| Copyright 2004 by http://www.organicgreens.us and Loring Windblad. This article may be freely copied and used on other web sites only if it is copied complete with all links and text intact and unchanged except for minor improvements such as misspellings and typos.
As of now, January 2005, more than half of all north Americans are struggling with obesity. The “quick fix” for “fat” for the last 40+ years, becoming ever more popular, has become the Atkins Diet. The Atkins Diet was first popularized in the U. S. Air Force during the 1960’s.
The Atkins Diet is very simple --- restrict your carbohydrate intake. And guess what? It actually works. But Dr. Atkins, after the initial few years of his popularized diet, began to make modifications and refinements to the original basic diet. And several other people have taken the basic Atkins Diet, modified it just a little, and come up with a new and very workable diet.
The first thing you must understand is that, across the entire human spectrum, each of us is very different from one another in the chemical makeup of our body. Thus, each of us, individually, should have our own highly personalized, custom built diet, created by a dietician using a chemical makeup assessment, usually a $200 hair analysis, of our particular body type and individual nutritional needs. So far as I know, this technology and this type dietary assessment is still available only through certain holistic health practitioners and it is becoming more and more expensive. As an example, it typically costs now between $200 and $300, whereas in the mid-1970’s it cost between $100 and $150.
There are three major misconceptions to the Atkins diet. The first common myth is many people believe this means don’t worry about the amount of calories or fat you eat so long as its not carbs. The second common myth is many people believe all carbohydrates are equally bad. The third common myth is that the Atkins “Lo-Carb” diet is actually a “Hi-Protein” diet. All of these, however, are enormous misconceptions.
The first myth: many dieters who use this program believe that calories and fat do not matter when eating low carb food, but in some cases this has proven to be fatal. Depending upon your particular body chemistry, when eating high fat food your cholesterol could climb and climb, leading to a heart attack or stroke. Also, it has now been proven that the older we become the less our body is able to metabolize the “high fat” portion of the Atkins “lo carb” diet, leading to additional dietary and health problems.
The second myth: The Atkins Diet is actually a “Lo-Carb” diet, not a “No-Carb” diet. What should be cut out are breads, rice and potatoes. Fresh fruits and vegetables should not be cut back and many should be somewhat increased. Finally, after the first month you can “safely” add breads and potatos --- in limited quantities. One friend of mine eats 1 bite of breads/toasts, etc., served with his meals, such as garlic breads. One bite and not a morsel more.
The third myth: Mention the Atkins Diet and most people’s reaction is “Oh, yes, the ‘high protein’ diet.” Not true at all --- it’s a “Low Carb” diet – protein intake remains unchanged. Some carbs only, not all, are restricted (versus eliminated completely); fats, particularly in older people, need to be restricted; protein should be kept to 4-6 ounce portions per meal, the lower values for breakfast and lunch. What you need to increase is your intake of high-fiber foods such as celery, etc.
The reason why the Atkins Diet works is because your body metabolizes its stored fat (carbohydrates) in order to burn --- digest --- the protein, fiber and fat you are eating. The Atkins Dieters tend to leave out several food groups, including fruit and vegetables, since they are “high carb food”, and then tend to grab a steak instead, which has very low carbohydrates.
This is ridiculous. Why? Because the elimination of carbohydrates and the reduction of the fresh fruits and vegetables actually throws your health into a major imbalance. Overloading your unbalanced diet by an excess of protein intake (adding that steak, above) to “increase the volume” to a satisfying level merely exacerbates this imbalance.
The true danger of the Atkins Diet, however, lies in the fact that, for people who already have health challenges, the Atkins Diet actually worsens some conditions and creates other health challenges that did not exist before the Atkins Diet. The worst of these is Gout. If you have a tendency to suffer gout, no matter how well controlled you have it, a strict Atkins Diet will create a severe gout condition and gout attack for you. If you merely had the tendency for gout with no active gout, the Atkins Diet will precipitate an actual condition of gout in your body. A severe case of gout requires medical intervention to correct as well as long-term dietary control and change. The long-term danger of gout is an increased tendency for heart attack and stroke. See Native’s Gift for one proven help for gout.
If your body type and chemical makeup is suitable for the Atkins Diet then by all means use it. Remember that there are several similar alternatives out there which may be more suitable than a strict Atkins, to include some of Dr. Atkins own later work and recommendations. If you have health challenges, to include a tendency for gout or actually suffer from gout, or have diabetes or any of several other disorders, the Atkins diet is definitely something you need to avoid.
And not just the Atkins Diet. Any and all diets which highly restrict or eliminate one of the essential food groups we all need to maintain optimal health is equally bad. Stop the insanity and use a REAL diet --- the only proven diet which will work for virtually everyone.
What is it? Its actually two things: A food diet and exercise – yes, simple exercise, like walking a mile a day. A completely balanced, restricted calorie, diet containing a little bit of everything. Eat three meals a day, get your sweets, carbs, veggies, fruits, juices, protein and keep it to 1200 calories a day. Eat your breakfast and go out and walk the dog – if you don’t have one, take your neighbor’s. Give this diet a year of your life, weigh yourself every Monday and keep track of your weight, see where you are with it…..and make the change for the rest of your life. When you get to your target weight you may increase the diet to 1600 calories a day.
About the Author
Loring Windblad has studied nutrition and exercise for more than 40 years, is a published author and freelance writer. His latest business endeavor is at