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Marijane Funess


As Marijane Funess sits at the kitchen table ordering groceries through the online service of her local supermarket, the whole family gathers around the laptop asking, "Mom, can we go down this aisle?" And Funess, whose own childhood meals were mostly defined by frozen and canned foods, beams when her family is eating a traditional home-cooked dinner that includes meat, starch, and veg. But Treitler unearths quite a collection of salty, sugary, processed foods in this kitchen. One cupboard is filled with the chips, snack cakes, beef jerky, and packaged ramen noodles favored by 7-year-old twins Veronica and Nicholas, who expect candy for dessert, following the example of their dad. "It's three dark chocolate kisses per child," says Funess. "But they always ask, 'How many ' Like I'm going to change it." The fridge holds the makings of fried-egg sandwiches, the favorite late-night meal of 18-year-old Gregory, her son from an earlier marriage. He often starts the day with a doughnut picked up en route to school and usually doesn't eat again until 10 P.M. because the medicine he takes for attention deficit disorder kills his appetite. All three kids could live on ham.

Funess has a theory: Everyone is a "light switch" or a "dimmer." If you're a dimmer, you can eat a handful of corn chips, a few macadamia nuts, a one-inch brownie without wanting the whole pan. But a light switch is either on or off—once you start on the chips or nuts or whatever is your poison, you can't stop. Funess is a light switch, one who doesn't care about cookies but considers cereal with milk and sugar so dangerous that she avoids it altogether. For most of her 47 years, she has been able to eat what she wants, or at least hide it well on her 5'3" frame, but last year she packed on an extra 15 pounds. She's since lost weight on a Monday-to-Friday regimen of high protein and limited carbs: yogurt and banana for breakfast, avocado and tuna for lunch ("I eat it right out of the can like a cat"), iced tea with Equal throughout the day, and some kind of meat for dinner (tonight it's pulled-pork sandwiches for the family—no bread for mom). On weekends she indulges in dinners out (pasta, dessert) with her husband, Richard, a public relations executive.

Having put aside her own PR career for motherhood—except for the occasional project—part of every day is devoted to fitness, including twice-weekly tennis games with friends in the gracious New York suburb of Pelham and three classes a week that fuse the principles of yoga, Pilates, and core conditioning. Funess is full of energy, talks at warp speed, and multitasks like crazy, getting an NPR fix while making school lunches or supervising homework during dinner prep. Although she feels guilty about any time spent away from her family in pursuit of intellectual stimulation (like her addiction to computer Scrabble), it's obvious that she manages some soul satisfaction—in her monthly book club, in periodic synagogue attendance, and in a terrific neighborhood support system. ("If you have a life-threatening illness, this where you want to live," she says.) It's also obvious that family values in this family aren't just talk—every summer there's a surprise educational vacation (the kids get picked up at school on the way to the airport, having no idea where they're headed) and the house is brimming with photos of the extended clan. But behind some of those photos are health omens: a mother who had two heart attacks (Funess is on cholesterol-lowering medicine) and a depressed and alcoholic father who took his own life.

Although her bedroom, with its calming peachy colors and silk neck pillows, could be a sanctuary, Funess has trouble falling asleep, and Treitler easily finds the source of her insomnia: a pullout TV in the closet. Ever since 9/11 claimed the lives of several in her community, Funess has been even more of a late-night news junkie than she was before.

Next: Marijane upgrades her health—and life

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