Atkins Diet For Smarties

In 1973 Dr. Robert Atkins presented his first Diet based on the research of him and others. But it wasn’t until the 90’s that his diet really became the talk of the day. Now the Atkins Diet is one of the most trusted and successful diets. It’s generally regarded as one of the most effective Diet for weight loss, disease preventions and well-being, or like Dr. Robert Atkins’ puts it: “My diet is the most successful weight loss-and weight maintenance-program of the last quarter of the twentieth century”.

Atkins diet is considered a Low-Carb Diet and is not calorie restricted, which means that you are allowed to eat as much as you want, but only of certain food groups. Below we will give a short introduction to the Atkins Diet as presented in his book: “Dr. Atkins New Diet Revolution”:

Atkins Diet Goals

In his book Atkins promises to help us adopt a permanent way of eating that:

  • Makes you lose weight without calorie-counting
  • Makes you feel and look better
  • Naturally re-energizes you
  • Keeps the weight you lose off forever

He also adds that in addition to losing weight, his diet has one more important benefit. It will give you a nutritional approach that will revolutionize your health.

Sounds very good, but is it really that easy? We will take a look on that.

How does the Atkins diet work?

Atkins diet works because it targets our stored body fat. The fat is our body's back-up system for fuel to generate energy. If we take it out of the back-up position and get our body to use it as a primary fuel source, the result is an extremely efficient weight loss and weight maintenance program.

This switch occurs when only an insignificant amount of carbohydrates is available. And it's an easy switch to control, because very little glycogen (made from carbohydrate) is stored in our bodies. If we eat fewer carbs, we almost immediately trip the switch, and starts burning fat instead of storing fat.

Why are carbohydrates bad for us?

Carbohydrates are not bad per se, but the modern refined carbohydrates that have been introduced to our diets in the last centuries have had a profound effect on our health. Not just on the rising level of obesity. They are also thought to be the root to many other modern diseases like: Diabetes, Heart Diseases and Cancer.

There’s a relationship between the kinds of foods you eat and the amount of insulin in your bloodstream.

Foods rich in carbohydrates are easily absorbed through the stomach and are rapidly converted to glucose. When these foods are eaten in excess, they require a lot of insulin for transport of the glucose.

When there’s too much insulin in the body its effectiveness may decline. And the transport line of glucose to the cells gets disrupted. This is nowadays known as insulin resistance, which quickly leads to hyperinsulinism. This means that the insulin receptors on the surface of the body cells becomes blocked and prevents the cells from using the glucose as energy. Instead of using the glucose as energy, the liver has to convert more and more glucose to stored fat.

After insulin resistance sets in your body becomes a fat-producing machine instead of an energy-producing machine. At this point, insulin is being secreted more and more frequently to deal with high blood-sugar levels, and it is doing its job less and less effectively. This makes your body crave for more sweets and carbs, which accelerates the problem in a malicious cycle. In time, even the insulin receptors that convert glucose to fat start getting worn out, leading to diabetes.

Foods made of protein and fat, on the other hand, require little or no insulin. Protein in excess converts to glucose in the liver and requires only a small amount of insulin to transport it to the cells while fat requires essentially no insulin.

Why most diets fail and why the Atkins diet is so successful?

  • On most diets you'll be hungry a fair percentage of the time, while Atkins diet includes foods that leave you feeling much more full and satisfied.
  • On most diets you'll be counting calories. When you do Atkins there's no need for that.
  • On most diets you'll never stop eating addictive high carbohydrate foods. When you do Atkins, you'll quickly learn how to overcome your addictions.
  • On most diets you won't learn how to make a gradual transition to a lifetime maintenance plan.

Is the Atkins Diet Safe?

You might have heard some people saying that Atkins’ diet is not safe, not nutritionally sound and that you will put weight on as soon as you get to the maintenance phase of the diet.

Dr. Robert Atkins counters these opinions, with the following answers:

  • Safe?

