Are You a Compulsive Eater

Many carbohydrate addicts could no more walk past a refrigerator without opening it than Venus or Serena Williams could let a short lob drift overhead without smashing it. I've heard many patients say, "It's irresistible, Dr. Atkins. I'm a slave. How can you possibly help me?"

I say, "That's all right. Your compulsions hold no terrors for me, and soon they won't for you. When you pass that refrigerator, open it, have some chicken salad or a slice of pot roast. If you eat the way I'm asking you to eat, you'll find that food is still delicious, but the compulsions will fade."

You see, your food compulsion isn't a character disorder, it's a chemical disorder called hyperinsulinism, and you have it simply because you've eaten the same unhealthy way that most people in our culture do.

Rebecca Chasen liked baking breads and desserts for her friends. She liked eating that way, too. She had been large since childhood. Now, at age 32, she was carrying 264 pounds on her five-foot eleven-and-a-half-inch frame.

One day, she decided to try on an old pair of pants and found she couldn't bring the button within four inches of the hole. That same week someone at work told her he had lost 50 pounds doing Atkins. Rebecca had tried herbal diets, low-fat diets, the cabbage soup diet ("I was starving") and Fen-Phen ("I thought my heart was going to explode and so I stopped") over the previous decade. It was time for something completely different.

"I was a carbohydrate junkie, so adjusting to Atkins was hard. I desperately wanted bread for the first four days. I struggled to ignore the cravings, and after two weeks I had lost 17 pounds. My size 22 jeans, which were tight before, were now loose."

As Rebecca's cravings stopped, her pounds continued to disappear. One or two friends, in the grip of low-fat illusions, warned her of what terrible risks she was taking on an eating plan that allowed her to eat bacon and eggs for breakfast. Four months into Atkins, she decided to see her physician. "He reviewed my highly favorable cholesterol readings and all my other lab work, put me on the scale and finally said, 'Keep doing whatever you're doing, Rebecca. You're as healthy as a horse."'

After a year doing Atkins, Rebecca regularly takes walks and rides her bike. She finds she has much more energy, and, so far, she has lost 86 pounds. She has a whole new set of recipes to cook for her friends nowadays. And she never goes anywhere without some controlled carb snacks in her pocketbook.

"My dress size is now a 12 or 14. The old me wouldn't have been caught dead in clothing that showed my shape, but I just went shopping at The Gap and bought medium-sized fitted shirts. I don't recall buying such small shirts since I've been old enough to buy my own clothes. I have vowed to myself that I will never be fat again. I don't know why I didn't try Atkins ten years ago."

If all this still seems amazing to you, I can only say "read on." In the next chapter, we'll learn about the specific metabolic role that insulin plays in obesity.

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