We’ve all been warned not to mention politics or religion at the dinner table. You might want to add a third caveat: Don't bring up Robert Atkins either.
Atkins is, of course, the famous doctor and author whose diet advice turned conventional wisdom on its head with the publication in the 1970s of Dr. Atkins Diet Revolution, updated today as Dr. Atkins' New Diet Revolution
At the time, almost every doctor, dietician and government researcher preached, “Eat less sugar. Eat less fat. Bread and potatoes are where it’s at!”
Dr. Atkins’ revolutionary thought was that it wasn't fat, but refined carbohydrates and starches that were making us fat. Most experts of the time—and still today—consider that fats, being calorie-dense, lead to obesity, and the name of the game is to cut calories. Dr. Atkins believed that carbohydrates are more directly linked to obesity because they stimulate the body’s production of insulin and cause it to store fat tissue.
I think that even before I knew about the Atkins diet, I tried it. One summer I had a job slinging hash on a steam line at a GM parts factory, hair net, scratchy uniform and all. I rebuffed the pressure from my fellow cafeteria workers to have a smoke, but when they talked up a diet that allowed me to eat the bacon, cheese, eggs and fried chicken we were serving up, I couldn’t resist. Hand me a tray fast, someone!
Apparently, I didn’t get the full Atkins memo, because while I happily mounded up my plate, I somehow didn’t get the message about cutting out the carbs. I came back for seconds on the French fries, bread and pieces of pie, too. Neither did the idea of lean sources of protein occur to me. Needless to say, my so-called diet didn’t work.
Today, the debate about the Atkins diet rages on. Does it work? Does it damage your heart? Yet without Dr. Atkins we probably wouldn't look at the nutrients in our food the way we do now. Virtually every diet in existence today suggests limiting your intake of refined sugars and flours.
Within the next few days, I'll be posting the story of one incredible Atkins dieter who lost 180 pounds -- and maintains his loss -- on the Atkins diet. He's one inspiring guy.