Weight loss is a personal struggle. Some people respond to different techniques better than others, other people’s bodies barely respond at all. This is why experts usually advise people who want to lose weight to find something that will be a perfect match for their body metabolism rate and their body size and type. According to Dr. Atkins, the best way is to monitor your intake of carbohydrates and sugar. This is not just a good way to lose weight, but it has also helped most of his patients keep the weight off, especially for people who have tried and struggled with low-calorie diets in the past.
The Atkins Diet is primarily a low carb diet. The success of your efforts at weight loss is heavily linked to the carbs you consume. Naturally, the body uses fat or sugar to generate the fuel it needs. to obtain the sugar it needs, the body converts carbs that you eat. The type of fuel you will be burning during exercise or in other attempts to lose weight is heavily dependent on the type of fuel you burn. This will also determine whether you can maintain your new weight level after losing it.
The Atkins Diet basically limits your carbohydrates. As a result, the body will burn fats to generate fuel. Through this approach, you will keep losing weight, even if you are still eating more calories. The goal is to strike a steady fueling level so that your body is constantly operating at optimum energy levels all through the day. You will also not be predisposed to hunger or cravings through the day. The concept behind the Atkins Diet has actually been tested and proven in more than 80 clinical studies. Therefore, if you have been trying to count calories and still struggling, it might be time for you to consider starting the Atkins Diet.
This diet is broken down into 4 phases, each with different requirements. If you follow them keenly, you should be able to lose weight and maintain the loss.
The following are the four phases:
- Phase 1 – Induction
- Phase 2 – Balancing
- Phase 3 – Fine-tuning
- Phase 4 – Maintenance
There are different opinions on whether you need to maintain the diet in the phases as described, with some people often choosing to skip the induction phase altogether, and instead, start using a lot of fruits and vegetables from the onset. There are also people who have had really good results by following the induction phase indefinitely, which is the basis of the Keto Diet, a very low carb diet.
Foods You Should Eat
With this list of foods, you can plan ahead to make sure that you do not starve yourself through the day. You should also try to avoid eating any foods that are not on this list. As you go through different phases, you will add more foods to this list as you proceed. This is the foundation of the Atkins Diet and the basis of the induction phase.
Fish offers quality protein and healthy fats, other than being one of the best sources of Vitamins B2 and D, minerals like potassium, iron and also provides calcium. Try and keep your fish to 4-6 ounce servings several times during the week.
Here are some options you should consider:
For the protection of lean muscle mass and to boost your weight loss agenda, you need to consume proteins, so that you only get to burn fat. The following are some meat options to think about:
Where possible, avoid processed meats or any meat that has added nitrates.
Shellfish provide omega-3 fatty acids, protein, healthy fats and minerals like magnesium, copper, zinc, and iron.
Poultry does not have net carbs. However, you need this to maintain a healthy diet. Where possible, you can spread your poultry choices across the divide.
- Cornish hen
Oils and Fats
In this diet, you must consume a good amount of healthy fat. When cooking, make sure that the oil you use does not get to extremely high temperatures. In the case of olive oil, only use it for sautéing. Restrict the use of sesame oil or walnut to salads or dressing vegetables. Do not use them for cooking.
- Grape seeds
Eggs are a good source of antioxidants, Vitamin A, and protein. When preparing eggs, you can include a variety of vegetables and herbs. You can prepare eggs in any of the following styles:
- Boiled soft
- Boiled hard
Most of the time, beverages contain hidden carbs and sugar, so you have to be very keen on the beverages you drink. During this phase, you should have no less than 64 ounces of water a day. Fluids will help you lose weight and maintain your health.
- Unflavored almond or soy milk
- Herbal tea
- Flavored seltzer (without calories)
- Diet soda, club soda (without calories)
- Clear broth without additives or sugars
- Heavy or light cream
While selecting cheese for your diet, you must remember that cheese contains some carbs, so you should not consume more than 4 ounces a day.
- Sour cream
- Swiss cheese
- Parmesan chunk cheese
- Whipped cream cheese
- Mozzarella whole milk cheese
- Cheddar cheese
- Grated parmesan cheese
Pay attention to the vegetables you choose for your meals. Ensure they are loaded with nutrients and have a solid fiber foundation. In the case of salad vegetables, get your measurements when they are still raw.
- Cooked collard greens, bok choy, turnip greens, zucchini, cauliflower, broccoli, okra, asparagus, scallion
- Raw tomatoes, jicama, rhubarb, fennel, red or white onions, sliced cucumber, radicchio, spinach, arugula, radishes
Herbs and Spices
Use spices and herbs to add flavor to your food. As you go shopping for these, make sure you read their labels to make sure that what you buy does not have any added sugar.
