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Big Fat Lies, two years later
July 15, 2004 11:17 AM   Subscribe

Low-carb jumps the shark? More than half of all Americans who've tried low-carb diets have given up, a new survey found. Is this the latest indication that the Atkins fad has peaked? Two years ago this month, Gary Taubes kicked it off with a NYT Magazine cover story arguing that emerging science proved Atkins right and the nurtition establishment wrong. A couple small, short-term studies released shortly thereafter seemed to show he was on to something. But there were problems with the "Big Fat Lie" piece: CNN found that three of the researchers Taubes cited completely disagreed with his main premise. Worse, it turned out Taubes had claimed low-fat diets don't work while ignoring the vast body of peer-reviewed evidence to the contrary, and more of his sources came forward to say things like "I was greatly offended by how Gary Taubes tricked us all into coming across as supporters of the Atkins diet. I think he’s a dangerous man. I’m sorry I ever talked to him." [More Inside]
posted by soyjoy (47 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
While studies continued to show the healthfulness and effectiveness of low-fat, high-carb diets, the previously-touted Atkins studies began to degenerate: The big weight-loss difference in the six-month study evaporated after another six months, and in another it emerged that 40% of the subjects weren't really on the diet.

At the same time, known risks such as heart disease, cancer and constipation were joined by other concerns from new studies, including bad breath, bad moods, gout, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, kidney failure, massive heart blockage and sudden death. Dr. Atkins' own rather sudden death didn't help matters, especially with the revelation that the diet guru was overweight (even without considering the obesity of his corpse, about which one doctor says "Any medical doctor who allowed this much fluid accumulation in a patient in 9 days should have his medical practices reviewed.") Atkins' company began backing off the Taubes prescription of bacon cheeseburgers, claiming they never meant for people to eat so much saturated fat, but it didn't stop a new coalition of nutritionists from branding the diet "unhealthy" and "a ripoff."

At least one new site is wholly devoted to rigorously debunking Atkins, and while we wait for that emerging science on low-carb's long-term advantage, a new survey this year of 4,000 people across the world found that "without exception, a high complex-carbohydrate, high-fiber, high vegetable-protein diet was associated with low body-mass index (the standard measure of healthy weight). The more animal protein a person ate, the higher his or her weight."
posted by soyjoy at 11:19 AM on July 15, 2004


And here I was planning to collect some Atkins-slamming articles for a entry on my weblog. Now all it would look like is a lame, sucky version of this monster of link.

Damn you, soyjoy! Damn you!
posted by Zed_Lopez at 11:26 AM on July 15, 2004


The bad moods link explains why people get so cranky when you ask hard questions about this atkins stuff.
posted by Space Coyote at 11:29 AM on July 15, 2004


A lot of people on low-carb diets end up gaining weight. By consuming only 40 grams of carbs, and 6000 calories, they place undue stress on the body, and a lot of fatty foods there as well.

When it is all said and done, the one diet that works more than any other, has the highest success rate for people who stick to it, and is the healthiest, is the one that you don't need a book to tell you. "Eat Less and Exercise"
posted by benjh at 11:29 AM on July 15, 2004


Actually benjh, an atkins diet is fairly low calorie, effectively to the body after tossing all the excess protein. I'd never do it though, I don't think I'd want to pound my kidneys and liver like that.

I too am a fan of the "watch what you eat and exercise more" diet way of life.
posted by mathowie at 11:39 AM on July 15, 2004


I found that my stint on a not-by-the-book lower carb diet helped me control my blood sugar, but I gained weight.

My guess is that by eating low-carb foods I was avoiding simple sugars quite well.
posted by Foosnark at 11:41 AM on July 15, 2004


You mean I have to eat less and exercise more to lose weight???

I guess the terrorists have won...
posted by The Card Cheat at 11:43 AM on July 15, 2004


Well, you're not exactally grossly overweight either mathowie. ;) It's tough for those of us who want to loose weight but can't get up the energy to really get some active exercise. I tried Atkins in hopes I'd loose enough to get into a normal exercise/eating routine.

