The following post is based off a chapter titled, Thirty Years of Clinical Practice with Dr. Robert Atkins: Knowledge Gained by Jacqueline Eberstein, R.N., from the book The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living by Drs. Volek and Phinney.
Jacqueline Eberstein was a nurse that worked closely with Dr. Robert Atkins for 30 years, the main standard bearer for modern day carbohydrate restriction.
She was at first hesitant to accept the position, describing herself as someone who hated diet and nutrition education. As time persisted, the proof of the process would encourage her to remain vested in a niche of her field that she originally had no intention of pursuing:
I started work as a staff nurse in Dr. Atkins’ busy practice with every intention of leaving as soon as I found something else. But to my surprise I quickly observed that his very low carbohydrate plan worked. Patients lost weight and inches easily and without hunger and cravings. Now that way of dieting appealed to me! What was also so surprising was that frequently his patients’ other health complaints got better simply by changing what they ate.
Despite the media firestorm and sensationalism of Dr. Atkins since the publication of his book, there is much to learn from what Eberstein first observed in the early days of the Atkins Low Carbohydrate revolution.
First, it wasn’t really a revolution. Low carbohydrate is something that humans have been doing since the beginning of time, realized over and over again throughout the centuries as a cure to obesity and disease. Dr. Atkins himself didn’t invent his version of the diet. He read about it in a 1963 article in The Journal of the American Medical Association. He simply followed the guidelines in the article, became fascinated with the results, fine tuned the process and started recommending it to his clients with great success. The book, media attention, and notoriety came after the results.
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Second, the backlash from his methods can be expected, since his primary message was to cut back or eliminate carbohydrates. Carbohydrates as a product is a source of serious wealth and there are numerous corporations with a vested interest in keeping the message around carbohydrates as murky as possible. They want people to think its okay to consume them and then empower doctors and other health officials to direct the blame at the victim for consuming too much food in general. Never mind the emotional and physiological associations with consuming carbohydrates, particularly the ones that are easy to overeat.
We now know a lot more about macronutrient effects on hormones and gene regulation and how these relate to fat storage and fat utilization. To continue to push the simplistic calories-in-calories-out mantra limits our therapeutic options. This is especially tragic for people who are carbohydrate intolerant. In the long run they will likely fail in making long term diet changes with a low calorie approach which is generally low in fat and high in carbohydrate. This leads to weight cycling and ultimately higher body fat. Not only is this physically damaging, but there is also the psychological cost of adding another failure, more guilt because of a lack of “will power” and lack of control.”
Third, Dr. Atkins was also a medical doctor, just one that the mainstream wants you to ignore. Instead, they want you to seek out advice from another medical doctor, one that preaches a more conforming message. Dr. Atkins did what many other doctors do, he ran blood tests and measured the results. Unstable blood sugar, he found, often became a road paved to Type 2 Diabetes. He also found that these problems are resolved quickly once the optimal level of carbohydrate restriction is established. Eventually, his practice evolved to use carbohydrate restriction as a method to treat obesity, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, type 1 diabetes, asthma, mood swings, fatigue, insomnia, depression, anxiety, headaches, migraines, allergies, inflammatory bowel syndrome, colitis, gas, bloating, GERD, joint pain, acne, poor memory, and concentration.
♦ The real path to change involves behavior, not information or cognitive approaches. It is easier to change behavior when you are eating foods that support your body working properly.
♦ A single approach, like the one recommended by the USDA that states people with diabetes can eat the same foods as people without diabetes, does not work. Individualization is the key to long-term success.
♦ When it comes to health and obesity, it is not as simple as calories in versus calories out. The food we eat impact our bodies differently and affects our ability to apply the necessary behaviors to either remain in a negative caloric balance or to achieve a maintenance state.
♦ Carbohydrates affect people differently. The same cannot be said for protein and fat. Total caloric intake matters too, but it is carbohydrates that affect the overall formula in the most damaging ways.
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