- Cayenne pepper
- Dried rosemary
- Ground sage
- Black pepper
Before including any salad dressing in your meal plan, ensure you read the labels to confirm that they do not have added sugar.
- Bleu cheese
- Red wine vinegar
- Lime juice
- Lemon juice
- Balsamic vinegar
Phase 1: Induction
In this phase, there is only one goal, to jumpstart your foray into weight loss. Most people who are ill-informed actually assume that this is the entire Atkins Diet program. As you progress from one stage to the other, you will be able to consume as many carbs as you need while still losing weight. You will also have better control of your appetite, be fully energized and alert. It is all about creating and maintaining a balance.
The induction phase should last at least 2 weeks. However, in case you want to lose more weight, you can stay on course for as long as you need to, especially if you need to lose a lot of weight in a very short time. Ideally, it is advisable to stay in the induction phase until you are around 15 pounds from your target goal.
It is advisable that you stick to the foods that are acceptable at this stage so that the body can learn and get used to burning fats for energy instead of burning carbs. If done properly, you should reduce your carb intake daily to between 18 and 22 grams.
The following are useful tips that should guide you in your meal plan as you get through the induction phase.
Don’t Starve Yourself. This is important. Make sure you have three meals and two snacks daily. In fact, you should not go for 3 – 4 hours before eating something. You can break down your meals for the day into 5 or 6 small meals so that you do not stay hungry.
Carb Consumption. You need to eat around 20 grams of carbs daily. 60%-75% of this is supposed to be from vegetables. Your consumption should never drop below 18 grams or go beyond 22 grams a day.
Enough Proteins. Proteins are important in your struggle to lose weight. This is because proteins protect your lean muscle mass, making sure that you only lose fat. Limit your consumption to 4-6 ounces a day.
Dehydration. During this phase, losing your water weight is normal. However, this might rob you of energy if you do not keep it in check, and you will feel light headed. Once you start burning fat, this will stop. You have to maintain your electrolyte balance too, so make sure you are eating sufficient healthy salt.
On the same note, you should drink 8 glasses of water a day. You might, however, switch two to four of these with a cup of tea or coffee, or broth.
Hidden Carbs. When you are buying food in stores or eating out in a restaurant, you have to be very careful about the labels, especially for the condiments. Visit restaurants that allow you a variety of choices, so you can choose vinegar and oil as your salad dressing. Ask for sauces on the side, and if possible, find out from the chef the true contents of the food you are eating.
Phase 2: Balancing
During this phase, you start adding different foods into your diet, such as nuts, melon, strawberries, seeds, yogurt, until you create a balanced diet that works for you. In this phase, you are trying to maintain the momentum you initiated during the induction phase, as you continue to maintain your personal carb balance.
You should keep up with this phase until you are 10 pounds away from your desired goals. However, if you are in a hurry, you can still jump to the next phase as soon as you feel comfortable. The purpose here is to lose most of the excess pounds.
In this phase, you should start eating at least 25 grams of net carbs on a daily basis. Introduce a wide range of carb foods into your diet until you find a balance you are comfortable with, between 30 – 80 grams of net carbs daily. Some people even settle in higher quantities, with the option depending on hormones, level of activity, gender, age and any other factors that are unique to your situation.
Get on the Scale. Each week, make a point to measure your weight. Do not take weight measurements on a daily basis because your water weight might yield inconsistent results.
Net Carb Intake. Building on from the induction stage, increase your net intake of carbs by 5 grams weekly, or monthly, whichever period works well for you. Add carb foods into the diet, but do not rush. After adding any ingredient, allow time to notice the effect it has before you add something else.
Foundation Vegetables. Vegetables basically form the foundation of the Atkins Diet. While they contain carbs, they have the kind of carbs that you are supposed to be eating. Make sure you strive for around 15 grams of net carbs daily.
Phase 3: Fine Tuning
By the time you start this phase, you should be no more than 10 pounds away from your desired goal. You should finally strike gold in this stage. The goal here is to fine tune the diet so that you can now focus on keeping your weight.
This phase should persist until you reach your desired weight, and keep it up for a month. You will be working towards trimming the additional pounds and exploring your carb balance. It is basically the stage where you try out plans that you will use for the rest of your life. You will increase your net carb intake by between 5 and 10 grams at regular intervals. You can also introduce new carb foods from time to time. The concept is to keep losing weight and maintain it.
