Atkins: The Backlash

March 17, 2005
Daily Mail (London)

THE company behind the Atkins diet announced on Tuesday that it is closing its UK office after falling sales and criticism of the high-fat, low-carbohydrate regime. Femail’s panel of writers explain why the news is a huge relief.

AUTHOR Tim Lott, 48, has three daughters, and lives with his partner Rachael, 36, in North-West London.

Weight before Atkins: 11st 7lb Weight after Atkins: 12st 9lb Weight now: 11st 12lb ONCE upon a time - only a few years ago - my body was OK. I wasn’t thin, but 160lb wasn’t bad for a middleaged man and I’d been the same weight for the previous ten years.

And then, in 2003, came Atkins, like a bad collective dream.

I had seen crank diets come and go and mocked them all. However, on this occasion I was sucked into the zeitgeist. I developed a kind of idiot faith in Atkins, as I laid in stocks of salami, cheddar, kippers, eggs and half a farmful of meat. I bought a pound of lard and sat down to the biggest Full English of my life.

I was in the grip of a collective madness that must have equalled the Salem witch trials in its unthinking hysteria. I felt very strange - lightheaded and somewhat irritable, and when I got on to the scales at the end of the week, I expected to be massive.

To my astonishment I had lost 5lb. I tucked gleefully into another cooked breakfast. But by the end of the second week, the charms of the Full English were wearing off, and I was craving a simple slice of toast. Worse, on my next foray on to the scales, I hadn’t lost an ounce.

I pushed on for a third week.

Another 2lb. Half a stone in all wasn’t bad, and I hadn’t died from a massive coronary. I stopped, and returned to my normal, carb-heavy diet. Two weeks later, all the lost weight was back on.

Disgusted at my foolishness, I stopped weighing myself. Two months later, I checked my weight.

To my horror, I had put on a stone.

This didn’t stop me returning to Atkins in a desperate attempt to recover lost - or, in fact, gained - ground. First week, lost 7lb. Second week, nothing. Third and final week, regained 5lb. It had all gone pearshaped - and so had I.

How do I feel now? You know that expression ‘You are what you eat’?

Well, I feel like I just ate a big bowl of stupid. And you wouldn’t believe how fattening that is.

CINDY BLAKE, 49, is an author who lives in West London.

Weight before Atkins: 10st Weight after Atkins: 9st Weight now: 10st SHAME drove me to the Atkins diet five years ago. For a long time I had pretended the reason my clothes didn’t fit any more was because they’d shrunk in the wash.

But when I finally weighed myself, I realised that I had allowed middleaged spread to colonise my body.

In desperation I went out and bought the Atkins Diet Book. Friends kept telling me it worked - and, most importantly, that it worked quickly.

Miraculously, it did. I shed weight almost immediately as I ate steak after steak. I didn’t care whether people took steps back when I breathed in their vicinity - I was losing weight and that was all that mattered.

But after three weeks, I started to think I was doing something unnatural and unhealthy. I began to have stomach aches, which I hadn’t had since I was a child. And I was losing my energy.

When I looked at myself in the mirror, my skin seemed sallow, my eyes dull and my hair stringy. Add to

that the sense of humour failure which obsession with any fad diet brings, and I found myself craving bowls of pasta, plates of fruit and a return to a life before Dr Atkins figured out a way to make his fortune.

What finally got me off the diet for ever was a vicious stomach bug. I might not have been able to prove it was a result of Atkins, but I believed instinctively it was.

The minute I stopped the eating plan, I felt healthier and less tired.

The stomach aches disappeared. I kept my weight down for a few years after quitting, then put it back on, and now I’m losing it again - not because I’m on a diet, but because my children gave me a puppy for Christmas and I take her on walks every day.

The Exercise Diet Book. What a money-maker it would be if it weren’t just common sense.

TESS STIMSON, 36, is an author and Professor of Creative Writing at the University of South Florida. She is divorced and has three children aged ten, seven and two.

Weight before Atkins: 10st 7lb Weight after Atkins: 10st Weight now: 10st 7lb FRANKLY, I don’t believe in diets.

I work out at the gym five times a week precisely so I can indulge in a bowl of Ben & Jerry’s ice-cream when I want to without feeling guilty or splitting my jeans. I follow a simple philosophy: take as many calories out as you put in. On the odd occasion I’ve tried to diet, I’ve found that I can’t lose more than a pound or two without starving myself.