But I have to agree - I really, really hate all this "low carb" crap coming out. It's mostly high in fat - much of it trans fat and is the flipside of the problems with low fat - (ie low in fat, high in carbs).

I lost 48lbs in roughly 5 months on South Beach Diet. I really liked that it had me eat natural foods that are moderately low fat/low carb and the fat/carbs it contains is good for you. Sometimes I'd grab some Edy's Low Fat/No Sugar Added Ice Cream but mostly I tried to stay away from those unnatural low carb foods. It disturbs me trying to read all those creepy ingredients.

It all came down to the exercise. I lost weight MUCH faster when I consistantly did my 30min walk around campus in addition to my diet. "Food" for thought.
posted by bkdelong at 11:50 AM on July 15, 2004 [1 favorite]


The demise may be in the diet being placed on the food labels. The food industry has been doing this for many years though advertising their products not by its taste but it benefiting one’s health. Take salad dressings' marketing campaigns over the years. "The Brand & Flavor" -->; Made like mom's -->, “_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _” A Healthier Choice -->, Lite "_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _" - Less Calories -->, Low Carb or South Beach Diet -->, and the future's: Makes you look like your favorite model with every bite, which translates to snake oils medicines when it fails.
posted by thomcatspike at 11:52 AM on July 15, 2004


I hope people will begin to see this isn't the miracle diet. The women at work with their piles of pepperoni and Ranch dressing make me want to vomit.
posted by dual_action at 11:55 AM on July 15, 2004


I agree with the "eat less, exercise more" camp. But I do believe that specifically cutting sugars down in your diet can help you lose weight, particularly if you are already eating in moderation. After being diagnosed with age-onset diabetes, a very fit friend in his 50's cut out his daily glass of fruit juice, and generally tried to curtail his sugar intake. (Not eliminate sugars, mind you, just reduce the number of times he ordered dessert.) The man's weight had been stable prior to this, and he had already been exercising for 30-60 minutes, 6 times a week. Within 3-4 months he had literally dropped at least 15 pounds.

I think the benefit of the low-carb buzz was to point out that even "healthy" foods can be high in sugar.
posted by synapse at 11:58 AM on July 15, 2004


BMI is silly. By that measure, many professional althetes and movie stars who are in outstanding shape and make a living off their perfect physiques are "overweight". Bodyfat percentage and muscle/fat ratio are much better metrics.

The controversy surrounding Dr. Atkins' death intrigues me. There is a considerable difference between his weight at the time of death and his weight at the time he entered the hospital. But both these figures come from official hospital record. The people smarking that his purported weight gain from fluid retention is impossible seem to be indirectly accusing the hospital of lying. Is one of the figures just a mistake? If so, which one?
posted by Potsy at 12:02 PM on July 15, 2004


I have found a high protein diet makes you naturally thirsty and represses your appetite. You naturally drink more water and eat less. I have lost 30 pounds and 6 inches in the waist since December. My cholesterol levels are around 135. I ride my bike about 6 to ten miles a day and still have tons of energy. I have not felt this good in years.
posted by y2karl at 12:04 PM on July 15, 2004


I don't think I'd want to pound my kidneys and liver like that...

Good point. Look at the cause of death for most people over, say, 60, who don't die of heart disease: Read between the lines and it's the renal system that's failing them. Your heart, your liver, even (now it seems) your brain can recover from damage; but not your kidneys. They're what you've got for the rest of your life. And the Atkins diet hates them.

As for South Beach, you just have to read the prefaces to know why it fails against Atkins on the first test, and also why it stands in for the long haul:

It's rational.

It doesn't throw away prior science or common sense, and it's pragmatic in its goals and its means. It works. I've known so many people who not only lost weight on it but found that its "program" helped them learned how to eat more sensibly in the future, that I'm... <gulp />... planning to go on it myself. Any day now.

