The History of the Atkins Diet – A Revolutionary Lifestyle!

Statistic: 61% of people in the United States are overweight. Are you among them? Are you a statistic in your own country? If you are – or even if you think you are – perhaps you’ll be interested in the history of diets; in particular, the Atkins Diet. But a history of the Atkins Diet wouldn’t be complete without first looking at the history of diets in general.

It may surprise you that dieting is a relatively new idea. The first “diet” wasn’t developed until 1898. And an unusual diet it was! A man named Horace Fletcher, weighing in at 205 pounds, lost 42 of those pounds by chewing his food 100 times per minute. He said this technique aided digestion, leading to his being named “The Great Masticator”. A much more reasonable plan was created in 1918 by Dr. Lulu Peters. Dr. Peters was the first to introduce the idea of “counting calories”.

Then the diet “fads” started. In 1930, there was the Hollywood Diet, more commonly known as the “grapefruit diet”, which involved eating 585 calories a day for 18 days, including only grapefruit, hard-boiled eggs, green vegetables and melba toast. In 1948, more than half of patients being treated for obesity were prescribed amphetamines, a dangerous practice.

The development of Saccharin, the sugar substitute, in 1958 started a whole new revolution in diet foods. This led to the first sugar-free soft drink, Tab, in 1963. In 1981, Aspartame, another sugar substitute, followed in the form of Nutra-Sweet.

People all over the world were becoming weight-conscious. Way back in 1919, the Continental Scale Company saw a market being created and introduced the first bathroom scale, called the “Health-O-Meter”. Then in 1942, the Metropolitan Insurance Company started using weight tables in their calculations of premiums – the closer your were to the “ideal weight”, the lower your premiums. Industry was cashing in on the weight-loss consciousness.

But diets were hard to follow – people needed support and encouragement. It became recognized that being a member of a group helped tremendously in getting through the difficult times of dieting. The first to initiate this group idea was Jean Nidetch. She and some friends met in her apartment to counsel each other about dieting. Her support system eventually became Weight Watchers.

In 1968, the Perma-Slim Plan, a group therapy weight control organization, was founded. In 1972, Dr. Robert C. Atkins introduced his “Diet Revolution”, a high-protein, high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet. Then the diet programs really started rolling in. Take a look at just a few of the better-known ones:

  • 1974 – Richard Simmons’ Ruffage and the Anatomy Asylum – promoted exercise and healthy eating.
  • 1974 – The Perma-Slim Plan introduced their “Stay Slim System” – tracked numbers or points relating to food groups.
  • 1977 – The Pritkin Diet Program – recommended a high-fiber diet with less than 10% of calories from fat.
  • 1978 – The “Complete Scarsdale Medical Diet” – high-protein, low-carb.
  • 1979 – Wendy’s Hamburgers – introduced salad bars.
  • 1980 – The Beverley Hills Diet – recommended eating nothing but fruit for the first 10 days.
  • 1982 – “Jane Fonda’s Workout” – another video exercise program.
  • 1983 – Jenny Craig – sells her own line of food, combined with weight-loss counseling.
  • 1988 – Optifast Diet – Oprah Winfrey loses 67 pounds on this liquid diet.
  • 1995 – The Zone Diet – involved eating plenty of protein, fruits and vegetables, and staying away from breads and pastas.

So you can see that the diet revolution has taken a firm hold on people’s desire to live long and healthy lives. So let’s look back at the very first “Diet Revolution”, created by Dr. Atkins.

Dr. Atkins spurns the “experts”

In 1972, Dr. Robert C. Atkins introduced the Atkins Nutritional Approach in his book, “Dr. Atkins’ Diet Revolution”. This was a courageous move, since his methods went against the ideas of many medical experts. But Dr. Atkins hadn’t reached his conclusions without substantial research.

Robert C. Atkins was born on October 17, 1930, in Columbus, Ohio. In 1951, he graduated from the University of Michigan with a major in pre-med. He continued his studies and, in 1955, received his medical degree from Cornell University Medical School. Cardiology became his major interest and he did his residencies at Rochester and Columbia University hospitals, eventually ending up at New York’s St. Luke’s Hospital.

In 1960, with his education under his belt, he opened his own private practice in New York City. As he treated his patients, he began to formulate his controlled carbohydrate approach to dieting, based on a series of articles published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. This led to the publication of the first edition of “Dr. Atkins’ Diet Revolution”. The latest editions of this book, "Dr. Atkins’ New Diet Revolution", published in 1992 and 1999, have sold more than 10 million copies worldwide, and are one of the top 50 best-selling books of all time, remaining on “The New York Times” bestseller list for 5 years. There is now a 2002 edition, including 7 new chapters, numerous new tips for a healthy lifestyle, and 100 new recipes. Just like his other books, this new edition has topped the self-help bestseller list.

Dr. Atkins builds an organization to support his teachings

Dr. Atkins believed strongly in his teachings, even though he was constantly met with resistance and disagreement from the medical profession. Here are some of the highlights in his life that aided in his success:

  • 1984 – expanded and renamed his private practice to The Atkins Center for Complementary Medicine.
  • 1985 – received the National Health Federation Man of the Year Award.
  • 1987 – co-founded the Foundation for the Advancement of Innovative Medicine.
  • 1989 – established Complementary Formulations, Inc., a mail-order distributor of food and vitamin products, renamed in 1998 to Atkins Nutritionals, Inc.
  • 1990 – received the World Organization of Alternative Medicine Recognition of Achievement Award.
  • 1998 – published “Dr. Atkins’ Vita-Nutrient Solution: Nature’s Answer to Drugs”.
  • 1999 – established the Dr. Robert C. Atkins Foundation.
  • 1999 – named one of “People” magazine’s 25 Most-Intriguing People.
  • 1999 – featured in “Time” magazine cover story on controlled carbohydrate nutrition.
  • 2001 – received Doctor of Humane Letters from Fairleigh Dickinson University for lifetime achievement in integrating alternative and conventional therapies.
  • 2002 – is chosen as one of the “People Who Mattered 2002” in “Time” magazine.
  • 2003 – released “Atkins for Life”, designed to help people who didn’t necessarily want to lose weight, to live a healthy lifestyle.

This is quite an impressive list of achievements, especially for a man whose teachings were opposed for so long. But as you can see, as time progressed, there was a gradual turn in the opposition to his teachings. His recognition was substantial for his work in the natural healing arts as a safe and effective alternative to pharmaceutical drugs and surgery. This was his life work. There’s no doubt he’d still be making advances in this science if he hadn’t had a most unfortunate mishap.

Dr. Atkins dies – but his work lives on

On April 8, 2003, at the age of 72, Dr. Atkins was walking to work in New York, when he slipped on the ice and hit his head. At the Weill-Cornell Medical Center, on April 17, 2003, he died from complications from head trauma caused by his fall.

His life’s work is continued today by the foundations and organizations he created. His products and plans are available online. Dr. Robert C. Atkins established his place in history – the history of the Atkins Diet plan is firmly implanted in the diet industry and has contributed to the improvement of many lives. If you want to include your life in this growing list of improved lifestyles be a part of Dr. Atkins Diet Revolution.

About The Author

Gareth Marples is a freelance writer providing valuable tips and advice to consumers about Dr. Robert Atkins and his sometimes controversial diet plan, plus information on Atkins recipes and food products. His numerous articles offer moneysaving tips and valuable insight on typically confusing topics.

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