The big news on the medical circuit is that Americans are getting too fat--much too fat. The reasons are that they are eating too much and not exercising.

The future looks even more grim, and the computer is to blame.

Dr. Heinrich Applebaum predicts that in five years the obesity rate in the United States will double. He said, "Now people can order anything they want on their computers, and therefore they don't have to leave their chairs, except to go to the bathroom."

Applebaum explained to me that this is what we are going to see in the Millennium Man (he calls him Quentin):

Quentin wakes up in the morning, brushes his teeth and then goes to his computer. He doesn't even have to walk outside to pick up his newspaper because he can boot up the news on the screen. Then he orders breakfast from his delicatessen's Web site. It is delivered to his door in 15 minutes and charged to his ATM card.

So far Quentin hasn't budged, and the fat is building up. Flushed with guilt, Quentin brings up all the diet books that Amazon.com is selling. He orders four to be delivered tomorrow.

The next thing Quentin does is play a game. He is looking for the dragon while the dragon is looking for him. Quentin gets caught in a cave and can get out only by hitting the HELP button on the keyboard.

It is now time to go to work. Quentin hits STOCK MARKET and buys 100 shares of Bristol-Myers. He then sells 100 shares of Revlon. Then he plays a game of Russian roulette.

Meanwhile, he's getting fatter and fatter.

He sends his brother an e-mail, which saves him a walk to the corner mailbox. Then he picks up the phone, calls him and says, "Did you get my e-mail?"

His brother says, "I'll check it and call you back."

Several minutes later Quentin's brother calls back and says, "I got your e-mail. Did you get my fax?"

All this is done as Quentin gets bigger and bigger.

It's now time for Quentin to go shopping. In the past, when Quentin needed an item from the store, he went to the mall and shopped for it.

Dr. Applebaum said this is no longer necessary. Quentin brings up all the items that are for sale online. He scrolls through hardware, business tools, men's clothing and birthday gifts--ordering one of each. It is very enjoyable and certainly eliminates parking problems.

Quentin has time to kill, so he looks for new medical breakthroughs on America Online. The first one is a fat-free aspirin that could be taken after eating a Big Mac. The combination reduces the carbohydrates and builds up muscle. It makes it possible to lose 10 pounds in one week.

Now here is where choices must be made. Quentin's wife wants him to move the couch so she can clean under it.

Unfortunately, he has just made contact with a sheepherder in Australia.

He says to his wife, "I'll do it later. This guy may never get me again."

Dr. Applebaum said: "We weighed Quentin before and after he went to his computer. He gained five pounds. Now according to this experiment, we know that in the future, everything a man does will be done on his computer. The first thing that happens is he loses the use of his legs. Second, he will lose his sense of direction because he never goes out. Worst of all, he can order anything he wants to eat on his computer--and no one will know it. The pictures on his screen of Southern fried chicken will be irresistible. It's this that makes me concerned that everyone in America will wind up in Fat City."

(C) 1999, Los Angeles Times Syndicate