If only I could still drink coffee and beer...
posted by lodurr at 12:04 PM on July 15, 2004


synapse: It might interest you to know that Agatston created what would become the "south beach diet" specifically for people like your friend. He was a cardiologist with a de facto specialty in diabetec cardiology, and he was looking for something to teach his "type 2" patients how to live better.
posted by lodurr at 12:08 PM on July 15, 2004


I lost a bunch of weight via atkins and alot of exercise, after I tried (unsuccessfully) losing through a low calorie diet and the same exercise plan. The diet that worked for me was eating alot of fish and cutting down on sugars, bread, pasta, and potatoes. (Now I have to worry about mercury and PCBs, though! There IS no such thing as a free lunch.) It did feel great when the weight started coming off, and watching the relationship between carb intake, exercise, and my weight became something like a science experiment, where I could practically predict the results given what I had done that day. My previous experiences with dieting did not lead to that sort of rational correlation between daily food intake, exercise, and resulting weight and were therefore frustrating and disheartening.

Then I went off atkins and stopped exercising and gained some of it back, but it's coming off again now the same way, this time with more chicken. It really does work for at least some people where other low cal diets do not.
posted by onlyconnect at 12:08 PM on July 15, 2004 [1 favorite]


According to my weight and height, I am "overweight", however, when I had my body fat measured a couple weeks ago, I came in as "fit", so it just proves that weight is not the only measure of fitness.

I am coming from a world in which I was in the "morbidly obese" catagory, and went from around 310 lbs down to 185. Eating better and exercising are the way to do it.

I know it can be tough, starting out where you have no energy. But sometimes we have to force ourselves to do bad things in order to make a better outcome. When I first did cardio exercise, after 15 minutes I was about to die. A year later, I'm going for 25 mile bike rides. Though I am not at a point of being super athlete, and I do still have a gut (not a bad one, though... just some), I feel a hundred times better.
posted by benjh at 12:09 PM on July 15, 2004


I understand that it's oh-so-cool for people to bash low-carb diets and the people who try them, but for many people "eat less, exercise more" is much harder said than done. The entire country is conspiring against the overweight with suburban sprawl; lack of sidewalks; lack of leisure time; television; movies; videogames; cars; abundance of cheap, high-calorie, low-quality food; food advertisements; etc.

The reason diets like Atkins are so popular is that they provide a shortcut, real or illusory, to weight loss. According to Atkins, one can stop eating carbs, which itself isn't an easy task, without also correcting for all of the other factors I listed above. The low-fat diets have the same appeal, although they make people fight hunger as well as reducing one of the macronutrients.

To live the healthiest life, you'd probably have to move to an urban or pseudourban environment, trade your car for your feet or a bike, throw out your television, find a job which allows for time to exercise and to buy and cook healthy foods while providing enough income, etc. Or you can take a common route and simply devote hours every week on top of your job and familial responsibilities to exercising while watching everything you eat.

People have too much shit to do and too many corporations and governments actively contributing to their weight gain. No wonder they're looking for an easy way out.
posted by callmejay at 12:10 PM on July 15, 2004


I will say this: you do not want to eat a lot of cheese at any given time unless you wish to experience something akin to childbirth sometime later. You have been warned.
posted by y2karl at 12:11 PM on July 15, 2004 [2 favorites]


I'm still amazed that people spend so much time worrying about this stuff. The key is genetics and attitude.

Eat, drink, and smoke whatever you want. You are going to die anyway. Enjoy yourself while you're here.
posted by jonmc at 12:12 PM on July 15, 2004


Or you can take a common route and simply devote hours every week on top of your job and familial responsibilities to exercising while watching everything you eat.

Well, we think of things in these absolutist terms, that lead to oppositions like you posit. But they're not real, not really.

Think about it: You say you don't want to spend hours exercising on top of what you already spend away from your family: Well, get them to do it with you. I know, easier said than done with kids, but think creatively, and realize that you can start with simple, small things like parking farther from the front door of the supermarket.

Sounds trivial, but it's a start. The point is that it's not an absolute world, and unlike AA, a single failure does not take you back to square one. You can make it up (just don't be unreasonable about it). You can eat less (better yet, better) tonight to make up for what you did at lunch (clinical bulimics excused). You can live a moderate, or at least, reasonable, life.

At least, I hope you can. It's kind of not worth going on if the choicse are boot-camp or suicide by morbid obesity.

