Jewish World Review Feb. 17, 2004 / 25 Shevat, 5764
Let Atkins rest in peace!
I want you to picture yourself dead.
The coroner is confirming you're dead. Weighing you. Measuring you. Then sliding you in a refrigerator and saying goodbye to you, if you're lucky.
I want you to picture yourself being Robert Atkins.
The diet guru died last April. But rather than let him rest in peace, a group that was long critical of the low-carbohydrate diet he espoused is using his corpse to make a point.
That group is called the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. It advocates vegetarianism. That's all well and good. What's not good is what that group did after that. Somehow, some way, it got its hands on the final medical records of Atkins. Let me be blunt here: the crass details of a dead man on a hospital gurney.
The group says Atkins was fat, 258 pounds, proof, one of its members later told me, that Atkins either didn't practice what he preached, or did, and got fat anyway.
What the group failed to point out, and USA Today confirmed, is that Atkins went into the hospital weighing 195 pounds. He quickly fell into a coma and lingered for nine days in that vegetative state, being fed liquids that doctors tell me can indeed add dramatic weight in a short period of time.
But what Atkins ultimately weighed getting into, and sadly out of, that hospital doesn't matter. Common decency does. And this Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine wouldn't know the first thing about it.
It's one thing to hate a diet. It's quite another to use a dead man to make your point about that diet.
That dead man can't defend himself. So allow me.
I knew Atkins. I covered Atkins. The times I saw him he didn't look obese to me. And why would he? He was the poster child for the most talked about diet revolution in human history! You don't stay on message if you're not staying in shape. And the Atkins I saw was staying in shape.
He freely told me he battled weight in life.
It's a pity he can't battle classless fools in death.
The same fools who selectively cite only what they want in Atkins' medical records, who claim he had cardiomyopathy but fail to claim it wasn't his diet that caused that heart ailment. It was a viral infection.
Look, I have no ax to grind on Atkins.
I do have an ax to grind on fairness.
Try as critics have to disavow the health benefits of eating a low-carbohydrate diet, those who have tried it have lost weight, lowered their cholesterol and lowered their blood pressure.
Look, some people don't like low-carb diets. That's fine. What isn't is condemning the success of those who have lost weight on it and have fitter physiques because of it.
The medical establishment never much flipped over Atkins when he was alive. But they waited to pounce only when he was dead, and only then to use his corpse to make a point.
These critics say the diet makes you sick. Right now, they make me sick.
Their inconclusive studies. Their unsupported claims. Their high and mighty nutritional appeals. They think they've cornered the market on diets that work but ignore the very real medical proof that Atkins' worked better.
I'm not saying they have to eat a steak to see the light.
Just quit stabbing a "steak" through a dead man's heart to make a bloated point.
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02/15/04: The smallest slight, the biggest headache