Yes, and there is plenty of hard science to back that up. In fact, a number of studies show that a controlled carbohydrate nutritional approach helps improve the clinical parameters affecting heart disease and other illnesses while not causing harm to your liver, kidneys or bone structure.

  • Nutritionally sound?

 Yes, a person following the typical menu and eating foods containing just 20 grams of carbohydrates meets or exceeds the daily recommended allowance of most vitamins and minerals. As you move through the phases of Atkins, you get even more. And it’s been shown in studies by practicing nutritionists in the US.

  • Keep off all the lost weight?

Nothing could be truer. Once you've seen the results and committed yourself to good health you'll realize that it's much easier than you ever thought possible. Because of the types of foods that are part of Atkins, it's actually possible to happily make a change in the way you eat-and look and feel-for good.

It’s a lifestyle rather than a diet

Dr. Robert Atkins Nutritional Approach is not a "diet." Not in the limiting sense of a weight loss program that you go on and off, it doesn't deserve to be called a diet at all. It's a way of eating for the rest of your (healthy) life.

Some of Atkins key points:

  • The typical western style of eating is grossly mismatched to the normal human metabolism.
  • Most obesity is the result of metabolic disturbances, not over consumption of fat.
  • Studies consistently show that sugar, refined white flour and junk foods are bad for your health, your energy level, your mental state and your figure.
  • Low-fat diets are in reality high-carbohydrate diets and bring on the very problems that they were intended to protect us from.
  • By following the Atkins diet you will control your weight, achieve good health and help prevent disease.
  • The Atkins Nutritional Approach is composed of protein and fat, both essential to the human body, plus controlled quantities of the most nutrient-dense carbohydrates, primarily in the form of vegetables.

The 4 phases of the Atkins Diet

  • Induction Phase – Detoxification of the body. No carbohydrate intake to reach a ketogenic effect on the metabolism.
  • Ongoing Weight Loss Phase – This phase is kept until the goal weight is within short reach.
  • Pre-Maintenance phase – eases you toward permanently adopting a new, healthier way of eating that, with a modest degree of attentiveness on your part, will allow you to stay slim forever.
  • Lifetime Maintenance phase – is the game plan that will keep those banished pounds at bay for the rest of your days.

Phase 1: The Induction Phase

The Induction Phase is where you get the weight loss ball rolling. The purpose of the first phase purpose is to induce weight loss by changing the body's chemistry.

It’s designed to do the following:

  • Switch the body from a carbohydrate-burning metabolism to a fat burning metabolism.
  • Stabilize the blood sugar and stop all symptoms of unstable blood sugar, such as fatigue, mood swings, brain fog and an inability to function efficiently.
  • Curb the cravings by stabilizing the blood sugar.
  • Break addictions to foods such as sugar, grain, alcohol, caffeine or any other addictive food. For people addicted to sugary, high-carb or high-glycemic foods just as for alcoholics, moderation simply does not work.

The Induction phase will let you experience personally the metabolic advantage of the Atkins diet. It will demonstrate that you can burn fat, while eating liberally, or even extravagantly. This first phase is not going to be your lifelong way of eating. It lasts a minimum of fourteen days, after which you should see a significant result.

When to move on to the next phase?

Some people think of the induction phase as lasting only two weeks, but it can be followed for a longer time. If you have a lot of weight to lose or have difficulty losing weight, you might want to continue the induction phase for quite a while. This way your weight loss progress will be higher before moving on to the next phases of the program.

Atkins suggests that you answer the following four questions before deciding to continue to the next phase:

  1. Are you bored with Induction?
  2. How much weight do you have to lose?
  3. How metabolically resistant are you to weight loss?
  4. Are you willing to slow down the pace of weight loss in exchange for more food choices?

If you are bored and do not have much more weight to lose, it is advisable for you to advance to the next phase. If you’re weight loss is slow you can benefit from continuing the induction phase longer to correct metabolic imbalances they may have developed over time.

