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colette_heimowitz's Blog
Atkins Your Way

The wonderful thing about Atkins is that you have options; the program is truly customized to you and what works best for your body. One example of doing Atkins your way is the decision of losing most of your weight in Induction or losing most of your weight in OWL. Read on and let me know what works (or worked) best for you.

Different Phases, Different Objectives
Think of Atkins as a marathon, rather than a sprint and you’ll understand why I think it is probably best to lose the bulk of your weight in OWL (On Going Weight Loss).
Induction trains your body to burn fat, which will kick-start weight loss. OWL is where you’ll get into the steady rhythm that will carry you until you’re almost at the finish line: 15 pounds from your goal. By then, you’ll have honed your understanding of how your body reacts to certain foods and to gradual increases in carb intake. Learning a way to eat that you can live with for the rest of your life is the real objective of Atkins.

Phase 1 Is Just the Launching Pad
I used to be of the mindset that you could stay in Induction as long as you wanted as long as you didn’t get bored with the food choices. After all, there’s no health risk associated with staying in Induction indefinitely. However, after more than 20 years of helping people lose weight on Atkins—and keep it off—I’ve come to the conclusion that Phase 2 is the best place to lose the bulk of your weight. No wonder Dr. Atkins dubbed it Ongoing Weight Loss (OWL). You may stay at a relatively low level, perhaps 25 to 35 grams of Net Carbs a day, which is not all that different from Induction, but it does allow you a bit more flexibility to eat such delicious, nutritious food as nuts and seeds, berries, melon, cherries, Greek yogurt, and or cottage cheese. Or you may find you can go considerably higher, say 50 or 60 grams of Net Carbs or even more which will allow you to include a starchy vegetable, or legumes and whole grains. I’ve also come to believe that moving up the Carb Ladder every couple of weeks or even longer is also a better approach for some than doing so each week.

You can certainly hang out in Induction longer than two weeks if you have a lot of weight to lose, but don’t get stuck there. Of course, weight loss typically slows after the initial dramatic weight loss that occurs when you first switch from burning primarily glucose (from carbohydrates) to burning fat for energy. But that’s actually a good thing, as we’ll discuss below. In addition to reducing the possibility of boredom, there’s another reason why I believe you should bid adieu to Induction and move on to OWL.


Staying in Induction

If you are someone who is more motivated by quick weight loss and thrives on structure and fewer choices, despite my obvious preference to encourage you to move to OWL, you may choose to stay in Induction past the initial two weeks, and up to the point that you are just 15 pounds from your goal weight. But there are a few things you can do to make this process a bit easier, as well as set the stage for you to move on to OWL when the time is right. While in Induction, you’ll remain at 20 grams of Net Carbs a day, but try adding nuts and seeds to your list of acceptable foods. A couple of tablespoons of walnuts, almonds, pecans, pumpkin seeds or other seeds or nuts make a great snack. Or sprinkle them on a salad or cooked vegetables, or use in a recipe. As you get closer to your goal weight, you can start slowly introducing different foods on the carb ladder so that you can find out which carbs allow you to keep losing and which ones don’t.

The only danger of staying in Induction too long is that you have no place to go if and when—and it’s almost inevitable—you experience a weight-loss plateau. This isn’t a health risk, of course, but it can be extremely frustrating and de-motivating. Just to be clear, a plateau is defined as an inexplicable pause in weight loss that’s not the result of dietary misdemeanors or lifestyle changes. It can happen at any time after you shed the first “easy” pounds but is more likely as you get closer to your goal weight. Fortunately, plateaus usually yield to certain strategies, including temporarily reducing your daily carb intake. However, if you’re still at the Induction level of 20 daily grams of Net Carbs, where are you going to go to break a plateau? It’s not healthful to sacrifice vegetables to go under 20 grams of Net Carbs, which some people are tempted to do when they are not losing in Induction. Moreover, restricting choices in Induction can make the program too difficult for the long haul. 
On the other hand, if you’re at, say, 35 grams of Net Carbs a day and hit a plateau, you can cut back by 10 grams and likely the excess pounds will begin to budge again. Or perhaps you’ll need to go down another 5 grams to 20 grams, which will almost certainly reboot weight loss. Once you’re losing again, you can gradually start to increase the carbs.

Be sure to track not just your weight but also your measurements. Why? Assuming that you’re exercising, you may be gaining lean body mass and losing fat. Because muscle is denser than fat, the scale can be deceiving. How your clothes fit is another useful measuring tool. Even if your weight remains stable for a week or so, if your jeans zip up more easily, you’re losing fat.

