THERE ARE AN awful lot of diet books on the market, but we still have high hopes for my new entry: "Lose Weight Through Personal Misfortune!"
Let me say that this new diet does not involve any pills that make you so jittery you start beating the dog whenever the doorbell rings.
Nor does it involve any wacko menus where you eat nothing but turnips for three weeks and then switch to grapefruit.
Perhaps best of all, you don't have to get a lot of boring exercise with this new diet. Gone are the days when you had to sweat like a dray horse in order to squeeze into a size 8.
(One fellow on my diet lost 28 pounds in two months, and about the only exercise he got was flicking his Marlboro Light into an ashtray. I myself lost 19 pounds in three weeks while wedged into a space barely larger than a kitchen cabinet, which I'll explain in a moment.)
So what's this new diet all about?
Simply put, it's a unique program designed to use sheer bad luck as well as natural disasters to melt those pounds away.
In my case, for example, it was an avalanche that caused the dramatic weight loss.
We were on a ski trip in the High Sierras at the time. All went well for two days. The weather was gorgeous and the skiing excellent, and we soon got over our initial disappointment about the cabin not being wired for cable.
But early on the morning of the third day, we were startled by a loud noise that sounded like the crack of a whip.
Within seconds, an unearthly roar filled the mountainside as tons of snow and dirt and debris rained down and completely engulfed our little cabin.
So there we were, trapped for weeks with exactly two tiny cans of Hormel chili and, as I may have mentioned, no cable.
One day, while playing yet another game of Tic-Tac-Toe and licking the Hormel can for the 100th time, I thought: Hey, instead of sitting around here melting snow for water and whining about our fate, why not make the best of a bad situation?
Why not try to lose a few inches off that waistline? Which, given the circumstances, was not that hard to do.
Now, was there a down side to the whole experience? You betcha. For weeks after the ski patrol dug us out, most of our party suffered from anxiety attacks, insomnia, depression, erratic mood swings and a morbid fear of heat 'n' eat products.
But that was a small price to pay for my losing 19 pounds.
Suddenly I felt like a new man. My gut was gone. My clothes fit better. And I found I could go a lot longer without food, as my stomach was now about the size of an eighth-grader's.
Another man who tried the diet, L.M. (not his real initials) enjoyed similar success without -- you'll pardon the expression -- starving himself to death.
L.M. decided to lose weight shortly after his light plane went down in a hurricane off the coast of Chile.
Somehow he managed to crawl out of the fiery wreck. His euphoria was short-lived, however, as he soon discovered he was marooned on a rocky atoll with no food, very little fresh water and only the slimmest chance that the island was cable-ready.
Quickly he settled into a dreary routine of fishing clumsily with his belt buckle, playing 37-card Solitaire (the rest of the deck had washed out to sea) and watching the sun set, which got real old in a hurry.
Weeks later, half-dead from exposure and babbling incoherently, was rescued by the crew of a garbage scow.
After they had unhooked the IV lines from his arms, he stepped on a hospital scale and made an amazing discovery: He'd lost 32 pounds during the ordeal!
Anyway, these and other amazing-but-true stories are all documented in the book, which also contains a step-by-step guide for losing weight during hostage situations, mine shaft cave-ins, oil platform fires, etc.
We also print the sites of major famines, the expected paths of tropical storms and typhoons, a list of active volcanoes that destroy crops within a radius of 200 miles with a thick blanket of ash.
Let's face it: If there are no crops, there's no food.
And if there's no food, you lose weight.
It's that simple.
You wonder why no one else ever thought about this diet.
Although I am not about to look a gift horse in the mouth.