These include insulin resistance, blood-sugar imbalances, carbohydrate addictions and allergies. Once the metabolic imbalances are corrected, weight loss may speed up. Lastly, are you willing to wait longer to reach your weight goal and instead having broader food choices? In the end, choosing to move on to the second phase is up to you.

Phase 2: The Ongoing Weight Loss Phase

In the 2nd phase you will move on with the physical and emotional well-being promoted by your fat burning and combine that with the pleasure of a more varied diet.

On the ongoing weight loss phase you will:

  • Continue to bum and dissolve fat.
  • Maintain the control of your appetite sufficiently to control your cravings.
  • Learn your threshold level of carbohydrate consumption, which will allow you to continue to lose weight.
  • Eat a broader range of healthy foods, selecting those that you enjoy most.
  • Learn to make the most nutrient-rich choices among carbohydrate foods.
  • Deliberately slow your rate of weight loss in order to lay the groundwork for permanent weight management.

There are three key differences between the Induction Phase and the Ongoing Weight Loss Phase:

  1. You will consume more carbohydrates in the second phase.
  2. The second phase allows a much more diverse diet, which means that you can create a weight loss regimen that is uniquely yours.
  3. Counting grams of carbohydrate is truly your responsibility. If you don't count, you could get in trouble.
Creative Commons License photo credit: Muffet

The Ongoing Weight Loss phase is all about choice. You should focus on healthy and pleasurable additions, with an emphasis on foods that contribute both.  You will add foods in approximately 5 gram carb increments, and you can start moving beyond vegetables to other foods, such as nuts, berries and possibly grains.

If you left the Induction phase with 30 or more pounds still to lose, you may not be happy with a major slowdown, caused by the added carbohydrates. In that case you should be adding carbohydrates very slowly, staying for two or more weeks at each incremental level. When your weight loss begins to become unnoticeable, you'll back down from that level. Your weight-loss rate is all up to you.

Here are some pointers about the Ongoing Weight Loss Phase:

  • Protein and fat remain the pillars of your diet.
  • Increase your daily carb intake by no more than 5 grams each week.
  • Add new foods in the order listed in the Atkins book.
  • Add one new food group at a time.
  • Eat a food group no more than three times per week in the start.
  • If new foods incite weight gain, or the return of physical symptoms lost during the Induction phase, or increased appetite or cravings, stop them immediately.
  • Continue this phase until you have from 5 to 10 pounds left to lose.

Phase 3: The Pre-Maintenance Phase

After finishing the Ongoing Weight Loss Phase you’re almost at the goal for your weight loss. Now you should have about 5-10 pounds left to lose. The Pre-Maintenance Phase is where you put on your brakes, the idea is to proceed very slowly, almost unnoticeable, to the final goal weight. The goal weight is not really the ultimate goal. The ultimate goal is to maintain the goal weight for the rest of your life.

At this stage you should be very confident that you can reach your goal weight, and the biggest hurdle is instead keeping that weight. The third phase is where you find the equilibrium of your carbohydrate consumption.

The slow progress in the third phase means that when you’ve found the level that achieves a small amount of weight loss and ultimately reach your goal weight, you will, in effect, be in the fourth and last phase: “The Lifetime Maintenance Phase”, at which time your weight loss will naturally slow to a halt

What You Need to Learn in Pre-Maintenance:

  • To find your Critical Carbohydrate Level for Losing (CCLL) weight slowly, as well as your Critical Carbohydrate Level for Maintenance (CCLM).
  • Explore more food choices, while learning how not to abuse them.
  • Become aware of the foods or situations that can make you lose sight of your long-term goals.
  • Internalize your responses to food so that what used to be a struggle becomes a conscious choice, one that serves you for the rest of your life.
  • Find out how flexible Atkins is.
  • Learn how to deal with temptation.
  • Learn how to immediately erase the problems created by making unhealthy food choices to prevent "yo-yo" weight gain and loss.
  • Develop a style of eating for a lifetime.

