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"Of course I'm sure. I read it in ..." Mr. Chatterbox: this month: diet secrets and gene therapy.

if you've been thinking that I haven't been myself lately you're absolutely right. First of all, I lost 15 pounds! Yes, even though it was virtually unnoticeable, I was carrying around, as my boss told me recently, "a lot of baggage." I had learned to accept my "spare tire" as a natural part of the aging process, like those tiny lines around my eyes, or the stray gray hair that occasionally finds its way to my head, or the fact that now I need a magnifying glass to read anything smaller than a billboard.

I of course noticed these things--particularly my weight--but I seriously doubted that anyone else did. Then I was at Barnes & Noble one day, reading a coffee table book called Great Desserts of the World, when somebody jostled me--those aisles are so narrow I doubt Lara Flynn Boyle could even squeeze past Calista Flockhart--and Great Desserts slipped from my hands, bounced on my stomach and spring-boarded toward a display of paperback originals. As I bent over to pick it up I distinctly heard the word "fatso." I looked behind me. Teen-agers! Wandering around Barnes & Noble looking for people to make fun of. How I hate 'em. But still--out of the mouths of babes ...

Now don't think I haven't tried. I bought a treadmill. What an apt name. I bicycled around Harbor Acres until I knew every plant, every bush, every mega-mansion. I even tried eating less. I bought things like carrots. I switched to Diet Coke. (I think that's what threw me off the wagon. I find the taste so empty, so chemical, so unsatisfying that it was easily worth being 30 pounds overweight just to taste a real Coke.)

Then a friend who has her own weight problem, much worse than mine, told me about the Atkins diet. I hadn't paid too much attention to all the publicity surrounding it, as experience has taught me that every famous diet is a scam, particularly one that promises you can have unlimited mayonnaise. But my friend swore it worked. And there was something about that mayonnaise. I figured if I hated the food and was constantly hungry I could always eat mayonnaise with a spoon. This, I have learned, goes a long way toward calming me down.

The theory behind Atkins is food combining. You eat a lot of protein but virtually no carbs or sugars. So you can eat all the meat you want, but no potatoes or pasta or bread. I have no idea why this works but it does, and fortunately I do not like bread. Up until recently the diet was a little suspect nutritionally, but the latest studies have vindicated it. Thank God Dr. Atkins lived to see this. Unfortunately, he died a few days later after slipping on some ice.

There are a lot of versions of the Atkins diet, but the one I recommend most is Suzanne Somers'. She has the best recipes and her books are the most fun. If nothing else, Suzanne Somers has taught me a great lesson in life--always read the ingredients.

Suzanne also has an infinite capacity to forgive, and it's expected that you will cheat every now and then. She never makes you feel bad. I became so taken with her that I actually attended her big convention in Las Vegas this summer, where all her fans from her Home Shopping Network TV show congregate. What an experience that was! I wish l could tell you more about it but unfortunately, fur you, anyway, the rights have been purchased by another magazine--Inc.--and you will have to read about it there.

Still, the fact remains--my pants are falling off. I look like one of those teen-agers whose waistband is now around his thighs, allowing a foot or so of baggy boxer shorts to be plainly visible. I understand that this fashion statement is called "hosing" and that it originated in prison. Whatever. The point is that I am now thin and fashionable.

but the "new me" goes much deeper than some glamorous make-over. I recently found out I am a completely different race than I thought I was. It seems that there is this company in Sarasota called DNA Print Genomics. They are completely on the level; we did a piece about them in our summer issue and they were in the New York Times recently about solving some murder with DNA. At any rate, they offer this test that anybody can take for around $160. They swab the inside of your cheek with a Q-tip and then after a week or so you get a report that tells you what percentage of each race you are. (There are four basic racial groups: Indo-European, East Asian, Sub-Saharan African and Native American.) Well, I had to try this because if there is anything I'm sure of, it is my racial identity as a white person. I am Affirmative Action's worst nightmare. Not only am I of completely European descent, but it's from the best places in Europe, like England and France and Germany. Wouldn't it be cute to have a little certificate proving it?

Well, all the editors took the test, too, and the results started coming back. Pat Haire turned our to be 98 percent Indo European and 2 percent Native American, which I found terribly exciting. Pam Daniel came out 100 percent Indo European, which I'm told is unusual for someone whose ancestors have lived in the U.S. for generations and been so promiscuous. Kay Kipling was a surprise. She's 77 percent Indo European and 23 percent Native American. She could open her own gambling casino. She swears she had no idea.

Then we did me. I am--are you ready?--81 percent Indo European, 3 percent Native American and 16 percent East Asian. Yes, you read that right. East Asian. How is this possible? I mean, 16 percent is not some trivial little thing. It's a big hunk of me. A whole arm.

Well, it turns out that the most logical explanation is my Slavic blood. My mother's family has a lot of it. And as you may recall, the Slavs are one of those tribes like the Magyars and the Tartars. They--or should I say "we"--originated in Central Asia and made their way west, raping and pillaging. The locals didn't much fancy mating with them so they were able to keep their racial identity.

Yes, it has been a shuck. I keep picturing the Chatterboxes of old, huddling around their fires on the steppes of Asia. But it does explain a lot. My uncanny abilities at math. My mastery of chopsticks. My Chinese dog.

And here's the strangest part of all. The fifth person who took the test in our office is Aim Varma. She's quite beautiful, from India, brown skin, black hair, a Hindu. And she's 80 percent Indo European and 20 person East Asian. In other words, she and I are almost racial twins. Imagine. From purebred WASP to Outer Mongolian.
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Publication:Sarasota Magazine
Date:Oct 1, 2003
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