Last month, I was in Denver for an education conference. It was below freezing and during dinner, all I wanted to talk about was the weather. However, my two neighbors had a different agenda for the dinner table conversation - Atkins’ diet. Their passion for the Atkins’ diet was more than that of the talk they had come to give. “Must be Atkins’ newbies,” the rest of us thought. They had been on the diet for a month. But, what I heard most between the chews was, “You can eat as much as you want.”
Those of you who are Atkins’ virgins out there – Atkins’ diet is a high-protein, very-low-carbohydrate diet. If you have been blaming President Bush for the sluggish economy, blame it on the Atkins’ diet craze. Americans are avoiding carbohydrates.
A few weeks ago at the Bread Summit in Providence, participants were worried more about earning bread than making it. Consistently, small time bread shops are closing down and for a change; it is not Wal-Mart’s fault. Large bread manufacturers are planning to move to products that cater to ethnic markets - noodles and tortillas.
Yes, we ethnics are addicted to carbohydrates. I myself do not consider to have eaten well if I do not have at least one meal with rice. And, that rice has to be plain, not the wimpy brown or wild rice that tastes like rubber chicken served at dinner banquets.
Even in our own home state, bumper orange crops are neither bringing joy to farmers nor raising our state economy, because people are shying away from eating oranges or drinking its juice for its high carbohydrate content.
It seems that more than 10% of America has tried this diet. Does it work? Yes, anybody I have talked to says it works. My neighbor lost 20 pounds before his 20th class reunion, while my in-laws who have tried many ways to lose weight have shed pounds too. My wife never thought the day would come when her mother would eat a meal without bread.
Beef consumption has increased by nine pounds per person in the last five years. And the Atkins’ dieters are eating so much more beef that it is hard to imagine them having a meal without meat. At McDonalds, McRib sandwich is back and people are throwing the buns away. French fries are getting the silent treatment as if calling them Freedom fries was not humiliating enough. Even Kentucky Fried Chicken is touting its chicken, truthfully so, as a low carbohydrate alternative.
I just cannot imagine what the new food trends are going to be. Can I have a hot dog, but please go easy on the bun? Can I have a burger with no roll please? Imagine our good times now - No mashed potatoes for Thanksgiving dinner; no candy on Valentines Day; low carbohydrate beer on 4th of July; and no stripper jumping out of the cake during the bachelor
So if the Atkins’ diet works, what is the problem?
Many physicians believe that it is the low calories that one consumes in the Atkins’ diet that makes you lose weight, and not the high protein-low carbohydrate combination.
Since Atkins’ dieters eat a lot of meat, the increased protein intake builds up urea in your blood that needs to cleaned up by the kidneys making them work extra hard. This is especially critical for diabetics who are at higher risk of renal failure.
Other concerns are that in the end, it may set up bad eating habits in people, although salads and increasing carbohydrates slowly is an important part of the Atkins’ diet. But who wants to eat green leafy vegetables, when you can mythically claim that you can eat as much meat as you want.
There are claims that Atkins’ diet reduces the absorption of calcium, and hence may lead to osteoporosis.
But in fairness, long-term studies are needed to determine if these claims of the bad effects are true, especially when the Atkins’ diet is followed reasonably.
However, before you think who those people are lined up at the donut shop, it is the non-Atkinsers – the real heroes in keeping this economy going. It is not just your imagination, sales of Krispy Kreme donuts rose by 25 percent last year.
So here is a diet you may like - eat a donut and coffee for breakfast, have a burger without a roll and French fries for lunch, but for your children’s sake when you go home eat a sensible dinner.
And, when the kids are in bed, get out the Haagen-Dazs ice cream. But before you dig in, be patient though, microwave the ice cream for 20 seconds.
Follow this diet with enough exercise to work off the calories as there is a simple law of thermodynamics – Energy in minus energy out is equal to
energy stored. Every successful diet is derived from this law of
Autar Kaw, "Crazy for Atkins' diet",
Opinion Editorial, Tampa Tribune, December 12, 2003, last accessed at