I’m a big fan of the Atkins Diet–even though I’ve never been on it, or indeed on any other kind of diet. (My idea of going on a diet is whipping myself into a frenzy of guilt over the extra pounds and then hoping that I’ll eat less. Occasionally this works.) But if I ever decided to go on a diet, I’d choose Atkins.
There are two reasons: One is that, as columnist Richard Cohen (a snarky liberal whose views I mostly can’t stand but occasionally find myself saying “Amen” to), himself an Atkins-iac, pointed out recently, the Atkins Diet is fun. You get to eat what you actually want to eat: steak. And plenty of it, along with bacon, eggs, butter, and many other good things. After a while, I’m sure, I’d get a little sick of Atkins and long for a ripe pear or a glass of orange juice, but by then, as so many Atkins-iacs, including Cohen, have testified, I’d have actually lost a few pounds. Then I could go back to my old guilt-trip strategy on weight issues and hope that I wouldn’t gain those pounds back too quickly, such as within three days or less.
The other reason is even more important: The Atkins Diet is so darned politically incorrect. It annoys so many different kinds of annoying people: health nuts, vegetarians, red meat-shunners, animal-rights activists, the carb-promoting nutrition establishment, and those “sustainable planet” advocates who think we ought to get rid of all animals raised for meat and devote their grazing acres to grain–a sort of agricultural equivalent to eliminating the middleman.
So I’ve been avidly following the controversy over the April 17 death of the diet’s 72-year-old physician-inventor, Robert Atkins, after slipping on ice in New York City and severely injuring his head. A report recently emerged that Atkins, who had a history of heart disease that he discussed openly, was at least 60 pounds overweight at the time of his death.
I was starting to think twice about Atkins–until I learned of the source of the report on Atkins’s death: a pro-vegetarian group called Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine that is closely linked to the fur-coat blood-sprayers of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. Indeed, the Physicans Committee has received some $1 million in grants from PETA.
Then it turned out that the source of the Physicians group’s information was a diet-guru rival of Atkins, Dr. Richard H. Fleming of the Fleming Heart and Health Institute in Omaha, Neb. Fleming promotes what could be called the Anti-Atkins Diet, consisting almost entirely of fruits, vegetables, and grains. Last December Fleming published a book, “Stop Inflammation Now!” touting the benefits of his diet. Since at least last November, well before Atkins’s death, Fleming and the Physicians Committee have been jointly attacking the Atkins Diet as unhealthy. Fleming obtained his information about Atkins’s death from the New York medical examiner’s office. He has since publically apologized for a possible ethical breach in divulging it, and the New York medical examiners office has declared that it issued the report by a mistake. Its policy allows it to divulge medical reports only to treating physicians and family members. The New York office says it is filing an ethics complaint against Fleming in Nebraska.
Now, in a CNN report published today, Atkins’s widow, Veronica Atkins, declares that she is “outraged” at the claim by Fleming and the physicians’ committee that her husband was obese at the time of his death, and that his extra weight was due to fluid retention while he lay comatose and severely brain-damaged in the hospital for nine days after his accident.
I suppose that the proof might lie in a photograph of Atkins taken shortly before his fatal accident. Right now, though, it gives me pleasure to consider the creepy sources of the latest anti-Atkins propaganda. And the choice for me–between a plate of steak and a plate of porridge–would still be easy if I ever decided to go on a diet.