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May 19, 2003

Atkins update: Down 42

The interview with Alex Beam at The Boston Globe did eventually lead to being cited in The Globe.

Beam had a column on E1 of the April 27th paper called Carbo Cults: The Atkins Diet and the Great American Tradition of Extreme Eating. I would link to it, but the Globe charges $2.95 per story for access to the archives.

I’m the only “real person” quoted in the column, along with such books as Health Food Junkies: Overcoming the Obsession With Healthful Eating and Nature’s First Law: The Raw-Food Diet.

Here’s my bit:

Frank Steele, an Atlanta-based advertising executive whose parents were both Weight Watchers, has been posting his impressive progress with the Atkins diet on his website fsteele.dyndns.org. A recent entry: “I’m considering allowing myself one day off, but the Atkins book suggests doing so would mean another visit from the headaches that accompanied the onset of ketosis way back on the second and third days of the diet.” When I asked him if there were cultish aspects to Atkins, he answered, “There is an aspect of that, I guess. I’m a Macintosh user too, ” he added, half-joking, “so I’m fairly comfortable in that kind of a world.” Because he and his wife are both thriving on the Atkins regime, I asked him how they ever planned to get off. Steele is thinking of transferring his allegiance to the common-sense principles of the Harvard nutrition professor Walter Willett, who has reaped much publicity for his critique of the US Department of Agriculture’s “food pyramid.” As for Steele’s wife, she has moved on to the next, post-New Diet Revolutionary stage: “Atkins for Life.”

The diet lives after him; the food lies interred with his bones.

Not to get all crotchety, but Alex took what I said and came up with whatever served his purpose. I pretty distinctly said that I felt like Weight Watchers was more cultish than Atkins, with weekly affirmations, group leaders, and semi-public weigh-ins.

I allowed that there is a certain shared knowledge that gets discussed when you’re around other Atkins dieters, but that’s true of any subculture, from Linux geeks to hiphop fans to Game Boy users. I don’t think it rises to the level of a real cult, which is why the “there is an aspect of that, I guess.” I thought I emphasized the empiricism of Atkins for us: we’re on it because it works, not necessarily because we believe in it, especially for the long term. That’s why I’m considering going to something more along the lines of the Willett plan, which seems to represent current best practices of nutrition and public health professionals. It’s not really about “switching allegiance.” We also discussed my relative lack of success on conventional low-fat diets, but that didn’t really fit the profile.

Also, I don’t think I self-identified as an advertising executive, though perhaps I am. Also also, my mother is still a Weight Watcher, and my father has fallen off that wagon since the interview. I don’t want anyone to get the idea from the past tense in the story that they’ve recently died.

I have, by the way, gone off the Atkins straight and narrow a few times lately. I was scared to do TOSRV carb-free, so I gave myself free reign for the weekend. This weekend we went to Chattanooga, and sort of threw up our hands at eating low-carb in a strange place for three days, so we pretty much ate what we pleased there, as well.

Despite (or perhaps because of) the lapses, my weight seems stuck at around 226 or 227, 42 pounds down since November.

May 19, 2003 in Atkins Diet | Permalink


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I'm glad you clarified what you said with what the reporter or editor deemed newsworthy. I had a similar experience in InfoWorld a couple of years ago.

Impressive gains (losses?). nonetheless. So how was TOSRV, anyway? better or worse than prior runnings?

Posted by: paul at May 20, 2003 1:44:05 AM