September 10, 2005


At the Beginning of the Road

By Dane Sorensen


I come to bury Atkins, not to praise him. Well, actually, Dr. Atkins is already buried, but his company, Atkins Nutritionals Incorporated is in the process of dying. It is the result of our diet-crazed society moving onto a new diet scheme. Atkins Nutritionals filed for Chapter 11 with over 300 million dollars in debt. Chances are they will not survive.

Two years ago it was estimated 9% of America was on the Atkins Lo-Carb Diet. I was one of them and managed to shed 100 pounds. However, I was not an admirer of the Atkins Product Line. I thought it was essentially Doppelganger versions of High Carb foods. They made Lo-Carb copycat foods of things like Reeces peanut butter cups and chocolate shakes. My feeling is that part of staying thin after losing all that weight is to change your eating habits. Eating peanut butter cups is not a way to lose weight.

In a way I think Atkins Nutritionals helped sow the seeds of its own destruction. When anything becomes too commercial it stops being a religion. And a diet depends on faith - otherwise the will power goes out the window. It is hard enough to give up the foods you really enjoy. For Atkins devotees, it is hard to give up salted French Fries, Hash Browns, Ice Cream and anything sweet.

For me the ultimate food is anything with chocolate. It was difficult to swear off the food of the gods. Studies have shown that chocolate helps fight tooth decay and contains anti-oxidants. Chocolate is good for you, but not in the Atkins universe.

The core of the Atkins diet is to shed useless calories. Dr. Atkins picked starches and sugars. Foods that were high in those things really did not have much else to offer as far as nutrition. For the last fifty years the Diet establishment had made fat the main culprit of weight gain. The grocery shelves are still full of low fat foods that try to sell themselves as healthy. Again, I think if you are dieting by avoiding fat, then eating low fat knock-offs of fatty foods is counter productive.

The bottom line of any diet is total calories. It really doesn't make any difference what you eat; if you burn more calories than you eat you will lose weight. What made the Atkins Diet so appealing is that the foods it advocated eating took longer to digest and therefore left you feeling full longer. When cutting calories it is the hunger pains that cause will power to quickly fade and a diet to fail.

Life is full of irony and dieting is just one of many things that our bodies fight. For millions of years our ancestors survived by fattening up to better survive things like famine. Most of us have bodies that really are good at gaining weight. We are the winners in the evolutionary battle to survive. It is only with the arrival of our high caloric foods and low caloric lifestyles that we are skipping the thinning down part that most cultures had every winter.

Behavior modification, I think, is an important part of dieting. New food habits must replace old food habits and a company that creates foods that are meant to be avoided is not serving the dieter's interests. I still stick with low-carb foods, but not the processed foods made to be low-carb. I shed no tears for Atkins Nutritionals, Inc. and will not miss their fake muffins or over priced candy bars. Everyone needs to cheat a little when it comes to food and I am a firm believer is cheating with the real McCoy. Chocolate anyone?


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