ON PREVIEW: jonmc, spoken like a genetic mesomorph. But I'll still try to believe that moderation is possible and even enjoyable.
posted by lodurr at 12:20 PM on July 15, 2004


I have always found that deep and total despair and/or depression is a surte way to lose weight...it works for me.
posted by Postroad at 12:21 PM on July 15, 2004


It works the opposite way for me, Postroad. Oof.
posted by orange swan at 12:22 PM on July 15, 2004


I'm so on the jonmc diet . . . when does your book come out?
posted by hackly_fracture at 12:23 PM on July 15, 2004



"Eat Less and Exercise"


I'd rather say `Eat better and Exercise.'

Eat complex food that takes a lot of time and effort for your system to digest -- when your system is busy digesting, it doesn't need to tell you it's hungry. Avoid refined food. Cook your own food from the freshest ingredients.

Eat from several sources and eat fiber rich food (don't forget to drink plenty of water, as fiber needs to absorb water in order to work.)

Eat organic food and eat spices: the tastier the food it, the faster you reach saturation -- my favorite: experiment with a lot of fresh garlic and see how less appetite you get when the next meal arrives.

Eight years ago, I moved from a country were people are said to be slim because of their diet to the worst possible country in the world as far as eating right is concerned (that is: the US.) I haven't gained a pound because I kept my good eating habits; and I refined them.

Look, this country -- well, or at least California -- is a blessing as far as food availability, there's so much more exotic fresh things to try cooking with; so much inspiration to be gained from checking on the different ethnic communities...
posted by NewBornHippy at 12:26 PM on July 15, 2004


Well, "eat less and exercise" works, but also keep in mind that if you exercise a lot, such as my daily weight training and commuting by bike over uneven terrain for 2 hours a day, you can lose weight AND be friends with Ben and Jerry's.

People who buy a book and expect to lose weight on the Three Martini Lunch diet or Rendered Goat Anus Fat diet whatever are simply suckers.
posted by Reverend Mykeru at 12:27 PM on July 15, 2004


Postroad: Only severe, crippling anxiety does that for me.
posted by lodurr at 12:29 PM on July 15, 2004


People have too much shit to do and too many corporations and governments actively contributing to their weight gain.
Most large corporations and government jobs offer on the site weightlifting rooms or partial/full gym memberships. Walking around the office or using the stairs in place of the elevators is a solution. Yet your blame may ly in the free food they eat, not the provided on the clock exercising.
posted by thomcatspike at 12:33 PM on July 15, 2004


To live the healthiest life, you'd probably have to move to an urban or pseudourban environment, trade your car for your feet or a bike, throw out your television, find a job which allows for time to exercise and to buy and cook healthy foods while providing enough income, etc.

Yay! I'm going to live forever.
posted by Mars Saxman at 12:37 PM on July 15, 2004


More than half of all Americans who've tried low-carb diets have given up, a new survey found.

This isn't suprising. There isn't a weight-loss diet out there that has better than probably a 10% success rate long term.

DIETS DONT WORK.

In order to maintain any weight loss regimine you have to change your lifestyle to keep the weight off. I don't care what you do to lose the weight, if after you're done you resume the same lifestyle you had before you started it you're going to end up in the same place. As stated right there in any Atkins book Lifetime Maintenance is for a lifetime
posted by bitdamaged at 12:49 PM on July 15, 2004


I'm so on the jonmc diet . . . when does your book come out?

Ha!

Chapter 1: The Breaded & Fried Group.

Chapter 2: Menthol or Regular-The Crucial Decision.

Chapter 3: Shots? Beers? Shots & Beers? Dhots In Beers?

Chapter 4: Mexican Cheese Shreds. What No Home Should Be Without.

Chapter 5: Partnering With Your Bartender.

