Low Calorie Diet in Disguise

The Atkins Diet restricts calories by restricting choices. If all one did was eat Twinkies, one could lose weight (unless one were able to consistently force oneself to eat more than a dozen a day). But would one’s overall health be better or worse for it? In essence, the Atkins Diet is not much different than the Twinkie Diet.

Americans get half of their energy from carbohydrates,[137] so if people cut out half the food they eat, what they are left with is calorie restriction. Yes, one can eat unlimited amounts of fat on the Atkins Diet, but people typically can’t stomach an extra two sticks of butter’s worth a day to make up for the calorie deficit. Since so many foods are taboo, people end up eating less out of sheer boredom and lack of variety. As one obesity researcher put it, “If you’re only allowed to shop in two aisles of the grocery store, does it matter which two they are?”[138]

Yes, all the butter one can eat, but no bread to put it on. All the cream cheese, but no bagels. Sour cream, but no baked potato. Sandwich lunchmeat, but, of course, no sandwiches. All the pepperoni one can eat, but no pizza crust. Cheese, but no mac.

In later phases of the diet, with less carb restriction, Atkins throws in a thin wedge of cantaloupe–wrapped in ham, of course.[139] Having all the mayonnaise one can eat only goes so far.

On the Atkins Diet one can eat steak, but no potatoes–and watch the gravy (it may have corn starch in it). All the shortening one can eat, just no making cookies with it. Eat all the burgers one wants; you just can’t put them on buns, no fries–and “beware of ketchup.”[140]

Atkins described how to make cheeseburgers without the bun: “I put all the meat on the outside… put the cheese on the inside… The cheese melts on the inside and never gets out.”[141]

Although his recipe for “hamburger fondue,”[142] combining burger meat, blue cheese, and butter, might top the cheeseburger recipe for heart disease risk, the prize would probably go his recipe for “Swiss Snack,”[143] which consists of wrapping bacon strips around cubes of Swiss cheese and deep frying them in hot oil. The recipe, which supposedly serves one, calls for four strips of bacon and a quarter-pound of cheese.

Atkins rivals the creativity of the raw-food chefs of today in his uses for pork rinds. Pork rinds are chunks of pigs’ skin that are deep-fried, salted and artificially flavored. He recommends people use them to dip caviar. Or, perhaps for those who can’t afford caviar, one can use fried pork rinds as a “substitute for toast, dinner rolls…You can use them as a pie crust… or even matzo ball soup (see our recipe on p. 190).”[144] Matzo balls made out of pork rinds?–now that is a diet revolution!