The Atkins Paradigm

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One of the biggest pop-culture phenomenons in recent memory is the Atkins Diet. With millions of devotees who consider it the perfect diet, the original book spawned dozens of additional books, web sites, and more. Even among non-dieters the words Atkins Diet are familiar as are the central tenants of the diet. What allowed for its huge success and how can that be duplicated for success elsewhere.

The Atkins Diet’s enormous success can be attributed not to the diet itself, but rather to a few carefully chosen appeals to the human mind, and to the American mind in particular. These attributes can be repeated in other arenas in order to provide similar success among the population at large, and more specifically among large populations of unsophisticated adopters. Each factor below provides a crucial entry point into the mind of a non-expert which by definition make up the largest population in any area.


First and foremost, the Atkins Diet is easy. Although released as an entire book, the vast majority of the book is spent not on the diet itself, but on the various thereoies behind the diet and subsequently the “proof” that those theroies are right. This is a common format for books of this nature. What separates the Atkins diets from others however is the total simplicity of the diet’s central tenant, namely, “Don’t Eat Carbohydrates.” That’s it. Everything else is simply a nuance to that point. Obviously, it is impossible to go through life without ingesting a single carbohydrate, so the diet does address a number, but that is the types of detail which are simply left behind by the massess as they move forward. “No Carbohydrates,” is all anyone remembers about the Atkins diet, and frankly it is all they need. This stunning simplicity allows not only for the least intellegent person to follow the diet, but also to evangilize it. Indeed, a half-witted monkey with a translator can tell another person that they will lose weight if they stop eating carbohydrates.


There are no words to describe just how far the Atkins Diet goes in its positive focus. Every possible negative thought is banished by the diet itself. In fact, the diet somehow even compells those who describe it to add a BONUS posititve to their discussion. If you think back to the first time you heard about the Atkins Diet from another person I’m sure you can remember the second sentence uttered after they told you not to eat carbs. “You can even eat bacon!” became the rallying cry of many followers.

The Atkins Diet promoted its supremacy to the exclusion of all other lines of thought. Carbohydrates were not only the cause of obesity, but they were bad for dozens of other reasons as well including the fact that they were not a “natural” part of the human diet. Offered as proof for this statement was the noble caveman who as a hunter/gatherer ate meat, not carbohydrates. Carbohydrates also are the cause of diabetes, being tired, and numerous other troubles. By following the Atkins Diet one not only lost weight, they improved their life.


Upon re-examination, one sees not revolution in the Atkins Diet, but a startling similarity to all dieting conventional wisdom. Conventional dieting wisdom suggests the elimination of certain foods from one’s diet. These foods include, chips, cakes, candy, cookies, brownies, donuts, deserts, crackers, processed bread (particularly white bread), sodas, juices that are not 100% juice, cereals, candy bars, most toppings like butter, sour cream, dressing, fatty meats, and several other foods. Ironically, despite its adherents quickness to point out that they can eat bacon, virtually the entire list of banned foods is the same.

To wit, another way to describe the Atkins Diet would be to say: You will lose weight if you do not eat, cake, cookies, chips, candy, brownies, donuts, etc… The only difference between the Atkins Diet and the traditional dieting prohibitions is that meats are left in. Basically, by adding bacon back to the allowed menu, the diet created a “revolution.” The cleverness of using meat as the proverbial carrot is that meat is particularly difficult to eat as a snack or to munch on. Eliminating snacking and random “grazing” would ensure at least some weight loss for the vast majority of those who are overweight.

Indeed, during the Atkins craze a television reporter for the show Dateline did a whole segment on how he had lost weight on the Atkins diet. The story produced a moment of sureal hillarity when the reporter described his old eating habits in contrast to his current eating habits. While sitting in front of a plate of food, he said that for dinner he used to eat, “A bunch of bread, a salad, a baked potato, a steak, and desert.” Under the shocking brand-new unbelieveable Atkins diet he “Skipped the bread, did not eat the potato or desert, and he lost weight!” Really? You ate half the food you used to eat and you lost weight? Shocking!


The Atkins Diet took advantage of one other powerful entry into the human psyche: the conspiracy. A revolutionary idea cannot be truly revolutionary without coming at the expense of the established elite who shamelessly promote the old idiom despite its flaws. In the Atkins Diet books the author is quick to point out that his diet will not meet with welcome from the established medical and weight loss establishments who, of course, are hiding the truth. For the Atkins diet, the conspiracy comes courtisy of years of mis-interpretation of data showing the trouble with carbohydrates. The cave man evidence is used repeatedly to back up this notion. In addition concepts such as “glycimic index” and other real concepts are introduced to the benefit of the diet’s methodology. The fact that the glycimic index is very real and easily found once looked for, only adds credibility to the diet.


No revolution can succeed without offering a path to the better life. The boldest suggest that their new idea is the end all be all idea that everyone has been waiting for. This allows for the proper zeal and insulates its participants from any outside criticism. The Atkins Diet proclaimed on its cover that it was the “Diet Revolution” boldly suggesting that it would be the force that finally swept out the flawed and failed methods of the past, and that those who read it would never need another diet book.


The success of the Atkins Diet was quickly turned into more success via the launching of parallel or related ventures. Follow up books came quickly (especially to refute the early criticims launched by the establishment), followed by receipe books, licensed food items, licensed logos for restaraunt menus, web sites, and even food delivery plans. Each subsequent product launch not only provided more buzz, but gave adherents a new place to turn when their attention waivered from their current products. When the book no longer seemed shiny and new, one could simply read the web site for new and more amazing information.


Whether for business or politics, the Atkins Paradigm can be harnessed for success. By carefully crafting a positive message that is very easy to understand and articulate and then pumping up that message by offering rewards that are being denied by the establishment a business or message can succeed among the masses. When that occurs, one should be ready with follow up products or services which can exploit and continue that success.

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