Chapter 6: If you cant walk down the street while you eat it, it ain't food.
posted by jonmc at 12:50 PM on July 15, 2004


Eating less and exercise.
posted by sixpack at 12:53 PM on July 15, 2004


And I should also say any dietician would tell you that a 50% drop-out rate is actually quite good.
posted by bitdamaged at 12:53 PM on July 15, 2004


Most large corporations and government jobs offer on the site weightlifting rooms or partial/full gym memberships. Walking around the office or using the stairs in place of the elevators is a solution. Yet your blame may ly in the free food they eat, not the provided on the clock exercising.
If you assume that most people don't work for large corporations or government jobs, this argument doesn't hold.

When I worked at a large corporation, not only was the provided "gym" on our campus inconvenient to those in my building, it was far too small for demand. You were not paid while in the gym. This is not uncommon in my experience with others who work for large corporations, but I certainly can't back up my experience with studies.

Walking up the stairs is a partial solution and should not be taken as exercise unless it is sustained for more than 30 minutes at a time.

The fact is that corporations, in the way they have influenced popular culture, have contributed to the lifestyle that has produced so much obesity. This is an unintended side effect in the hunt for higher productivity for lower cost. It's not intentional and is certainly not some sort of conspiracy where blame can be easily assigned.
posted by sequential at 12:55 PM on July 15, 2004


The Atkins boom was the inevitable end result of people realizing that a great deal of the popular diet mentality was totally nonsensical -- I mean, we've all seen candy that's nothing but pure refined sugar advertised as "A low fat snack!" A friend of mine was convinced that nothing but fat could possibly make you fat, and I'm sure she wasn't alone in that misconception. For so long, "low-fat" was the ONLY term in weight loss, and very few people realized that they could really do a great deal for their health by cutting back on refined sugar and white bread.
posted by dagnyscott at 1:01 PM on July 15, 2004


I got put on the Atkins diet (by a cardiologist, no less) in mid-May. I've lost almost 30 pounds, in slowly but steadliy decreasing weekly amounts, with minimal exercise. This puts me in the lower third of weight loss according to what my cardiologist believes regarding Atkins use, but hey, it's 30 less pounds than I had before. (And yes, I could have lost more, thank you very much, but there's nothing I detest more than exercising, so as politely as I can, I tell well-meaning aerobinazis to keep their skinny-ass-low-body-mass opinions to themselves, I'm doing just fine for me...).

I think the perception that the Atkins diet is "40 grams of carbs and 6000 calories" comes from the way people use the diet, not from Atkins' actual work - anybody who's eating that many calories is seriously abusing the "don't worry too much about calories, eat until you're full" idea. I eat about 2500 calories a day, three meals and two "snacks," so I'm never hungry and I honestly didn't crave anything other than pasta and even that I've pretty much forgotten about.

One thing Atkins has done for me is provide me a platform for becoming relatively well-educated about what's in packaged and prepared foods. I can tell you with 100% certainty that when I've lost the weight my cardiologist says I need to - another 30 pounds from now, probably around Thanksgiving - there's just no way I'll be eating all that salt and sugar, even if I do have to go on cooking just about every meal for myself.
posted by JollyWanker at 1:05 PM on July 15, 2004 [1 favorite]


Rendered Goat Anus Fat diet

I lost 30 pounds, but the goats at the petting zoo kept trying to follow me to work.
posted by jalexei at 1:17 PM on July 15, 2004


Unfat people certainly seem to share an irrepressible enthusiasm for belabouring the obvious. I'm spectacularly unfat and I exercise, but somehow I remain curiously disinclined to share aphoristic advice. I wonder what's wrong with me. Perhaps I should eat more fern...
posted by Opus Dark at 1:43 PM on July 15, 2004 [1 favorite]


I always thought the only diet system that was ever going to work was as follows:

One: Eat something different every day. Eat anything you want. Anything. Just don't have it two days in a row. Vary that diet, and you'll start to pay attention to what you stuff in your face.

Two: Do something active every day. You don't need to jog 50 miles or re-enact the fight scenes from Enter The Dragon every afternoon after work, but get out of your chair and do a little something every day.