But a year ago I had a minor car accident, which meant I couldn’t go to the gym for a month, so I decided to try the Atkins diet.

I stocked up on all the Atkins products - cereal, bread mix, even pasta - and winced when I saw the size of the bill. Never mind, I told myself, it’s cheaper than stomach stapling.

Breakfast was the trickiest meal to deal with. Normally I grab a banana or apple as I chivvy my three children out of the door, but now I had to fry bacon and mix pancakes at 6.45am.

Three days into the diet, I certainly wasn’t hungry, but I was longing for a piece of fresh fruit.

There’s only so much chicken a girl can eat without clucking. And I had a splitting headache, which lasted nearly a week.

After ten days of steak, chicken, cheese and ham, I felt as if I had fat oozing out of my pores. I’d lost weight, but I felt fatter - it must have been all the grease swilling round my system.

My mouth felt dry, and my partner tactfully confirmed that my breath wasn’t as ‘fresh’ as usual.

Add this to the constipation and I was feeling about as healthy and attractive as a McDonald’s cheeseburger.

When I went home for the weekend three weeks into the diet, my father told me I looked gaunt.

I’d dropped 8lb, and aged about as many years.

The next day I threw Dr Atkins’ advice in the bin, had a bowl of ice-cream and did what any girl should do when she’s having a ‘fat’ day - I went out and bought shoes.

JOURNALIST Lauren Booth, 38, is married to actor Craig Darby, with whom she has two children.

Weight before Atkins: 12st Weight after Atkins: 11st 10lb Weight now: 12st ABOUT 18 months ago - six months after the birth of my second daughter - all my friends were on the Atkins diet. I was 10lb overweight, wanted to lose it quickly and I didn’t care how.

At first, the diet seemed to make sense. Before, I was definitely eating too many carbohydrates: croissants for breakfast, bread with lunch, a jacket potato and pasta in the evening. Add to that the biscuits, and I was practically a carbohydrate myself.

Day One started easily enough: bacon and eggs cooked in butter and oil - yum! Some sort of meat for lunch and then a huge, juicy, greasy steak in the evening with a fried egg on top.

Day Two was more of the same, but after my second steak in two days I have to admit I was feeling guilty about the lack of vegetables.

That night when I went to bed, I got a searing pain across my lower back. I managed to go to sleep but was a bit unsettled.

In the middle of the night I woke up in far greater pain and couldn’t even roll on to my side. I was getting worried there was a problem with my kidneys.

Still desperate to lose some weight, I gave the Atkins diet another 48 hours - by which time I was having trouble even getting out of a chair and I knew that if I carried on I was in danger of doing my kidney some serious damage.

This is a stupid diet. Don’t do it, that’s my advice.


Weight before Atkins: 9st 8lb Weight after Atkins: 9st 2lb Weight now: 9st 7lb CALL ME vain, but I was determined, come what may, to squeeze myself into the gorgeous size 8 Donna Karan dress bought especially for my wedding at home in Hertfordshire.

The June date in 2003 was looming and nothing short of liposuction was going to stand in my way.

Of course, having been a model and now being in the health and beauty industry, I knew how to lose that extra 7lb in the correct and healthy manner but this was an emergency, and the usual balanced diet and thrice-weekly trips to the gym went out of the window in favour of the newest and coolest diet.

Every celebrity who was any celebrity was screeching their delight and support of Dr Robert C. Atkins. Who was I to disagree?

Initially, I had glanced my eye over the Atkins weight-loss plan and dismissed it as a passing fad - and, more importantly, a grossly unhealthy one.

Surely, just the high fat content alone would be detrimental to one’s cholesterol level? But nobody else seemed concerned.

More and more celebrities started jumping on the Atkins bandwagon, banging on about the delights of no carbs, strutting their jutting hip bones and concave tummies all over the glossy magazines.

With three weeks to go until the big day and nothing but a jelly belly to show for my efforts, I threw in the towel.

Being a vegetarian and a rice and lentils lover, I found the whole experience very unpleasant, but the future husband thoroughly enjoyed his roast beef, lamb cutlets and veal chops.

I have to confess to feeling like a constipated lump of lard but with the vision of myself in that size 8 Donna Karan frock I persevered.

Yes, I dropped the targeted 7lb - but my goodness, I’ve never felt so yukky or stodgy. And don’t even mention the dog breath. This was my first and last experience of the Atkins diet.

WRITER and former model Jilly Johnson, 51, is married to Ashley Brodin, 59, a managing director of a group of textile companies.