Sunday, December 4, 2011

Atkins vs. Paleo

I admit I was one of those people who thought the Atkins Diet was a weird eat-all-you-can-eat steak and cream fad that skimped on the fresh produce and had a low long term success rate.

I didn't pay it too much thought until a year or two ago, and it was actually quite recently that I picked up a copy of Dr. Atkins' New Diet Revolution at a thrift store.

Knowing what I know about low carbohydrate eating as a lifestyle, I have to say I was very pleasantly surprised to discover that the Atkins approach is much more similar than I ever realized.  The fact that it has been around for a very long time means there are many excellent resources available online.  The book has a carb counter in the back, which should be very helpful for anyone starting out.

I do have one or two reservations about it, which I'll get out of the way.

Firstly, the introductory chapters draw you in with a picture of a cornucopia:
...mounds of seeds and nuts, platters of fish, a lobster in drawn butter, well-seasoned fish, turkey and duck and certainly a juicy steak.  You'll spy an omelette that would do any breakfast table proud.  There's no lack of variety here.  I see vegetables in abundance, fresh green salads drenched in healthy olive oil-based dressing overflowing their bowls, and peeking out through the foliage, blueberries, strawberries and raspberries topped with whipped cream.  There's a variety of cheeses.
While it goes on to explain that this is what you'd be eating after losing your extra pounds, it still paints a utopian picture.  It strikes me that what I'm reading on Guyenet's Whole Health Source blog is that the key to weight loss lies in eliminating food's reward factor.

In other words, Atkins entices you with the promise high reward foods.  Quite honestly, I don't know how any diet program is likely to be successful by promising a lifetime of low reward bland food, but I do think this is important to point out.  Or maybe the listed foods aren't really excessive, as long as you don't eat them all at once.  What do you think?  After all, individually, pretty much all the items listed commonly find their way to our table.

Secondly, Atkins sells a lot of ready made products and low carb baking aids.  I have never been big into any kind of processed food, and have absolutely no need for their products today.  That's not to say they might not be useful for people who are on the go a lot, and particularly if they don't enjoy cooking.  I also believe rather strongly that our culture of baking is one of the root problems of the obesity all around us.  By selling carbohydrate reduced baking aids, Atkins doesn't confront this issue head-on.  Maybe that too, isn't a bad thing, but it's not for me.

The third and final big difference I see with Atkins, is that it reintroduces grains, including wheat, after you reach your weight goal.  Admittedly the quantity is limited.  I have read enough about the harmful long term effects of wheat-based foods, that I have no desire to ever reintroduce gluten into my diet again.

If this is enough to put you off looking at the Atkins diet approach, I think that would be a mistake.  Because if you can think beyond these reservations, I think it's a very useful and healthful way to lose weight, especially if you are looking for a long term approach that is effective and easy to incorporate into a modern lifestyle.

Want to learn more?  I would recommend starting with this article, which succinctly dispels 11 of the most prevalent myths surrounding the Atkins Diet.

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