In Remembrance: Why I Admired Dr. Atkins

Life In The Low Carb Lane

Dr. Robert C. Atkins died recently, not of the heart attack or stroke that some many of his dietary opponents predicted, but from head injuries received from a fall on the ice outside The Atkins Center in New York. Dr. Atkins, who was 72, had just walked a mile from his apartment to the Center to go to work, as was his routine.

I mourn his death not simply because he was a great leader in dietary nutrition and will be missed, but also because at 72 he was still walking a mile to work every day. There are two important parts of that last phrase:

  • Dr. Atkins was still productive and working at age 72.
  • Dr. Atkins was still walking a mile to work each day at age 72. (And, presumably, he was walking a second mile each evening to get back home, so he gets credit for walking two miles each day.)

How many 72-year-olds have the energy, drive, interest, and physical ability to continue working every day – not because they need to, but because they want to?

How many 72-year-olds walk anywhere that they can drive to? The answer to both questions is: not very many.

That’s why I mourn his death: because he was too young and was not yet ready – physically, mentally, or emotionally – to die. If it weren’t for a freak accident, he’d still be healthy and energetic and ALIVE today. A freak accident – not a heart attack, not a stroke, not kidney failure.

I am thankful to Dr. Atkins for his groundbreaking research and work in dietary nutrition. I am thankful that one day 30-some years ago he made the intuitive leap that became the basis for Dr. Atkins New Diet Revolution and all his subsequent work. But I admire Dr. Atkins for something else entirely: his perseverance.

For thirty-some years Dr. Atkins did not waiver from his conviction that the over-consumption of carbohydrates was the root cause for the obesity, high cholesterol levels, and diabetes that plagues so many people. He was attacked by virtually the entire health care system, and he never wavered, never equivocated, never backed down. He stood his ground, suffered the slings and arrows of his critics (but not silently, thank God!), and just kept on doing and recommending to his patients what he knew was the right thing.

How many of us can say that?!? How many of us can say that we have endured the mean-spirited criticism and the professional persecution that Dr. Atkins did and that we still continued to do what we knew was right? Again, the answer is: not many.

Thankfully, the reason most of us have not done this is simply because we have not had to, but if put in Dr. Atkins’ position, would we have? If I am honest with myself, I’d have to say that I don’t know that I could have. Dr. Atkins lifelong stance took an incredible amount of perseverance and courage. I’m not certain that I have that amount of fortitude. Hopefully, I will never be in the position where I have to find out. I hope you don’t find yourself there, either.

But now, when I waiver, thinking that sticking to a low carbohydrate diet is just too hard, when I get tired of explaining yet again to yet another nay-sayer why I low carb, when that baked potato or piece of cake seems to be just too tempting, well, I am going to pull up the memory of Dr. Atkins’ calm reason, undeniable courage, and public grace and tell myself to just get over it. If Dr. Atkins could deal so successfully with the trials and tribulations of his life, which were certainly much greater than mine, then for heaven’s sake I can deal with my own little problems without falling into the self pity, poor-little-me-this-is-just-too-hard trap.

So thank you, Dr. Atkins, not just for your work, but for your life and how you lived it.

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