The best news of the year was when scientists recently announced that body fat could be produced by genes. This was counter to all the conventional wisdom that overweight people were no good.

I received the news while eating a dandelion salad sandwich and a diet cola at the lunch counter.

J. David Emge was the one who gave me the information. "The latest research says that if you get fat you have no one but your grandparents to blame," he said. "It's all in your body makeup. One person can eat an apple pie and not put on weight. Others can put four poppy seeds in their mouths and balloon. It's not food but your chromosomes that make all the decisions."

"I knew that science would finally find a cure for large suit sizes."

Emge was pleased that he could bring me such glad tidings. "Some time back in antiquity, possibly even before man invented french-fried potatoes, it was decreed that people like yourselves would have a slightly pudgy, though not unattractive girth. Our mistake was to believe that being heavy was a character flaw, when in fact it was Darwin's choice all along."

"How did this happen?"

"Stunkard at the University of Pennsylvania worked with twins. He found that environment and diet had little impact compared with that of their genes. He concluded that since genes were so important, those lacking in willpower were blaming themselves needlessly for not being able to see their toes when they bent over."

"How does Stunkard feel about buttered garlic bread?"

"I'm sure he's not against it. It's quite possible a person's genes tell him when he should or should not eat bread. Bouchard of Laval University in Quebec worked with twins as well and came to the same conclusion."

"Which is?"

"When you're fat, relax and enjoy it."

"Overeaters owe a lot to Stunkard and Bouchard," I said. "I wonder what it would mean to them if I ate this piece of chocolate layer cake instead of these string beans with lemon juice on them."

"They'd probably have a hard time telling you what it meant unless you had a twin brother in a diner across town."

"I think it would be wonderful if we all had genes that could burn up all our calories instead of turning them into fat."

"It will be done," Emge said. "That's why we have genetic engineering. In the meantime I'd say that since it isn't your fault when you gain weight, you might as well eat what you want."

"That seems to be the best solution," I agreed.

"If my genes are programmed for bread pudding, it makes no sense to feed them raw carrots."

Emge nodded. "The importance of this study is that it changes the way people look at each other. Maybe they'll stop being critical of others now that they know it's not their hips, but their heredity that makes it so difficult to fit into a new bathing suit."