Atkins diet

Joined Mar 3, 2002
I've read that of all the "diets" out there that Atkins is the one that can be most dangerous to one's health (that is also widely popular, no doubt there are even kookier and more dangerous diets, too).

Unfortunately my son has decided to use Atkins to cut back to a more youthful waistline and is even in a "competition" with one of his fellow-workers (weekly weigh-in's, etc). He's been on it several weeks now and I'm worrying about the possible effects if he stays on it longer, though he has promised to add more vegetables and perhaps a once a week grain dish.

His wife is a vegetarian. My personal suspicion is that the Atkins choice is in part a way to get more meat into the house. (He has to use a separate pan for cooking meat; no she's Italian - so not kosher!) It may also be that he thinks all those grain dishes are what has fattened him up as he is not (like me) a sweet freak. The irony is that my DIL is as much a sweet hound as I am, but she is wonderfully trim.

I hope that some of you who have more professional knowledge about this could give me some pointers to sources of information about the hazards of this diet (either on-line or books) . I know I read something extensive on line once, but haven't been able to find my way back to it.

Also, you may have some advice on how he can add back some carbs and still lose weight. My instinct would be to eat more fresh veggies and some fruits rather than grains to introduce them.

Joined Jun 1, 2001
Personally, I'm of the opinion that "you eat too much, you gain weight." Atkins works in the short term because of how protein is metabolized, and is dangerous in the long term for the same reasons.

If your son were serious about losing weight, he should try:
1. keeping an HONEST eating journal for at least a month. I would bet substantial something that he'll be surprised by what he finds, if he's honest, eats as he normally does, and doesn't fib. My husband, who is more or less in the same boat, found that he very often, on a perfectly ordinary day, consumed between 5000-6000 calories -- double what a man of his height and ideal weight would need.

2. After figuring out what he's doing wrong, dietarily speaking, fix it. Eat a balanced mix of foods: carbohydrates, protein and fat. Keep fat down to 25% or less of daily consumption. Try to balance each meal or snack in the same ratio; this will help him be satisfied. Stay away from "junk carbs" -- processed flour, commercial "low-fat" products, stuff that's nothing but sugar -- except for planned treats. He'll get better results if he gets his carbs from vegetables, fruits (dried fruits are good if he's a sweet hound, though they're very caloric and should be consumed in moderation) and WHOLE grains and whole-grain flours.

Track his meals. Track caloric intake. No need to be to-the-decimal-point precise -- but at least until he gets a sense of what he SHOULD be eating, it's a worthwhile thing to do, to keep a sense of proportion. Also, he should try eating five-six smaller meals; many people overeat when they only eat a few large meals, because they're so hungry that the blood-sugar-starved lizard brain takes over and stuffs.

3. Exercising. An hour of exercise, 5-6 days a week. Nothing excessive here, just get out and get moving. Bike. Walk. Hike. Inline skate -- whatever he likes. But all longterm studies of those who lose weight and keep it off show that exercise is well-nigh essential.

There are no quick fixes, and no easy answers. There is no way to eat EVERY bit of junk you want, and still get/stay slim. That is the flatout honest truth, and no trendy book or diet plan will change that.

I lost nearly a hundred pounds three years ago, and have so far managed to keep it off following the above. And yes, I do bust out from time to time -- I have a Blizzard now and then (my personal addiction); I eat holiday meals with my family; go out to dinner with friends. But in the interim, I make and eat my own healthy meals, and keep an eye on what I eat and my activity.

Joined Feb 6, 2002
Did yall know that the good doc keeled over from a heart attack recently? Hmmm? Now people are wondering if he's a victim of his own diet. He claims it was something else that causes the muscles of the heart to weaken. :rolleyes: Yeah Right! Wake up and smell the bread Dr. Aikens!
Joined Jun 1, 2001
The Tufts reviewers (great starting point for all sorts of nutrition info and sites, by the way) hated it:

A short essay on what might happen on Atkins, and people who should definitely avoid it:

A bunch of abstracts of papers and studies on ketogenic/low-carb/Atkins:

Registered dietician weighs in:

Dr. John A. MacDougall (who has, it must be admitted, his own biases) weighs in:

The Physicians' Committee for Responsible Medicine doesn't like it either:

Neither does the American Heart Association:
Joined Mar 3, 2002
CompassRose - Thanks for all the very specific websites and your very to the point comments on dieting in general. I agree with you entirely that taking it off is only a beginning. I think part of his weight problem is the result of his wife's running a vegetarian house (without a lot of what I call vegetables). I think he was eating a lot of carbs because of it and puffing up. And this may be the only way he can get a steady supply of meat into the house. :)

There is one justification for my son's desire to speedily drop the pounds - he's developed a back problem and the weight reduction (about 15 lb so far) has already helped that. I think he probably has only another 15-20 lbs to go and has begun to add some carbs back into his diet. Neverthleless, I'm concerned lest he damage his health in the process.

Shawtycat, I saw the news about Atkins, and my reaction was the same as yours.
Joined Jun 1, 2001
I was nearly my fattest when I first went vegetarian and was all in my hardcore phase. Lots of lovely vegan food, lots of nuts, which I love. It's easy to overeat carbs, I think is the problem, especially if there's no fibre with them.

