Monday, August 15, 2005

The Lasting Impact Of The Atkins Diet

This Los Angeles Times story attempts to credit Dr. Robert Atkins for helping to change the way people look at food and weight loss with his namesake diet, although some of the savory characters who are quoted in this story hope that low-carb will go away soon.

Describing the Atkins diet as "virtually unlimited consumption of "steak, cream and pork rinds" as well as not being a "diet rich in fruit, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and a moderate or low percentage of fat," the article says there was "value" in the Atkins diet becoming the most popular weight loss method in the United States.

Before I quote these low-fat proponents from this story, let's get one thing straight. Low-carb is here to stay and nothing is going to change that for the 13 percent of Americans who are still livin' la vida low-carb. You just have to laugh at these stories declaring "the end of low-carb as we know it." Low-carb hasn't changed one bit. If you want to talk about a decline, let's look at some of these newspapers and their falling subscribers ... but that's another story. :-)

Here are just a few of the people quoted in this story:

1. Dr. Dean Ornish (you might remember what I wrote about him in this post)

"The good that Atkins did is that he made people more mindful about the importance of limiting refined carbohydrates like sugar and white flour," Ornish explained. "The bad is that he taught people that in the short run, you can sell a lot of books and make a lot of money telling them what they want to hear."

Sounds like somebody is just a wee bit jealous of Dr. Atkins for coming up with an innovative way to lose weight and keep it off permanently. Ornish, on the other hand, offers the same old low-fat/low-calorie/portion-controlled meals that we have been subject to for nearly three decades. Thank God for Dr. Atkins coming up with sound nutritional advice to help this former 410-pound man on the brink of disasterous health become the picture of perfect health he is today at 230 pounds. Sure, Dr. Atkins sold a lot of books because his program works! Ornish wouldn't know anything about this phenomenon apparently.

2. Gary Foster

The clinical director of the Weight and Eating Disorders Program at the University of Pennsylvania said the Atkins diet "taught the scientific community a good lesson ... [to not] be so quick to judge new approaches. We can't test every fad diet. So why did we test this one? Because 10 million people had bought the book."

Actually 20 million people bought the book, Mr. Foster. And it's still selling like low-carb hotcakes! While it is honorable that you would be open to "new approaches," apparently you and your team haven't looked at the Atkins diet very closely if you think it is some kind of a fad diet. The reason a low-carb program is so attractive to those of us who lost weight and kept it off is because it gives someone greater flexibility and ultimately greater control over what is put in our mouths. When I was on a low-fat diet, I was subjected to the scarce and nasty low-fat foods that I could find. But low-carb allows me to enjoy my food and life at the same time.

When asked why blood fat levels in low-carb dieters were found to be better than those who follow a low-fat diet, Foster, who authored the study remarked, "Who would have predicted that? Certainly, it wouldn't have been me."

Well by golly, isn't that something?! Scientific research actually proved Dr. Atkins was right. Somebody stop the presses on this one folks! Sheeez! Do these people even WANT to give credit where credit is due? Are they writing off low-carb as an unhealthy fad just a little bit too soon. Medical science has a long way to go to catch up to what Dr. Atkins was trying to explain for thirty years! Sigh.

Finally, Foster is also in the midst of conducting a two-year study on 300 people following a "very low-carbohydrate diet." He wants to see what the long-term effects of "limiting fruit, vegetables, whole grains, fiber and such popular dairy products as milk, yogurt and cheese" on people.

Well, that's not at all what a low-carb diet is. You can eat lots of all of those things except for milk when you are livin' la vida low-carb. I don't know what "diet" they are using for this study, but it is not the Atkins diet. I eat fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fiber, and cheese ALL THE TIME! Even when I was losing weight I had these products. And for milk, I had low-carb versions.

Foster said of his study, "Whether anyone will care about the results, I don't know, but we're going to continue."

Oh, believe me, there will be GREAT interest in the results of your study, Mr. Foster. Good or bad, it will be BIG news.

3. Walter Willett

Professor of nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health exclaimed, "It's clear that the Atkins diet does better in the short term and doesn't do any worse in the long run in terms of weight control," he noted. "That was so contrary to the general nutritional dogma that it really did shake things up a bit."

Finally, a voice of reason in this story! Willett is exactly right. Despite all the negative accounts about how Atkins is only for the short term, there are many people who have made this their lifestyle change and expect to eat this way for the rest of our lives. Sure it goes against everything that doctors, nutritionists, and other so-called "experts" have been taught their entire lives, but it is time for them to learn more about the incredible benefits that low-carb living can offer people.

At the end of the article, a panel of "leading nutritional experts" claims these are the lasting effects of the Atkins diet:

- Quick weight loss doesn't last. The quick weight loss on Atkins is initially due to loss of water, not fat.

So I guess my 180-pound weight loss was all water and not fat, eh? LOL! This one always cracks me up because they want to attribute the weight loss to the obscure "water weight" excuse. While you may lose a lot of water weight when you do ANY diet plan, eventually you will move on to stored fat, too. These kind of excuses are not good enough reasons for abandoning your low-carb program. I was happy with ANY weight loss at the start of my low-carb lifestyle. It motivated me to keep it going.

- Protein is important. Studies show that protein increases satiety.

Uh, yeah. That's the beauty of livin' la vida low-carb. And more and more studies are coming out about how protein is the secret to low-carb success and improves bone health.

- Taste counts.

Taste is arguably the #1 reason why people switch to a low-carb lifestyle. It's so much better than the cardboard "foods" you eat on a low-fat diet.

- Diets don't work. It takes consistent lifestyle changes to lose weight and maintain it.

That's what I say all the time about low-carb. While the media and health experts call it a "fad" that would not last, many of us have seen this as the lifestyle change we should have done a long time ago to get our weight under control. Or, as I like to call it, I'm livin' la vida low-carb!

- Too many processed, sugary carbohydrates are unhealthy.

The more we learn about the harmful effects of processed and sugary foods, the less desire any of us will have to put those things in our mouths ever again. We have an obesity problem in the United States and there is little doubt why.

Overall, this was a pretty good article, although the message strayed from time to time. The media might be trying to put the nails in the coffin of the Atkins diet, but people just aren't buying into the hype that low-carb living is gone. Could that explain why the low-carb diet is more popular than American Idol?

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