I’ll admit it. I’m a man of ample carriage. At this time every two years I and my fellow political hacks tend to, how shall I say this, bulk up? Sure, after the election we’ll hop back on the treadmill and gobble down salads again. But for now the pressures of demanding clients, the stressful anticipation of the next poll, and the sleepless hours in editing suites and campaign headquarters will mean excessive corpulence for a few more weeks. It is a bipartisan problem. But what can we say? We suffer for our work.
Sadly, too many of my compatriots turn in their desperation to fad diets to offset the ruinous effects of campaign life. One such regimen, the Atkins Diet, has ensnared so many of my friends and colleagues, I am compelled finally to speak out. This strange cultural phenomenon leads perfectly normal and intelligent people to consume things like steak and Diet Coke for breakfast, cheese cubes for lunch and bacon with a side of pork rinds for dinner.
You see, Atkins isn’t really a diet at all. It’s a cult. And political professionals all over Washington, D.C. have drunk the Kool-Aid, sweetened with Splenda, of course.
Don’t take my word for it. Just run down the Cultic Studies Review‘s checklist on how to identify a cult and cross-reference it with your own personal experience with this cultural blight known as Atkins.
Mind-numbing techniques are used to suppress doubts about the group. How else would you describe a grueling two-week “induction phase” during which dieters are to consume 20 or fewer grams of carbohydrates a day? In his book Dr. Atkins’ New Diet Revolution, Robert Atkins acknowledged that probable side-effects of this induction are lethargy and diminished mental acuity.
The group is pre-occupied with bringing in new members. My own copy of Dr. Atkins’ New Diet Revolution (its “bible,” if you will) is battered and worn. I am probably its third or fourth owner. It has been pushed from one friend to the next with the proselytizing fervor of a Jehovah’s Witness.
The group is preoccupied with making money. Ahem. “Atkins-approved Low Carb Bread”? “Atkins-approved” choices on your local sprawl diner’s menu? Notice the little ® on those labels? They aren’t approving this junk for their health. Or yours. The Atkins Nutritionals gets a cut. Of everything.
The group is elitist, claiming a special, exalted status for itself, its leaders, and its members. There’s an almost Gnostic component to the Atkins Diet. It’s a club with secret knowledge about how to lose weight. All other tried and true weight loss avenues (Weight Watchers, exercise, Slim Fast) are heretical for ignoring the immutable truths as laid out by Robert Atkins. The Atkins cultist snickers at the very concept of the FDA’s food pyramid. He who follows it is an ignoramus.
The group has a polarized us-versus-them mentality, which causes conflict within the larger society. One need only look at the mysterious circumstances surrounding the release of Robert Atkins’ medical report upon his death to know the larger society has been affected. Apparently People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (who, I admit, have their own issues) had something to do with revealing Dr. Atkins died at 260 lbs. In fact, there is an underground war raging between the PETA establishment types and the Atkins revolutionaries. I once brought up an argument against the Atkins Diet often used by PETA to a cultist friend, who then actually accused me of being a tool for the Department of Agriculture.
Members’ subservience to the group causes them to cut ties with family and friends, and to give up personal goals and activities that were of interest before joining the group. There was a time when a couple of pizzas and about fifteen beers apiece were all my friends and I needed for a good time. Then came Atkins. The beer was replaced with gin or vodka. Only the cheese and meat toppings of the pizza were consumed, leaving triangle shards of dough in the box. Eventually, it stopped being fun. I don’t even see many of my friends anymore, so tight are they wrapped in the clutches of the cult.
The group is focused on a living leader to whom members seem to display excessively zealous, unquestioned commitment. Robert Atkins is dead. So here, at least, is one point in favor of the cultists. And yet again, the death of Dr. Atkins is mired in mystery and intrigue. He slipped on an icy sidewalk. One doesn’t generally die from slipping on a sidewalk (unless your bones have turned to cheese, as may have been the case with Atkins.) But his spirit lives on at Atkins Nutritionals, a global enterprise that carries on his, um, mission.
I worry about my friends and colleagues in the campaign business. Is it not enough that we belong to a strange subculture of political hobbyists and news fetishists?