Letters

Who says starvation is unnatural? Readers respond to Katharine Mieszkowski's "Hackers on Atkins."


Salon Staff
November 20, 2003 1:30AM (UTC)

[Read the story.]

Good for the geeks -- after years ranting on insufferably about how they were going to reshape the world while sitting on their asses, they've finally found the wisdom to turn within and rant on insufferably about how they're going to reshape themselves while sitting on their asses.

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Call me when they transcend humanity -- until then I'll be in the bar.

-- Craig Payst

Like a large powdered doughnut, Katharine Mieszkowski's article on geek dieters was fluffy and completely devoid of nutritional value.

A cutesy article comparing hacking to "body engineering" may be amusing, but where's the beef?

Honestly, Salon. When you print an article about a controversial nutritional theory, please don't insult your readers' intelligence by omitting professional opinions on the issue -- both pro and con.

-- Shelly Butcher

I was very interested to read your article about hackers and dieting, but also surprised to see no mention whatsoever of the increasingly popular Hacker's Diet.

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Excuse me for a couple of paragraphs while I get all evangelic. The Hacker's Diet is a program designed by John Walker, the guy who wrote large chunks of the program AutoCAD. He calls it the Hacker's Diet not just because of his vocation, but also because he approaches weight loss as an engineering problem that can be solved. I have firsthand experience with it because as an overweight computer professional, I have been on the Hacker's Diet for about five months now, and I've lost 39 pounds so far.

The Hacker's Diet is not the national fad that Atkins is, and it's not as unique in its approach, either. Essentially the diet is calorie counting. It's Walker's explanation of how the body uses calories, and how and why you can control your food intake, that makes it effective. I can attest to this: Not only am I shedding pounds on it, but so are no fewer than five of my friends. The diet got into our group and spread like a particularly virulent meme. By next spring we're all going to be at our ideal weight and in possession of a diet plan that will keep us there as long as we stick to it.

I'm not slighting Atkins in any way, understand ... I'm just surprised that an article about hackers and dieting wouldn't have at least mentioned an obvious association.

-- Eric Musall

"Ketosis is not a natural body state so the sheer thought of intentionally utilizing ketosis for weight loss is appealing," writes Sosik-Hamor.

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I see this claim of unnaturality repeated annoyingly often in Atkins diet articles, by people who regard plenty as the norm and starvation as the exception. That's certainly true for them at this stage of human history, but there's little indication that it was true when their genes were being more actively selected for.

-- Allen Knutson

The metaphor of the Atkins diet being similar to overclocking a computer chip is an excellent one.

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Something not mentioned in your article is that overclocking a computer chip can cause that chip to overheat and break down. There are, in fact, risks associated with overclocking, just as there are with Atkins.

-- L. Cramer


Salon Staff

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