A. M. Chaplin, who wrote this week's cover story on our society's obsession with food and weight, says that Arnold Andersen, director of the Eating and Weight Disorders Clinic at John Hopkins, has the best advice -- that is, the most like her own -- for dealing with food problems. First, he says, don't diet. (He and his staff wear buttons that say "diet" with a slash through it.)

Instead, Dr. Andersen says, follow his three rules: 1. Eat low-fat foods but don't restrict the quantity; eat until "comfortably full." 2. Do moderate, not driven, exercise. 3. Deal with stressful issues directly, not through food. Then, he says, "whatever you weigh is the way you're supposed to look."

Well, maybe. But my guess is that this is far too sound and rational advice for most of us. First of all, it may be the way we're supposed to look, but we probably don't want to look that way. And when we're stressed out, turning to the Pie That's Better Than Sex is easier, cheaper and more fun than psychotherapy. It may not work as well in the long run, of course, but when has that ever stopped any of us?

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