Since Robert Atkins, the founder of the famed no carb high protein ‘Atkins diet’ died of a cardiac arrest in 2002, the consensus among health specialists and physicians alike is that the high consumption of animal products is bad for your health and crucially your heart.
Initially the Atkins diet found popularity with body conscious housewives during the late 1950s. Not only is the traditional dietary method to lose weight through the high protein low carb route apparently bad for your bodily health, any small slip up during this diet plan can ruin your flat stomached goal and instead make you bloated and pile on the pounds even more than if you had not dieted at all. To achieve a lean look there is little doubt that cutting out carbs can enable you to achieve this, especially if you find yourself intolerant to gluten. However the transition to this diet especially from a carb rich one is emotionally difficult. Instead of the filling comfort of vegetarian pasta dishes, in order to feel satisfied after an Atkins style meal the consumption of high fat red meat is the only way to feel full if you are used to the stodginess of high carbohydrate meals.
For many, the Atkins diet starts out on meals that are dangerously high in fat and cholesterol in order to make the transition to carb-less meals less painful for the subject. This is not only extremely unhealthy it also means that the dieter cannot afford any weak moments, if like this writer you have succumbed to a moment of such weakness through tiredness or boredom and have during an Atkins journey eaten a slice of bread or a bar of chocolate, the already high fat diet is trebled. However if the dieter has maintained an orthodox aversion to carbs and sweets of all kinds, you will attain your goal of the flat stomach of an all-protein eater. But if you have fallen off the wagon you may as well not have dieted at all. Living a fast paced life where eating is often employed as a form of medicine to stall exhaustion during work or after recreation (especially when hung over) falling off the strict Akins wagon is dangerous for your health and detrimental to the desired physique. In an emotional sense, the hearty warm pleasures of vegetarian cheesy dishes are craved; sometimes a hunk of fatty gristle if consumed daily and for extended periods of time can remind one that they are actually eating an animal, a turn-off for many indeed.
Alternatively, with high carb low fat dishes where white fish or chicken can be added periodically if a protein craving starts, are far more versatile, cheaper and easier to prepare. They are also often far more comforting especially during the winter months. Good carbs such as bulgur wheat, quinoa or brown rice gives that kindly clap on the back the day after a heavy night out, lining the alcohol beaten stomach with warm and solid tenderness, something that a miserably thin chicken breast with grilled courgette can never do. Sometimes the thought of buying, preparing and cooking raw meat can turn the stomach if done every day, it is also expensive. Spending hours browsing the supermarket shelves for a sans-carb meal is a frustrating and draining endeavour especially when exhausted from work. Stocking up on healthy long life carbs such as couscous, quinoa or brown rice reduces the frustrating daily sojourns into the world of supermarket boredom to buy new and expensive cartloads of meat.
Providing that you exercise and do not mix this diet with red meat and bad carbs such as chips and white bread there is little reason why you cannot achieve a leaner look. If a flat as a pancake bikini body is desired for a holiday, maybe a foray into the world of Atkins is acceptable for one to two weeks before the trip. However a long-term adherence to such a dietary doctrine is dangerous for both your body and mind. So over the last few years this is where the plentiful vegan diet has stepped in and with great success. Veganism combines the warming comfort of the healthy filling and energy boosting carbs with none of the harmful fats of animal products. Eating in this way with an extremely low fat intake leaves little room for carbs to actually make you ‘fat’. Saying this, the Atkins diet can be a successful diet plan during the bright and warm summer months, where energy levels are naturally higher, and when it is conducted during a short intense timeframe as a countdown to a holiday for example.
However, if you are looking for a long term healthier eating plan that will sustain you through those long dark winter months, try healthy high carb eating with white meats as a periodical treat to start, and then you will know if you can take the next step and try going vegan. What’s great about the ascent of veganism in popular culture is that it overturns the gendered stigmas of aligning the ‘carbs are bad’ motif with women wanting to be skinny. Thus if you eat pastas, pizzas and the like you are labelled as an ‘unfeminine’ woman who does not care about her figure, she is instead down to earth and ‘one of the boys’. Veganism brings carbs out of the taboo shadows that the Atkins phenomenon has perpetually places them in, putting them in a new light. Veganism shows that carbs can be delicate, beautiful and healthy for the mind, body and soul. This kind of diet can focus benefits onto bodily health and wellbeing, with improved body image being a positive by-product; this should be the case for all eating plans and lifestyles. Unfortunately the Atkins diet is responsible for the pervasive negative outlook on certain food groups such as carbs, but the vegan craze is slowly overturning this harmful ideology and in doing so is making the world of healthy eating an increasingly gender equal place, taking carbs out of the domain of the male only space.
Words: Annie May Byrne-Noonan