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Medical journalist Michael Fumento has a dilemma similar to that of feminist scribe Naomi Wolf: While the former model has been berated for her take on The Beauty Myth, Fumento, the D.C.-based author of the new book The Fat of the Land, has to convince obese Americans that he can relate to their gain and pain despite looking unsettlingly like a young, thin Omar Sharif.

The 37-year-old Fumento insists that he does understand what fat people go through, however. “In writing this book, I despaired for the country and I despaired for me,” he reveals. “I got up to a point where I was 25 to 30 pounds overweight. I tried Susan Powter….I tried so many of the best-sellers.” Fumento claims that when the battle of the bulge finally became too much, he decided to “write a book that can help my fellow man, but more importantly write a book that can help out me.”

Subtitled The Obesity Epidemic and How Overweight Americans Can Help Themselves, Fat is a 50-50 combination of self-help and public policy. According to Fumento, currently a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, the U.S. is gaining approximately one pound per citizen per year. Among the reasons he cites for the relentless hike in heft are the ballooning portions of mass-produced food (he points to the progression from “the Butterfinger…to the King Size Butterfinger…to the Butterfinger Beast”) and the fallacies of the fat-free philosophy (“We have become a nation convinced that if it doesn’t have fat in it, you can’t get fat!” he huffs).

But while Fumento takes his fair share of potshots at such idols as Powter, Deepak Chopra, and Judy Mazel, he does offer up a few of his own weight-loss mantras: “Stop believing in magic and miracles. If you want magic go see David Copperfield; if you want miracles go to Lourdes”; “Stop making excuses and take control. People are always complaining that they have slow metabolisms”; and “Work out little things in terms of your diet.” You mean those Funyuns aren’t such a great idea after that cheese-covered beef sandwich?

Fumento’s final plea is for his chubby countrymen to take their time when it comes to shedding that unsightly blubber. “Americans are so damned impatient!” he snaps, further proving that he is more Richard Widmark than Richard Simmons. “The fat that they have padded on in 30 years they want to take off in 30 days!” —Sean Daly