

(Now diet isn’t everything, of course, but let’s face it, the world is divided into those who exercise and those who never will. I eat pretty much whatever I want, but I’m a gym rat and as one of my weight-lifting buddies once said, the primary benefit of stacking on muscle is the ability to burn more calories watching TV than most people do while running.)

Dad’s a good winner, he didn’t even say “I told you so” when the New York Times magazine reported last week that, well, Dr. Atkins and his high protein posse may have been right after all; he just e-mailed me the link.

So, what does this say about the official FDA recommendations, which declare that we should all be eating low-fat, high-carbohydrate diets if we want to stay in shape? For one thing, it says that the government’s record of screwing up everything it gets its hands on remains intact – did we really expect anything different from the people who gave us the Department of Education, Title IX, agricultural subsidies and the New Deal?

Unless the FDA diet is doing exactly what it is supposed to do – fatten us for the kill!

I don’t know if it’s radical environmentalists who want to reduce the amount of land needed for producing food or aliens with a taste for human rump steak, but I have no doubt that someone is behind the charade. Dad says it’s people who secretly want to reduce American life expectancy, perhaps because the pyramid scheme that is Social Security will collapse otherwise. It sounds insane, but he’s probably right. Again.

But it’s not all bad news. Red wine, check. Filet mignon, check. Maybe the market’s tanking, but things really are looking up! Now all I need is for scientists to discover that watching NFL football makes you smarter, healthier and better-looking.

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