Pros: Faster rate of weight loss, more structure, fewer choices (and less temptation)

Cons: Boredom, fewer options for moving past a plateau without reducing Net Carbs below the recommended level

Moving Through the Phases

If you are comfortable with a slower and steadier rate of weight loss, stick with Induction for two weeks or one month, and then move on Phase 2, Ongoing Weight Loss (OWL). The gradual increase in Net Carb intake and equally slow reintroduction of new foods allows you to move up the carb ladder and find your overall intake tolerance for carbs. You’ll also gradually come to understand if there are any carbohydrate foods that trigger cravings for more of the same. This process is not always easy, but it’s essential to understand your unique metabolism. Whether its 30 grams of Net Carbs or 60 or more, you need to find what works for you. In effect, understanding your tolerance level is the bridge from a weight-loss diet to a diet for life. After all, wouldn’t you rather lose a little more slowly and keep the weight off for good than lose fast for a month or two by staying in Induction the whole time, reach your goal weight and then regain those lost pounds before you know it because you never learned how to eat for the long run?

Pros: More variety, more options for moving past a plateau, you can always return to Induction

Cons: Slightly Slower rate of weight loss, having more food choices may be too tempting or confusing

Which Works best for You? 

Both these strategies will allow you to lose weight in the way that works best for you. It’s your choice, and in the long run, the option you choose should be one that will allow you to lose the weight (and keep it off) while enjoying a new and satisfying way of eating for the long haul.

Published Tuesday, April 02, 2013 02:46 PM by colette_heimowitz
Filed Under: Induction, OWL, Carb Balance/Carb Intolerance, Weight Loss, Plateau, Personal observations & lessons learned
Comments
Golf Gal Cheryl said:
Thank you Colette...
April 02, 2013 03:49 PM EST
erika0511 said:
Great information Colette. I have been on and off Atkins many times, and I figured out that when I started in induction, and stayed in induction for the entire time, I would get too excited about losing, and jump off the plan all together. I decided starting in phase 2 works best for me. I don't mind the slower weight loss because it keeps me mentally focused.
April 02, 2013 03:54 PM EST
colette_heimowitz said:
Stay focused lis0828! Some folks take a little longer to adapt to fat burning. If you are persistent and consistent it will happen for you. Good idea to keep track which will keep you focused. Don't forget to take your measurements too. The scale can be deceiving at times. If this pattern continues after 3 to 4 weeks, you may be allergic to something try cutting our cheese for a week to see what happens.Hang in there.
April 02, 2013 05:15 PM EST
multigrade said:
I lost well with Atkins 20 yrs ago, but stayed in induction for 5 months. I grew weary of it and got off, telling myself I would continue on my own. I didn't! I hadn't learned HOW to eat in the real world. This time I'm back for good and won't stay in Induction for a long time. I need to lost 60 pds and Induction is appealing, but I have to think of the long haul.
Thanks for this post!
April 02, 2013 06:02 PM EST
Landstar79 said:
I am starting again after 8 years. I am on day 4 of induction and on day 2
I had lost 13 lbs, and yes was drinking a galon of water a day. I was pretty excited after
I went from 370 to 57 over the weekend. I am in large ketosis too.
Thanks for this post, and I will be in induction for awhile yet.
April 03, 2013 01:08 AM EST
swits said:
Thanks for your post Colette. i am on my 3rd day of induction phase. so far so good, i am enjoying the diet. however my daughter is just a little over 6 months, she had been EBF for 6 months i have began weaning her. this is her 2nd week and is responding well to solids. how does my diet affect her as she is still breastfeeding?

I am 170lbs and hoping to get to 143lbs. i also workout at the gym 3 to 4 times a week. i take fennel tea as its good for milk production, is this ok?
April 03, 2013 05:27 AM EST
heatherd_87 said:
Swits- I wish I had known that you could do Atkins while breastfeeding as long as you eat around Maintenance levels. I would have tried to lose weight long before I did. Since she's eating solids now, and you're weaning it's probably fine to eat at induction levels. Are you putting her on a different kind of enfimil since you're weaning already or are you going to continue to Bf until she's a year old? I may be wrong, but I remember reading that they don't know how ketosis effects babies, so it's safe as long as you're eating more than 50 grams of net carbs a day. I know when I was breastfeeding and I tried to do low carb around 20nc a day, I wasn't producing enough milk and it hurt to nurse, but I didn't continue with it and quit because I didn't know I was suppose to eat at maintenance levels. I hope this helps. Best wishes on your Atkins journey.
April 04, 2013 12:06 PM EST
Joanie718 said:
I did the atkins the first time around 2001 to simply support my husbands on it. He lost 20 pounds and I lost 8, which put me at a nice slender 124 lbs. Then i got pregnant. I was in my 30s. Now I am 46 and only want to lose between 8 and 20 lbs. I started 10 days ago but the scale only shows a 3 pound weight loss. I drink more than 64 oz of water a day. I was a chocoholic and I have not had any chocolate or sweets or anything. Now, I don't have any cravings but I do not even have much of an appetite at all. . . I thought I would have had a more significant weight loss by now, or will it happen in the next 4 days?

