Diet Fads and Common Sense

With the news today that Atkins Inc. is filing for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy, I would be remiss if I didn’t give a hearty “HA-ha!” a la Nelson from the Simpsons.

As cold as that sounds (because undoubtedly many people will lose many jobs over this), I still find it difficult to summon up any sympathy in regard to this news. I detest Atkins for a variety of reasons:

The diet was unhealthy: The Journal of the American Dietetic Association called it “a nightmare of a diet”. The Chair of the American Medical Association said that “…the Atkins diet, as recommended, poses a serious threat to health.ˮ The diet was also condemned by the National Institutes of Health, the American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association and many, many other health organizations. The Atkins diet has given their consumers everything from a greater risk to heart disease to osteoporosis, to diarrhea, general weakness, rashes and muscle cramps. All in the name of “being healthier”.

The diet was misunderstood: Boy howdy was it misunderstood. From people thinking that they could eat unlimited amounts of fatty meats and cheeses (touched upon joyfully by Tim Burton in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, to others believing that putting the body in a extensive state of ketosis is a good thing, the basic science behind this diet was questionable from the start and then often altered on each individuals perception. Atkins (as a company) never seemed to go out of their way to alter these misperceptions, having decided instead to focus on selling a multitude of products. Which leads me to…

The diet was was leapt upon with great zeal by the Food Industry: Carb-free cereal. Carb-reduced Flour, Atkins-Friendly granola bars, Atkins whored out their name and logo to a plethora of companies willing to take advantage of the diet fad. For a while, people were more than willing to buy up these items. Then they got tired of the taste of these things and they started showing up as donations to local food banks.

…and don’t get me started on the zeal in which people defended this diet.

The formula for weight loss is amazingly simple: (Energy Taken in) minus (Energy expended) = weight gain/weight loss. Period. Do not pass go. Do not invest thousands of dollars in a diet which you won’t be able to stay on in three months time.

But for some reason, we consumers can’t get this simple idea in place. We overcomplicate it by trying to find the quicker, easier solution. We want to add variables such as “I don’t want to exercise” or “I want to lose weight in the shortest time possible”.

Recently I found myself on the plus side of the Lane Bryant line. Knowing this not to be healthy, did I jump on a quick fix diet? Hell no. I instead have chosen to walk three miles a day as often as possible. Since that decision 8 weeks ago, I’ve lost eight pounds. It’s nothing remarkable (to me), but it still works. If you’re unwilling to cut back on your energy input, increase the amount of energy you expend.

Atkins may be waning (for now). But most assuredly there will be a new diet coming down the highway. Thousands of people will remark on how they’ve lost weight on this new diet that requires them to be disciplined in the way they approach what they eat. What will be lost upon these people is the fact that it won’t be the diet that loses them the weight, but their discipline used to restrict their food intake.

But for now I’ll settle for the schaudenfreud surrounding the loss of Atkins. I’ll think I’ll have a plateful of pasta to celebrate.


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