Atkins diet enthusiasts say they are losing inches with food plan rich in high-fat fare

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Bacon and eggs, beefsteak and real butter &045; a diet for losing pounds and inches, you say? No way, the skeptics have said for years about the Dr. Robert C. Atkins high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet first released in his 1972 book, &uot;Dr. Atkins’ Diet Revolution.&uot;

Now 30 years later, the Atkins diet is getting second looks by many medical specialists and is the subject of some studies that bear out the theories he has espoused for several decades.

In a nutshell, one of the many informative Web sites featuring the Atkins diet puts it this way:

Email newsletter signup

&uot;Both carbohydrates and fats provide fuel for the body’s needs. Carbohydrates are the first to be metabolized. However, when the intake of digestible carbohydrates is sufficiently restricted (without caloric restriction), the body converts from the primary metabolic pathway of burning carbohydrate to burning fat as its main energy source. This results in weight loss.&uot;

Cardiac surgery nurse Susan McMillin of Vidalia, La., knows plenty about the theories and the results of the Atkins diet. Her success with it was so spectacular that she felt compelled to share her knowledge, experience and enthusiasm with others.

&uot;Since last April I’ve lost 34 pounds and 35 inches in the 11 places we measure,&uot; McMillin said. &uot;I’m wearing sizes 4, 5 and 6, down from the sizes 12 and 14 I was wearing last year.&uot;

Working with heart surgeons at Our Lady of the Lake Medical Center in Baton Rouge, McMillin began to talk with the doctors about the diet and how it worked for her.

&uot;I was so enthused, and Dr. Eugene Berry wanted me to tell him about it. After several conversations he said the diet made sense. He wanted me to present the information to his medical group,&uot; she said.

After successfully working with

groups in Baton Rouge and getting encouragement from physicians there, she knew it was time to offer the opportunities to learn about the diet to her own neighbors in Vidalia and Natchez.

Now, every Monday at 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. she holds the workshop at First Baptist Church in Vidalia, introducing the diet and motivating people to try it.

For Hazel Ferrell of Natchez, the diet suited her needs perfectly. &uot;I was 78 on February 22, and I feel great,&uot; she said. &uot;I’d gotten a little fluffy around the middle.&uot;

Ferrell said her goal was to lose 20 pounds. However, the Atkins plan calls for measuring success in inches, not in pounds &045; that is, inches reduced from the upper arms, thighs, waist, and several other places checked weekly along with blood sugar, blood cholesterol, blood pressure and pulse.

The diet was not difficult for her, Ferrell said. At first, she missed the fruits she always had enjoyed eating. But those will come back gradually into her diet as she begins the maintenance phase at the end of her second 100 days on the plan.

&uot;It’s been great. You are not deprived on this diet. You look good and you feel good,&uot; she said.

Sharon Browning of Natchez also gives the plan high marks. As one who had tried other diets, she found the Atkins program suited her need to get off carbohydrates.

&uot;I’ve lost 27 pounds and lots of inches,&uot; Browning said. &uot;I totally got off sugar and totally off caffeine.&uot;

Browning said giving up potatoes and bread was not easy at first. She has been on the diet since October and will stay with it.

She also gives McMillin high marks for inspiring those who are in the group. &uot;This is her ministry to work with people who have weight problems,&uot; she said.

Indeed, McMillin looks on it as sharing a God-given talent and her

opportunity to help others in her own personal way.

She hopes to expand the program and to publish the workbook she has prepared during the past year.

&uot;With this diet, you start with a high-fat content. It causes a kind of spring cleaning of your fat cells,&uot; she said. &uot;You get where you are comfortable with your weight, and then you begin adding back the vegetables and start taking the fat off your meat again.&uot;

The diet begins with a heavy load of fat &045; 50 to 60 percent of the daily intake. Breakfast indeed can include bacon, eggs, cheese and heavy cream in the coffee.

McMillin said she was determined to stick with the Atkins plan when she began it last year. &uot;I prayed that I could stick with it for 100 days. I used God’s power. I couldn’t have done it alone.&uot;

For most of her life, she said, she had consumed far too many carbohydrates. She ate too many sweets, from which the &uot;pancreas just yanks out the sugar and turns it into fat. Dr. Atkins in his very first book said sugar is a poison and it’s going to kill people.&uot;

She teaches the diet because she believes in it. And she believes that a nurse is someone most people will trust. &uot;This diet is the most incredible thing, and it absolutely works.&uot;

A typical Atkins diet allows about 1,560 calories a day, from which 60 percent is fat, 35 percent is protein and only 5 percent is carbohydrate.

Recent studies have shown not only a remarkable success rate in producing weight loss for participants; but the Atkins diet followers also get high marks for their blood work &045; cholesterol levels, being among the important effects.

In one

recent study, Atkins dieters showed so-called bad cholesterol rising seven points but the &uot;good&uot; cholesterol going up almost 12 points. Further, Atkins dieters showed a drop of 22 points in triglycerides.

Meanwhile, McMillin, busy wife and mother of three daughters ages 6 and under, enjoys pulling out clothes from the attic worn many years ago. She has gone from an extra large surgery gown to an extra small. She would like to meet Dr. Atkins someday. &uot;I’d like to follow that man through a food court in a mall and see what he had to say.&uot;