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March 18, 2004
 Student View


The thinning of the western world
Katie Norman
Katie Norman

The world has been taken over by Atkins. Everywhere you turn someone is cutting carbohydrates and upping their protein intake. Does a pound of bacon for breakfast sound appetizing? While I cannot say exactly why everyone seems to be falling over themselves to grab Atkins literature, or the convenient new pamphlets that compact the information into a quick five-minute read, the fact of the matter is they are doing so. The results seem to be resoundingly positive – at least with regards to dropping pounds. Many people I know who have tried it have lost the weight. Now we just have to wait and see if they gain it back once they get some cravings for white bread.

The real interest I have towards Atkins and its sister diets, the South Beach Diet and The Zone, are not the specifics of these diets but rather the frenzy that is surrounding them. Many people no longer think it is healthy to eat carbohydrates – whether they are on these diets or not. The pros and cons of eating white bread as opposed to eating multigrain bread have been revealed for years with many people who want to “fuel the machine” with more healthy alternatives turning to whole wheat. This however has been taken over by a general protest on carbohydrates.

Now not only are people sitting in their living rooms and in coffee houses talking about Atkins, so are morning talk shows, evening newsmagazines, editorials and front page spreads; basically every form of media is writing about it. It is not just the diet they’re putting the pen to paper about though. It is the host of products that are arriving on grocers and even liquor storeowners’ shelves daily to fit this newfound fad.

In the past few months, radical products such as Keto Cocoa Crisp Soy Cereal and Michelob Ultra Low-Carb Beer have hit the shelves. Meanwhile more known brands are reconfiguring their products to appeal to this new growing demographic. For example Labatt introduced a Sterling beer, for carbohydrate counters. Local bakeries are also considering the ways in which they make bread and many are producing low carb varieties. If you have a favourite food it is only a matter of time before some low carb version is going to appear – or at least that is the way it seems right now.

This trend has not just extended to domestic food products; fast food venues are also reconsidering their menus. This trend began a few years when salads and wraps became commonplace next to the burgers and chicken nuggets at major fast food retailers. Today the new menus are promoting low carb lifestyles. Jared has been replaced by the new Atkins wraps at Subway. Quiznos is making a smaller sandwich to appeal to those who want as few carbs as possible but who cannot give up their noonday sandwich. However the most shocking is the move by McDonald’s to remove the “super sizing” option from their menus this year. While this is not necessarily Atkins driven it is a definite reaction to the newfound heath food craze that seems to be dominating Western life. People want to eat healthier, and if a flashy New York Times bestseller book can lay it out for them, they’ll follow it. It is funny how even eating healthier has become commercialized.

But what exactly does low carb mean? Apparently there is no set answer to this. Many products slap low carb on the label to entice customers. Therefore it is important to still read labels even if the shiny red sticker says its low carb. The more important question I have been asking myself is if low carb actually means that it is healthier. If one takes a closer look you will find that low carb often does not mean low calorie. This is confusing considering that everyone has been told that the way to lose weight is to cut calories. Obviously you need to find low carb low calorie foods – yum to that.

Atkins is super flashy and something fun you can tell your friends that you are trying at the next social. The old motto of eat less and exercise more isn’t as fun and catchy as Atkins. Perhaps the media and general attention towards this way of eating are only helping to increase the numbers of people who give it a try. While Atkins certainly isn’t a new idea it is a very popular idea right now.

Dr. Robert C. Atkins began honing his diet in the 1970s. The founder of “controlled carbohydrate intake” seems to defy the logic of the common person. “Fat is bad. It makes you fat. Don’t eat fat.” This could practically be a modern proverb except now it is refuted, or at least somewhat. Medical professionals’ reactions to the Atkins diet are resoundingly different. People’s concerns, for the implications of a diet that is said to have possible heart problem consequences, are realistically grounded considering Newfoundland’s high levels of heart disease. The best advice is to talk to your own doctor before trying any diet. After reading a few dozen articles I am no less confused about what this diet offers. In fact I am more confused. I commend anyone who can actually read these conflicting statements and make this or any diet work.

Will Atkins go the way of the Thighmaster? Only time will tell.


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Next issue: April 8, 2004

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