Even if he does have back problems, he should really, really think about whether an extreme fad diet is how he wants to shed the pounds. I speak as one who knows. For sundry reasons, I actually dropped the first half or so of the weight I lost through VERY unhealthy practices (severe depression, anorexic behaviour and too much coffee, if you must know). Was it worth it? I don't know. I mean, yes, my blown-out knee no longer bothers me at all, AND I run half-marathons, but...

I transformed a slight low blood sugar problem into full-blown hypoglycemia, and also apparently induced early menopause. So now, even though I'm at a healthy weight for my height (for the first time since I was seven) and eat what a person of my size and activity is "supposed" to eat, I have to carry energy bars in my bag at all times, and this year will probably have to have a bone scan... So, on the whole, I really do rather wish I'd done it the "right" way. Except that I didn't actually start out to lose weight and keep it off; it's just where I've ended up.

Since, however, your son IS committed to dropping pounds, he'd probably be better setting out as he means to go on. Everything I've read about Atkins suggests that the attendant dehydration and ketosis makes it even MORE likely that you'll put on all the weight and more when you start eating from all food groups again. And one can't "get to the right weight then start eating everything and magically stay there." I don't know; one tends to think, y'know, to a certain age (and your son, I expect, is probably round my age, thirtyish, yes?), that "well, this won't happen to me." Only it does.

Oh, and you know how sometimes things just show up when you start thinking about them? This link cropped up in something I was reading today. Anti-Atkins quotebites:
Joined Mar 6, 2001
Unforunately I know people who have lost weight on this diet. My husband and I made a serious attempt at it a couple years ago. We both found that it made us unbelievable iritatable. Not from hunger (cause you can eat alot) but I swear it changed my mood totally, it made me feel agressive and easy to anger and I just couldn't consentrate.

Well I'm not sure how your son will do but it did work for my sister and BIL. They ONLY ONLY used it as a start, then after they lost the weight they maintain a almost vegan eating style and do exercise (quite alot). Which if you read his book the diet is NOT for long term eating, it's to loose weight then you switch to a much healthier maintance.

I'm not condoning this diet, but I don't think it's meant to be done for an extensive amount of time.
Joined Mar 3, 2002
W.DeBord, it IS working for him re weight loss, and his back has improved somewhat. I certainly hope that he follows it up as your sister & BIL have with a healthier regimen, though I doubt he will ever go vegan. It's encouraging to hear of a successful "recovery" from Atkins. ( As I've said in an earlier post, I think part of the attraction of Atkins for him is that it justifies his eating meat in this otherwise meatless household! :rolleyes: )

CompassRose, you're preaching to the choir. Any extreme diet, imo, is likely to be a bad one. I've seen nothing in print to suggest that Atkins is a healthful one, even if it may work to lose weight. I'm only hoping that he doesn't stay on it long enough to do any damage. As I mentioned before, he fortunately doesn't have to lose a lot of weight, so it may be self terminating in that way. He says he is drinking a lot of water and that he is eating vegetables. (But I must say that his idea of a lot of vegetables isn't my idea of a lot of vegetables if what I have seen him eat these last couple weeks is typical. And he will hardly eat any fruit.)

I have given him your list of websites and can do no more. He is after all 37! I understand there is a natural resistence people have to following the advice of parents. After all, I'm enjoying my dotage. :bounce: Recently I shared my opinion on a business matter (I'm really generous that way- health, business, childraising, where to part one's hair, etc). When subsequent events proved me right, it was an easy matter for him to alter course successfully. What worries me about this diet is that it may not be so easy to alter its effects if he stays on it for too long. And the more I harp on it, the more entrenched he may become in it. Once I've returned home, it will be easier for him to declare diet victory and balance his food intake better.

Regarding your personal history, congrats on maintaining your weight and fitness however you got there. You might console yourself that the hypoglycemia, early menopause might not actually be the consequence of your previous condition but have other causes. When I had hypoglycemia, I assure you it was not from undereating! And the onset of menopause varies widely. I read recently that peri-menopause often begins much earlier than many people are aware of and onset of menopause is highly variable.

As for vegetarianism, I think I probably eat more fresh fruits and veggies than many of the vegetarians I know who eat far too much bean and grain products and not enough of the fresh stuff. If I eliminated my sweet tooth, I could get to my ideal weight. But alas, I don't know which one it is.
Joined Nov 29, 2001
Yes...I'm aware of the Doctor's recent episode. Lots of my friends called me to tell me - thinking I would rejoice. I hope "Dr." Atkins has a speedy recovery...and is intelligent enough to visit Dr. Dean Ornish who will help him mend his ways.

He did claim some kind of "infection" which I think is a distraction tactic. Have you ever seen this guy's house??? :eek: Or, I should say HOUSE(S). He stands a lot to lose if his heart attack is attributed to his lousy fat-laden diet. No WONDER he's claiming his cardio problems are not diet-related. Those millions won't be coming in if this guy admits to being laid up with a diet-induced heart attack. Frankly, I think his run is finally over - before anyone else suffers the setbacks of his diet.

Alexia...there is another thread here about the Atkins diet which I like to call the "heart-attack" diet - and I adopted that phrase long before Dr. Atkins had his. Fad diets are not healthy because your body is screaming for something it's not getting...and it's clear the long-term effects of the Atkins program are not good. I just didn't think he'd be the proof. There are certain bodily functions, brain transmissions, etc., which require carbohydrates as fuel. Yes, you might lose weight on Atkins but it falls short as a lifelong commitment choice - and that commitment is what will keep the weight off. Balance is the key (unless you have allergy concerns).
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