Stupid People II: When Carbs Attack

I am rapidly losing patience with this low-carb business. All of a sudden, the poor carbohydrate has become Public Enemy Number One. One moment carbs are an integral part of the Food Pyramid, and now they’re considered about as healthy as lead paint.

Whenever a major, sudden switch in public opinion like this occurs, you just know that stupidity is working overtime.

Doctors and dieticians have been saying it until they are blue in the face. Let’s repeat it again for the slow learners: The only way to lose weight and keep it off is to eat a balanced diet, control portions, and exercise. Even I, having been overweight my entire life, know this.

People continually refuse to accept this. They insist that there must be a magic bullet, a miracle drug, some new scientific breakthrough that will enable them to continue to eat like pigs and have the pounds melt away. They spend millions of dollars a year on diet books and diet plans and magazines with diet tips, always looking for the easy fix.

Yet, for some reason, people continue to get fatter and fatter. Look at the statistics on obesity. Don’t you think those numbers would start to decrease if even one of these magical diets was worth a damn?

Now, everyone has decided that the low-carb diet is the latest miracle, thanks to the Atkins diet plan, which wallowed in well-deserved obscurity for many years before becoming the Next Big Thing.

The reason the Atkins plan became so popular is because it contradicts many of the things we always knew about nutrition but didn’t want to hear. “Limit your intake of red meat, fat, and cholesterol.” Screw that! Not on this plan! Eat all the meat you want! “Eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables.” Forget that noise! Besides, if you liked fruits and vegetables, you wouldn’t be fat in the first place!

Atkins demands only one measly sacrifice. You must give up carbs. Hmmm…no more bread, pasta, or dessert. That’ll be tough. But hey, I’ll be eating so much meat, I won’t even care! Pass the bacon!

The reason that people lose weight on the Atkins diet, especially at the start, is because (gasp) carbohydrates are actually a necessary component of a balanced diet. Completely eliminating any healthy, essential part of your diet will result in weight loss. The scientific term for this is “malnutrition.” It’s the principle behind many of the most popular diet plans in impoverished countries, such as the “Nothing But Rice Diet.”

So, a lot of people have some initial success on the Atkins plan, and would, no doubt, continue to lose weight if they could stay on the program for an extended period of time. This is where the whole concept breaks down.

See, your body is smarter than your brain. After a prolonged period of carbohydrate withdrawal, your body starts sending messages to your brain that this continued imbalance will not be tolerated. Eventually, the body simply overrides the brain and commands the hands to start shoving Oreo cookies into your mouth. Your brain, which has been working at reduced capacity because of nutrition deprivation, is powerless to intervene. And the moment those cookies hit your carb-starved belly, you will re-inflate like an emergency life vest.

Think about it. If you haven’t tried Atkins yourself, you certainly know at least a few people who have. Talk to them. Do you know of anyone who has stuck with this program for more than a few weeks?

As it turns out, the majority of people who say they’re on “Atkins” are actually on a custom diet regimen of their own design. They cherry-pick the aspects of the Atkins and South Beach diets that they like, and ignore everything else. On this plan, you eat as much protein and fat as you can without actually exploding. You consume carbs as well, but you negate their impact by obsessing about them and applying a complicated mathematical formula involving something called “net carbs” that demonstrates conclusively that you didn’t actually eat as much as you did. For simplicity, I will refer to this program as the “Doofus Diet.”

Now, thanks to the Doofus Diet, there is a golden opportunity for clever food marketers who have discovered that they can concoct “low-carb” versions of otherwise unhealthy foods, and the Doofus Dieters will snarf them down. They can eat sandwiches again, thanks to low-carb bread. With a side of low-carb potato chips. And low-carb ice cream for dessert. Wash it down with a couple of low-carb beers. It’s a feast for the delusional.

The June 2004 issue of Consumer Reports contains excellent coverage of this whole low-carb food craze. In addition to some much-needed common sense (“Low-carb junk food is still junk”), their ratings of a variety of low-carb food products turn up some very interesting facts. For example, Michelob Ultra, supposedly a specially formulated low-carb beer, contains exactly the same number of calories and carbs as Miller Lite.

Do you see what that means? It’s pure marketing. They slapped a different label on the same watered-down, carbonated piss everyone else is selling, raised the price, and the Doofus Dieters are gulping it down by the case.

Soon, the Brown-Forman company will be introducing a line of low-carb wines. This is wonderful news. We’ll have to deal with people who are fat, stupid, and pretentious. Any bartender worth his salt should just turn the seltzer hose on these yuppie pricks.

So, why should this affect us, the non-stupid people? How are we being impacted by this? Can’t we just ignore it until it goes away?

Sadly, no. You see, there is only so much space available on grocery store shelves. “Low-carb” products are wasting more and more of that limited space, crowding out other foods. Perhaps our favorite foods won’t be eliminated entirely, but the good stuff is already getting harder to find. Sometimes, it’s all the way on the bottom shelf, and I’m forced to bend over. Gimme a break here.

While some companies are taking advantage, others are being hurt in a major way. Krispy Kreme has had to (momentarily) suspend its plans for world domination. At the local level, bakeries and pizza parlors are going under. Pizza joints come and go, I know — but some of these bakeries are family businesses that go back generations. Losing one of those to a short-lived fad is a tragedy indeed. They can’t just reopen after the Doofus Dieters have moved on to the next ill-advised diet fad, such as the Throat Condom.

Here’s a news flash, Brainiac: a bagel won’t make you fat. Three bagels will. With a half-pound of cream cheese. And a freakin’ Mocha Frappuccino.

While we’re at it, let’s not forget the celebrity poster children for the whole low-carb craze. As you may recall, a couple on the Doofus Diet was thrown out of a Chuck-A-Rama buffet near Salt Lake City in April for attempting to consume an entire cow for $8.99.

Yes, this is absolutely true. They were asked to leave after requesting their twelfth helping of roast beef. And they had the audacity to appear on Good Morning America to whine about it. These people actually expected to lose weight after eating twelve servings of beef just because they skipped the goddamned potato.

The Chuck-A-Rama people had to apologize to them. Why? Because they feared a Doofus Boycott. They were concerned (rightfully) that their business would be hurt if stupid people stopped eating there.

It’s a good thing I’m not the president of Chuck-A-Rama. Because I wouldn’t have apologized. I would have gone on Good Morning America and berated this couple on national television. “And don’t come back!” I’d shout, brandishing a French fry at them in menacing fashion. “You fat stupid bastards!”

Then, I’d turn to the camera. “And for the rest of you morons — don’t even think about it! Starting next week, all Chuck-A-Rama restaurants will be administering IQ tests at the door. No stupid people will be admitted! And we’re posting signs: For the comfort and convenience of our guests, this is an idiot-free environment! And then we can take the sneeze guards off the salad bar and make everyone happy!”

We’d all have a wonderful time for about three weeks, until Chuck-A-Rama filed for Chapter 11.

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