I've never seen those two easy rules, when applied every day, not keep people healthy. Now, if you want to be all buff and shit, you have to get harsher about it. But you don't have to.
posted by chicobangs at 1:48 PM on July 15, 2004 [1 favorite]


I maintain that the invention of the rolling office chair is really what started this whole obesity problem.
posted by casarkos at 2:00 PM on July 15, 2004


My mother and I both had some moderate and encouraging success on low carb diets. Her on Atkins, me on Carb Addicts. The thing Carb Addicts did for me was curb my appetite. When I eat carbs, I eat a *lot* of carbs. It's not enough to say 'eat less' when almost your whole body is screaming out for *more* food, even though you've devoured a huge bowl of pasta, and you can feel it filling your whole stomach still. That's what it was like for me before I went on a low carb diet. I'd go home, eat a reasonable (though somewhat large) meal and then spend the rest of night snacking and feeling torturously starved and incredibly full at the same time.

Carb Addicts taught me that I could fend off those 'need food' feelings by balancing my diet better, and looking more to protein than to carbs for my calorie count. It wasn't about the calories in what I was eating, or the fat, or anything else, it was about what I was finally able to stop eating all evening long. I eventually went off the low carb diet (Christmas. It's gonna kill us all eventually.) and went back to eating a lot of pasta and being hungry all the time.

We're now both on Weight Watchers, which is a pretty balanced program. Because of what I learned while on Carb Addicts, though, I've paid careful attention to balancing my diet. I still sometimes eat meals that are more carb oriented, and I can feel the effects when I do. Today I had a rice based dish for lunch, and though it contained some protein, there were too many carbs in it. I've just finished eating a granola bar (oops, more carbs) and I still feel hungry. Yesterday, I ate a lunch that was half as much food by volume, but contained more protein, way less carbs and more vegetables, and I made it through the day without even thinking about an afternoon snack.

So, yeah, 'eat less' is a good philosophy, but for some of us, going lower carb is the only way we can do that.
posted by jacquilynne at 2:39 PM on July 15, 2004


How are carbs usually served? Deep fried potatoes, baked potatoes chock full of butter or sour cream, calorie heavy breads, etc.

Atkins sounds like a psychological trick to get people off the American diet of strictly meat and potatoes and of course fast foods.

I lost a bunch of weight last year through a simple eat less "diet." I really didnt eat that much less as much as I ate better and smarter and got in some excercize now and again.

I'm curious if Atkins is big overseas, as it seems to be addressing our really lousy US eating habits.
posted by skallas at 2:59 PM on July 15, 2004


La, la, la, I don't diet. Instead, I mutter to myself that the United States is an eating disordered society. Because it is. All this highly processed substitute food is fucked up. The idea that all people are supposed to be the same size is fucked up. And the idea that fat people are worthless and diseased people, for no reason other than their fat, well, that's the most fucked up thing of all. And it really pisses me off. (So I go through my day perpetually pissed off--which is arguably much less good for me than my fat ass.)

If I lose a few years from the end of my life because of my fat, then c'est la vie--I'd rather spend the intervening time living my life and not reading food labels. I have better things to do with my time than obsess over carbs or fat grams or whateverthefuck the evil food group du jour is.
posted by eilatan at 4:45 PM on July 15, 2004 [1 favorite]


1. Health and beauty are much more subjective concepts than anyone trying to sell a diet will ever acknowledge.

2. The needs of unique human bodies are impossible to generalize.

3. Eating protein and carbs in somewhat equal amounts can help some people lose weight without focusing on bland foods that will bore anyone out of any diet. The revelation that carbs can be a bigger co-factor in obesity than fats, simply because of their prevalence, is the point that gets lost in the Atkins hype.

4. The path to self-love is unique and difficult, but needn't be complex.
posted by divrsional at 7:45 PM on July 15, 2004


My feelings about the "low-carb" thing are best summarized by Foamy the Squirrel, as brought to you by illwillpress.com [no affiliation, Flash, NSFW]. Covert Bailey's take on it represents that of most nutritionists and exercise physiologists (though his site's not as fun as Foamy's). The related articles are good, too.

My mom did the Atkins scam back in the 70's, when it was new, and did lose some weight initially. Unfortunately, her triglycerides got so high that the lab that ran her blood sample called the doc's office to see if it was a joke, or perhaps not really a blood sample ("gross lipemia" = "you can see fat globules floating in the blood"). Sadly, that's not uncommon in high-fat, low-or-no-exercise diets.

