An all-too-common misconception is that the first Phase of Atkins—Induction—is the whole program. Which probably led to other misconceptions, including the one that Atkins is all about omitting major food groups from your diet and subsisting on meat, eggs, cheese and lots of fat. Every time I see that in an online article, I find myself yelling at my computer. It is simply not true! The purpose of Induction is to switch your body over to burning fat for fuel instead of carbs for fuel and kick-starting weight loss. You will burn the fat you are consuming as well as the fat you have stored. However, don’t think that eating less fat will hasten burning more body fat. You need dietary fat to fuel the fires of fat burning. So, when you are on Induction, you are consuming optimal levels of a variety of protein choices like fish, poultry, eggs and meat, healthy fats such as olive oil, avocado, and polyunsaturated fats, as well as the mandatory Foundation vegetables.
However, the true key to success on Atkins is the process of finding the maximum number of carbs you can eat while continuing to lose weight, keep your appetite under control and stay alert and energized. This number is your personal carb balance, which is different for everyone. To find your personal carb balance, you gradually increase both the amount and variety of the carbohydrate foods you eat. Once you’ve reached your goal weight, you will have hopefully discovered the maximum number of carbs you eat while maintaining this weight and controlling your cravings. This is your personal carb tolerance, and this is when Atkins has become a lifestyle for you; a new and improved way of eating and living, versus a quick-fix diet you return to after you’ve resumed your old eating habits and the pounds pile back on.
It’s true that if you have a lot of weight to lose, or you want to lose weight faster and you like the structure and fewer choices in this first Phase, you may stay on Induction longer than two weeks, typically until you’re 15 pounds from your goal weight. But even if that’s the case, I suggest that you add nuts and seeds to your meal plans, as they are full of protein, fiber, and healthy fats and relatively low in carbs. But I still strongly recommend that you move to Phase 2 (Balancing) no later than when you’re within 15 pounds of your goal weight so that you can transition to a more permanent way of eating. In Phase 2, you begin to increase your carb intake in 5-gram increments, which means gradually introducing more foods as you begin to understand your personal carb balance. In addition to nuts and seeds, you can start to add foods like berries, melon and cherries, Greek yogurt and fresh cheeses, which add delicious variety to each of your meals.
And let me clear up one last little misconception about Induction. Not only is it not what Atkins is all about, you don’t even have to start in Induction if you don’t want to! If you are comfortable with a slow and steady rate of weight loss (because wouldn’t you rather lose a little more slowly and keep the weight off for good?), it’s perfectly acceptable to start in Phase 2.
Starting in Phase 2 can be a more gentle way for some folks to ease into their backup fuel system, which is a fat-burning metabolism. There are fewer adaptation symptoms and you have more foods to choose from. Plus, you have the option to go down to Induction if the inches and scale are not moving as fast as you’d like. The bottom line? Atkins is not just about Induction—each Phase of Atkins plays an important part in your goal to lose weight and keep it off for the long term while developing lifelong healthy eating habits.