Pounding away on her treadmill, Abby Schmidt is trying to shed the extra pounds she gained after she quit her low-carb diet.
“We got tired of the meals we were making,” says Schmidt.
And Schmidt is not alone. This year, according to one estimate, about a third of Americans on low-carb diets — up to 8 million people — have simply walked away.
“America does like to try new things, but if it requires you to change your behavior forever, and that's what this one did, it's going to be very unlikely that Americans will keep up with it,” says Harry Balzer, a food analyst with NPD Group.
In the last two years, more than 3,800 low-carb products were introduced, and sales soared, reaching $1.6 billion in the first nine months of 2004. Diet books topped the best-seller list and hundreds of headlines hyped the low-carb phenomenon.
“I've never seen anything like it,” says Balzer. “It was unbelievable how many manufacturers ran into this in a quick way.”
But now that appetite appears to be on the wane.
Analyst Larry Shiman says low-carb food producers caught in the stampede failed to do their homework.
“I don’t think they quite weighed the risks that this might not be something that's permanent, and especially that their products might not be the ones in demand,” says Shiman, the vice president of Opinion Dynamics.
Low-fat, low-sugar and low-cholesterol diets have had their day. Now the low-carb blitz may join them.
As for Abby Schmidt and her husband, Andy, the diet taught them something.
“It's really made me more disciplined about what I'm eating, you know. I'm more conscientious about what I put in my mouth,” she says.
Like millions of others, the Schmidts are now watching their weight the old-fashioned way — with a balanced diet and lots of exercise.