And, lest anyone think I'm just some skinny fat-basher who shouldn't care about such things, I've lost 35 pounds (290 to 255, and shrinking) the old-fashioned way. Trust me: hell may not be full of fire and brimstone, but I guarantee there are no elevators to get to its fully-equipped NordicTrack floor . . .
posted by wdpeck at 3:09 AM on July 16, 2004


skallas: Atkins sounds like a psychological trick to get people off the American diet of strictly meat and potatoes and of course fast foods.

That's precisely what it is - minus the "trick" part. I researched Atkins fairly extensively before I agreed to be put on it, mostly because of the high hype / high controversy / high bullshit ratio of what I'd "heard" about him and his theories. My take is that most Atkins bashers seem to have either not actually read his books, or, are conveniently concentrating only on the things they want to criticize him for. What it all really boils down to is a strong and healthy skepticism about what's in the food that we don't prepare ourselves from raw and/or basic ingredients.

For instance, he's cricitzed for pushing foods that are "high fat," like cream or butter, instead of the "low fat" alternatives. But if you look at the labels of things like skim milk or margarine products, they are crammed with sugar. Why? Because to an American palate, without their fat content they taste like crap, so the food companies, hip to Americans' sugar addiction, bump up the taste with added sugar. Atkins doesn't say "Go nuts, eat all the butter you want! Drink cream by the quart!" He says, "Flavor your vegetables by putting a little butter on them. Soften your coffee with a spoonful of cream."

Why am I so (overly?) sensitive about this? Because I'm sick of being lectured at/to about it, most often by people with little or no real knowledge of the principles or mechanics of the regimen. Hey, I don't like it very much either, but frankly, I'd rather not die of heart disease before I'm 50 if I can do anything to prevent it. I didn't choose to go on it, I got put on it by a doctor who believed, all things being equal, it was the best choice for my body weight, coronary condition and temperament, which is what Atkins intended. Of course there are risks - but in my case, and the cases of people for whom this diet was intended in the first place, the benefits outweigh the risks. Atkins clearly states you shouldn't be using this diet without the consultation and advice of a physician; following that dictum would probably cut out about 80% of the people who claim they're "on Atkins."
posted by JollyWanker at 9:17 AM on July 16, 2004


What can I say... I was 236 and I'm now 208 (Doctor's office scale). The last 5 pounds have been without much excercise, although before that I was hiking. After a while you don't miss the starches much and I don't strictly adhere to it really. No mashed potatoes and only low-carb bread. Still eat non lo-carb pancakes on occasion though. Basically it's this, as far as I'm concerned. Eat your meat (or tofu if a vegan) with lots of vegetables. Keep away from sugar and starch. That's it really.

I do shakes for breakfast twice a week, cheese omelets twice a week, lo-carb pancakes twice a week, and lo-carb french toast once. I have lo-carb ice cream for dessert when it's hot. Have lo-carb fruit smoothies once in a while, and take vitamins in case I'm missing anything.

It stopped my (diet induced) panic attacks (I may have unknown food allergies) cleared up my skin for the most part and cut down cravings by about two thirds. I try not to drink much soda - even the low carb soda. Even no sugar soda tends to make me gain weight on a low-calorie diet. There's just something in the citric acid.

It's not for everybody (depends on your blood type and metabolism). My daughter *gains* weight on it - she's a B+. I'm just a lot less hungry on it and since I'm ADD (and have a tendency to use food to help me concentrate) it just works for me. I don't care about what is popular or not - if it works for me, I do it. I did NOT lose weight without excercise even when on a super low calorie diet, and the "oriental food pyramid" makes me violently ill (something to do with corn and rice I think).

And by the way, for *any* dieter, a good substitute for ice cream (if you're just looking to cool down and not for "comfort food", is shaved ice with sugar free syrups. Or even the sugar containing syrups because there is probably less sugar in those in a tablespoon than in ice cream.
posted by Timebot at 12:44 PM on July 18, 2004


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