Dealing with a Plateau. A plateau is simply a moment of delayed gratification. Most people start experiencing this in phase 2. This should not worry you. However, you should make sure it is really a plateau, and not something else. Check your schedule and ensure you are doing everything correctly. If everything checks out, reduce your net carb intake by around 10 grams and then be patient and wait to see what happens over the next few days.
If you notice changes after that, you can increase the net carb intake by around 5 grams. Do this gradually until you find the best balance.
Understand your Diet. In this stage, you should be able to understand the type of food that you can handle and the ones that you cannot. When adding foods back into your diet, especially the ones that you used to eat but had to drop out in the induction phase, it might take a while for your body to adjust. This is why it is advisable that you add them one by one, and space them out so that you can identify how your body reacts to the changes. It is also easier to identify the particular food that’s giving you a hard time, as compared to adding a lot of foods at the same time.
Remove anything that you suspect might be interfering with your progress for a few days and see if things improve, then add it back, but in small quantities and monitor the changes.
Drinking Wine. You can have one or two glasses of wine in this stage. The reason behind this is that wine does not make you overeat, or encourage you to eat some of the snacks that usually go with alcohol. Other than that, wine does not make you gain weight. For ladies, you can take a glass of wine. Men, on the other hand, can have one or two. If you realize that you are gaining weight and suspect wine might be behind it, cut back on one or two glasses.
Desserts. You have a variety of desserts that you can have in this phase, including melon, cherries, and berries. Actually, you can pretty much eat whichever fruit you want in this stage, or any dessert as long as it does not have added sugar. In terms of net carbs, your desserts should not have more than 9 grams.
Phase 4: Maintenance
You have finally done it. You attained your target weight set out at the beginning of this diet. You now need to maintain this through your lifetime. Ideally, this is not actually a phase, but it now becomes part and parcel of your life. The food that you eat in this phase is basically the same foods that you have been eating already. These are foods that you might have tried to reintroduce back into your diet early on but failed, and right now you can handle them without worrying about your weight. Feel free to experiment with these foods at any time. What matters is that you stay as close as possible to your ideal weight.
This phase is about accepting the reality and being true to yourself. First, you must be honest and commit to the fact that you are going to live your life clean and healthy in terms of your food choices. If you do this, there is a good chance that you will never need to get on a diet again.
This, however, does not mean that you will not add a few pounds from time to time. You will add some weight as life changes, the environment, your lifestyle and so many other factors that determine weight gain and loss happen. However, you have the necessary tools to help you get back to your ideal weight. The following are some reasons why this is true:
- You have been on the Atkins Diet for a good duration, and you have enjoyed the benefits. You have experienced the pleasure mentally, physically and emotionally and know how and when to make changes.
- You now know how you can switch high carb foods for low carb foods, and select garnishes carefully
- You are more aware of your body’s cravings signals, hunger triggers, and already know how to act on this before things get out of hand.
- You understand the foods that you do not need to have in your kitchen, and the ones that you are addicted to, but have learned to control, so you can have them in moderation.
- You have learned how to reintroduce foods into your diet gradually, so you can sniff out trouble from afar, and respond accordingly
- You have been patient enough to go from one phase to the other, increasing your intake of carbs, and with the ultimate goal of making this a lifetime thing.
Atkins Diet and Restaurants
From time to time, you will find yourself eating from a restaurant. Perhaps you have some friends, or you are hosting an event, so you cannot avoid it. Here are some useful tips that will help you stay on course and never lose sight of your ultimate goals:
Study the Menu. Go to a restaurant that has an online website or any other platform online from where you can access their menu. Read through it and decide on what you are going to order ahead of time. This way, you can make an informed choice before you get to the restaurant. You can also plan for alternatives in case what you initially wanted was not available by the time you arrive. This will save you from the risk of having to choose an unhealthy last-ditch solution.
Snacks. Before you head out to the restaurant, always eat a light snack. This will keep you in check, and prevent you from overeating when you get to the restaurant. Make sure your snacks are filling and healthy, but not too filling that you might lose your appetite.
Complimentary Bread. A lot of restaurants give complimentary bread or tortilla chips ahead of your meal. If you are worried you might overindulge, ask the restaurant to take it away earlier than they always do, or ask them not to provide one for your table. You can also request for sliced vegetables instead of guacamole or hummus that usually accompany the chips or bread.
Entrée. Most people do not know this, but you can ask the restaurant to substitute your high carb sides like pasta salad or fries with things like broccoli and asparagus. In fact, restaurants actually appreciate such requests.