That's why it is crucial that you don’t make the assumption that Pre-Maintenance and Lifetime Maintenance is the same thing. One is a training program; the other is the rest of your life.

  • The key to your longtime success is advancing slowly, losing less than a pound each week for two to three months.
  • You can increase daily carbohydrate intakes by 10 grams per week as long as you continue to lose weight, while adding new foods slowly and carefully.
  • The line between gaining, maintaining and losing weight is a thin one and you need to understand how your body reacts to carbohydrates, to be able to maintain what you achieved.

Phase 4: The Lifetime Maintenance Phase

This is it! You’re at the finish line of the Atkins diet. You’ve reached your goal weight, and you have learned what you need to maintain it.  Now you’re ready to continue your life, knowing that you have the tools needed to stay in shape, eat healthy and avoid the yo-yo effect that you so frequently experience in traditional weight loss diets.

Atkins states in his book that the final phase will:

  • Provide you with a way of eating that allow you to stay slim for the rest of your life.
  • Allow you to maximize the amount of healthy carbohydrate foods you can eat while staying within 3 to 5 pounds of your goal weight.
  • Prevent re-addiction to foods that have gotten you in trouble before by helping you to avoid frequent exposure to them.
  • Teach you how to drop back to an earlier weight loss phase, when needed, to achieve lifetime weight control.
  • Teach you how to make the healthiest carbohydrate choices, which will allow you to continue to stay in control of your eating habits, feel your best and maintain improved blood-lipid levels, blood pressure and other lab test results, as well as optimize your blood pressure, energy and more.
  • Teach you how to adjust your carbohydrate consumption when metabolic circumstances change, before you find yourself regaining inches and/or weight.
  • Reduce your risk factors for cardiovascular disease, hypertension, diabetes, and other sugar metabolism disorders.
  • Give you a sense of accomplishment and confidence that spills over into the rest of your life.

Maintaining the weight loss can be just as hard, or even harder, than reaching the goal weight in the first place. That’s why Atkins puts so much weight on the last two phases of his diet. He wants to make sure that the people reading his book has all the information and knowledge needed to make the right nutritional choices, to maintain their achieved weight loss.  He finishes of with these rules, key points and tips about the Lifetime Maintenance phase:

  • The Lifetime Maintenance Phase provides you with a way of eating that allow you to stay slim for the rest of your life.
  • To maintain your goal weight you must know your metabolic needs.
  • Follow your Critical Carbohydrate Level for Maintenance (CCLM).
  • Don't stray more than 5 pounds from your goal weight.
  • Don't be afraid to return to Induction, or OWL, for a few days if you need to restart your fat-burning engine.
  • Stay away from foods containing sugar.
  • Continue to eat natural, unprocessed, nutrient-dense carbohydrates.
  • Develop a strategy for dealing with temptation.
  • If you feel the need to indulge try eating a few hard boiled eggs instead of chips or candy.
  • Continue to take nutritional supplements, modifying your regimen to meet your needs.
  • Variety is the spice of life: try new foods.
  • Exercise regularly.


Dr. Atkins book “The new Diet Revolution” is filled with all the information needed for a healthy weight loss. Atkins has a scientific approach to his diet which backed up with a 4-phase program specifically made for keeping a healthy lifestyle and not just a crash diet for losing weight fast.

The important thing is not how you reach your goal weight, but how you stick to it.

Atkins gives you the tools needed to learn about the human metabolism and how carbohydrates affect it. He was a low-carb diet pioneer, pointing the fingers at the carbohydrates as the culprit to obesity and other modern diseases.  He got a lot of bad press during the years, but has during the recent years been vindicated by the modern diet research which has found that he was right all along.

So if you need to lose weight, while not counting calories, Atkins book is highly recommended as a tool to start a new lifestyle, achieve a better health and a new body.

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