It’s diet time again. We said we would lose weight after Christmas, but it didn’t quite happen. This is after trying to diet in the middle of last year, and failing then, too.

Traditionally, Abi and I have lost weight by eating less. Specifically, when we each lost 7kg back in 1997 (eek–long time ago), we did this by counting calories. We didn’t cut out any foods, we just ate less of them. I was unwilling to give up chocolate and crisps, so I ate a Cadbury’s Finger Of Fudge (120 kCal) and a packet of Hula Hoops (170 kCal) each day. So long as we stuck rigorously to an upper limit of 1500 kCal a day–and we did–we were able to eat anything we liked. It took about four or five months to drop those 7 kilos.

Whenever we have lost weight since then, we have used that same strategy, but never with the same level of success. Yes, we have lost weight, but less of it because we didn’t keep up the sustained effort for as long. Some of this comes from feeling either feeling too unhappy to give up eating, or otherwise too content with life to care about being overweight. Losing weight feels like a hardship, and there’s always a reason not to do it.

But it’s getting to the point where we are both feeling like we really need to do it. In 1993, after three years of living in a vegetarian household at University, I weighed 67kg. That was nice. In 1997 I came down from 76kg to 69kg. Since then, I’ve gone up again as far as 75kg, and have on occasion come reached 70kg again, but usually I hover between 72 and 74. Right now, though, I’m up at 77. Big yikes.

We first heard about the Atkins diet, sorry “Nutritional Approach”, last year. I know it’s been around for ages, but it’s only recently that Britain has picked up on its buzz. For those of you who haven’t come across it before, the Atkins way revolves around carbohydrates, or rather the lack of them.

By preference, the human body burns carbohydrates for fuel. If it doesn’t have any carbohydrates available, it will go over to burning fat instead. The body stores fat; it doesn’t store carbohydrates. So if you cut out enough carbohydrates from your daily intake, your body will exhaust these reserves quickly, and then switch to burning fat from your stores instead.

Something like that.

Dr. Atkins claims that changing your eating habits to in this way is also better for your health. Biologically, this looks plausible because most of our daily carbohydrates come from refined sugars, flour, and grain products. (Think: pasta and bread.) But also lots of other starchy or sugary foods such as potatoes, rice, carrots, bananas, etc. Cut a lot of these out, and you end up with a diet containing lots of meat and green vegetables. This is closer to what our early ancestors ate while they were roaming the savannah and hunting giant chickens into extinction, and further away from the modern Western diet of highly processed, and often sweetened food.

Fair enough. I suspect that the fact you are positively encouraged to eat sausages, bacon and eggs may also have something to do with Atkins’ popularity. This doesn’t sound like much of a hardship, but on the other hand, cutting down to about 20g of carbohydrates a day means giving up my three favourite foods: bread, rice, and, uh, bread.

Yeah, we’re going to give it a try. But after Alex’s birthday party this weekend. Abi’s making her famous chocolate cake. Can’t miss that.

3 Replies to “Atkins”

  1. Good luck and let us know how it goes.

    I too should loose some weight.

    For a good chunk of my twenties I was around 63-65kg, after a moderately serious accident in ’91 I went down to 60kg and stayed around there for over a year, but in the last 10 years my weight has only gone up and mostly I don’t bother to keep track of it, right now I’m about the same weight as you.

    Too be honest I don’t really care how much I weight and don’t own a set of scales. What I do care about is not feeling limited in what I can do my a “spare tire” or having to buy lots of new clothes because the perfectly serviceable ones I have don’t fit.

    The last year or so my weight has definitely increase more than in the past and now I’m starting to hit both those problems so it’s probably time to do something about it.

    However the Atkins diet isn’t for me, it involves far too much reliance on green vegetables which are anathema as far as I’m concerned 🙂

    A few years back my parents used the Hay diet (aka Food Combining, see for example)and found it pretty good, losing a fair bit of weight with no real hardship, but again it is probably not for me.

    There is also no way I’m going to calorie count, it’s just too much hassle and I can’t be bothered. Cut back sure, work out exactly how much I eat each day? Forget it!

    So I’ve yet to find a good solution, maybe I should arrange another bike accident 🙂

  2. Some of us spent a lot of the christmas break at Chez Bibire and consumed much Bibirium, which is the densest but most delicious substance in the universe. Consequently we got back to Amsterdam the size of small car parks.

    We’re now getting back to fighting weight again, through two mechanisms: eating less calories; and exercising. Specifically, we bought a Concept 2 ( and are using it every day or so. We’re losing the spare tires, and everything’s moving upwards again rather than downwards…

    I’m dubious about Atkins. I know that it works for some people, but I suspect something different is going on than just eating less carbohydrates. You lose weight by burning more calories than you eat, plain and simple.

    (BTW, the carbohydrates that you don’t immediately burn as energy end up as fat anyway – they don’t magically disappear.)

    We’re not eating rabbit food, or doing calorie counting, or anything silly like that. We’re eating very well in fact, mostly vegetarian, meat at weekends. Snacking on fruit, mainly. But we’re doing a lot more exercise and getting back into shape.

    There was a big article in the NYT last year that was the first introduction to Atkins for a lot of people. It seemed plausible at the time, but if you want a second opinion, try:

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