Salad Ingredients. Pay attention to your salads. Where possible, stay away from taco salad or any other salad that comes in a shell. If there are add-ins like tortilla strips or croutons, do not overindulge. If you are having some meat with your salad, ensure the meat is grilled. If you are eating out during the early stages of your diet, stay away from fruits that have high carbs like mangoes and grapes.
Sandwiches. You can ask to have your sandwich without the bun or bread. This will help you trim out a lot of carbs you do not need. More often, you can have the sandwich prepared into a lettuce wrap or a salad
Breakfast. Are you having your breakfast from a restaurant? If that is the case, stay away from French toast, pancakes, and waffles. Instead, ask for a low carb omelet. Ask the restaurant if they can offer fresh fruit instead of breakfast potatoes or hash browns as a side.
Italian Restaurants. If you love to eat at Italian restaurants, avoid the pizza or pasta section and go for the protein entrées, and select a beef, fish or chicken dish.
Just like losing weight, maintenance will not happen on its own. You have to put in the effort. At the top of your list, living healthy should be a priority. Where possible, have reminders or even a checklist to remind you where you are, and how far you have come.
The following are some useful tips that will help you maintain the ideal weight, and steer clear of any challenges that might affect your lifetime goals:
- Identify your tolerance carb level and stay on it. You should have figured this out in Phase 3
- For your foundation vegetable, strive to eat between 12 and 15 net carbs daily
- Ensure your meals have no more than 6 ounces of cooked protein
- Have one or two fruit servings daily
- Do not stay away from healthy fats, as they help you in managing your weight
- Always combine your carbs with proteins or fat so you can keep your blood sugar level in check
- Drink a lot of water. Where possible, stick to non-alcoholic beverages
- If you start becoming inactive, make an adjustment to your carb intake
- Know and understand the difference between habit and hunger
- Take your weight measurements on a weekly basis
- Unless you are pregnant, do not allow yourself to pack more than 5 pounds without doing something
- Add new foods to your diet one at a time and gradually, to identify how they affect your appetite and cravings
- Be physically active.
- You know the foods you might overeat. Plan them out in portions.
- Always read labels, especially for new food
Pros and Cons of the Atkins Diet
The Atkins Diet has advanced over the years. When it was first introduced, it was rather drastic, and most nutritionists and doctors often warn about going on diets that are so strict. Over the years, however, there have been changes to the diet, which have made it more flexible and accommodating. Bearing this in mind, the following are some pros and cons that you should look at before you jump in.
Healthy Carbohydrates. One thing about this diet is that you will start eating healthier carbohydrates than you used to. You will cut out things like pasta and white bread which have refined carbohydrates. These foods also have simple sugars that the body will break down very fast. You will learn some good foods, and appreciate their impact. Even after you are done with this diet, some of the things you learned will stay with you forever.
Counting Calories. In most diets, you have to count calories to get the right amount. This can be so frustrating. Besides, weight loss is not all about calories. There are other factors that are involved, and an obsession with calories might cause you more harm than good in your attempt to lose weight. With the Atkins Diet, however, you do not have to count calories. In fact, there are some foods that you can eat to your fill.
Low Cholesterol. A lot of people who have been on the Atkins Diet have recorded a drop in the level of bad cholesterol in their blood. This is because they removed bad carbs and processed sugar from the diet. This is a lifestyle choice and will help you for a long time even after you are done with this diet.
Fast Weight Loss. The induction stage is rather thorough, and you will lose weight so fast. This is good for your confidence and keeps you motivated to stay on course and complete the journey.
Strict Diet. Like most diets, the Atkins Diet is also very strict. There are several food groups like bread and fruits that you will have to avoid. Another problem with this diet is that you immediately make severe changes in your eating plan.
Eating Out. This is a low carb diet. Pasta, bread, potato, fruits and some vegetables are forbidden from the Atkins Diet. Therefore, if you love to eat out, you will struggle from time to time, at least until you find a restaurant that can accommodate your needs.
High Risk. By permanently removing some foods from your diet, you must be disciplined enough to resist the cravings. Some of the things you do away with include bread, fruits and sugar. As a result, most people who fall off the wagon do so because they succumb to these cravings, and when they give in, they barely ever get back on track.
Side Effects. Eating a lot of protein and not much else can have severe side effects. During the early stages of this diet, a lot of people complain about severe constipation. Some people have also reported dehydration, bad breath, and extreme fatigue.
Weight loss is all about discipline and keeping your lifestyle in check. Most diets aim for lifestyle changes and eating plans that you have to keep up all through your life. If you can do this, you will definitely enjoy amazing results from the Atkins Diet and any other diet you try. However, if you cannot do that, the risk of relapse is high, and you might forget about diets altogether.