Half of all American women are said to be on some kind of diet or other, and 30 percent of American men, yet as a nation we're getting fatter and fatter. Does anybody notice a discrepancy here?

Anti-diet people do, and they question the effectiveness of dieting as a method of weight control. In this week's cover story, staff writer A. M. Chaplin gives us a good hard look at their reasons and methods. She has a personal interest in the subject, as the sidebar about her own experiences on the diet-binge treadmill makes clear.

She notes, however, that most of the anti-diet advocates seem ** to aim their message chiefly at people who don't have any of the medical problems associated with obesity -- such as high blood sugar, high blood pressure and high cholesterol -- and that readers who do have such problems should be sure to check in with their doctors before swearing never to diet again. She suggests they read and take along a copy of C. Wayne Callaway's "The Callaway Diet." Dr. Callaway is himself a physician, and he includes in his book examples of how he treats patients with problems like theirs.

And, since everybody always wants to know what he's supposed to weigh, she suggests getting a copy of the new "Dietary Guidelines for Americans" by calling the Human Nutrition Information Service in Hyattsville at (301) 436-8617. It's free.

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