It does seem like I am drinking a ton of water and I was urinating a lot but not much at all now, so where is all the water going????
April 05, 2013 12:30 PM EST
betty1043 said:
Hi Colette,

Thank you for giving so much time to help others. I have been on phase one for three months now. I feel pretty good and have lost 18lbs, my hubby 12 lbs but the best thing with him is he is a type one Diabetic and his insulin intake has gone down from about 60 units a day to sometimes 20 units a day! Im a little concerned going to phase two because it has always been so hard for me to lose weight and I am doing it now so very slow. I do walk on a Bo Flex Tread Climber about five days a week now. So my point here is should I try the next phase? I know that’s what you just said but can you peek at my eating plan and see what you think? I do take Levothyroxin for my Thyroid and Methazolamid & Loratadine because I have meniere's disease and of course multi vit etc. with TONS of water......

Thanks Betty
April 05, 2013 01:21 PM EST
jbrun9 said:
Thanks Collette for this blog. It really does help to hear what you have to say about the various problems. Moving to OWL seems to be helpful in learning to make this a lifelong way of life. That seems to be the trip up for many of us who must return to Atkins after a failure. Maybe OWL will stop some of those failures for many of us! thanks again
April 08, 2013 08:17 AM EST
cpick1966 said:
This is my second exploration into Atkins. My first was around 10 years ago and I lost 30 pounds - but I made the mistake of staying in induction the whole time - not pure induction as I ate different foods, but kept my carb intake to 20 grams or less. I never quite made it to my goal weight of a 40 pound loss because after so many months of keeping my carb intake so low that when a work colleague brought a carb loaded tasty treat to work to share and I indulged, my body remembered its addition to carbs and the diet was over.

Ten years later I'm back having regained nearly all of the weight I had initially lost. I started Atkins at the beginning of March - six weeks later I'm only 9 pounds lighter, but I can really see the difference in my clothing and recently somebody commented that they could tell I was losing weight, which is always a great feeling. My BMI has now crossed the 'obese' barrier into the 'overweight' category. Instead of staying in induction for the full diet, I decided that this time, I'm going to do this the right way and move into OWL and stay in that phase until I'm 10-15 pounds away from my goal. However, I haven't moved into OWL just yet. I was wanting to wait until I've lost a full 10 pounds before doing so as I know the weight loss will slow down even further. Another pound and I'll move on into OWL and see what happens. I'm determined this time to do it right so that I can maintain my goal weight once I finally get there.
April 10, 2013 03:49 PM EST
lisiatc said:
Staying too long in induction or not being careful in OWL is a challenge. I lost nearly 40 pounds, but gave into temptation with cupcakes around Easter and wanting to eat what my family ate. I am now going to finish two weeks of induction and then carefully go up the rungs -- 1 rung every two weeks and note what foods trigger the over eating (other than cupcakes, which aren't on anyone's food plan). This puts me on the last rung at the end of July.
April 13, 2013 12:00 PM EST
jettair said:
I do not eat ANY raw foods Yes, I know this is a "mental" thing, but it is who I am. Can I substitute cooked veggies and fruits for raw? Example: Stew tomatoes and use to replace tomato slices. I realize I loose vitamins etc by cooking, but I take in pill form to keep vitamin level correct.
April 15, 2013 03:41 AM EST
lisiatc said:
Nowhere does it say that the veggies have to be raw while following Atkins. Enjoy your veggies however you like to prepare them.
April 15, 2013 06:43 AM EST
ERISFLITE said:
I got tired of the diet last time, gave up, and I'm back. This time I'm going to do induction for 2 weeks, then I'm starting OWL. I want to lose weight, but I need more variety, or I'll quit. I think it's wonderful if people can stay on induction long term, but I think some almonds, berries, and greek yogurt would make the diet so much more sustainable for me!!
April 15, 2013 10:28 PM EST
eljay1 said:
Very discouraged, after 2 weeks of strict induction I have gained 3 pounds! As for gaining energy, that has never happened regardless of diet and exercise plans. I thought everyone at least lost some water weight during induction but that hasn't happened either.
I have also tried combining this with the recommended WW points system. I eat only induction foods and stay at the 26 WW points recommended for weight loss. I just don't get it, if I am gaining weight on a weight loss regimen how will I ever get to a maintenance level? Something is going on here and it is doing nothing for my frame of mind.:-(
April 16, 2013 09:44 AM EST
Nana Deluxe said:
Hi All! I really like this blog. Reading your posts are helping me! I am a prev. WW follower, and found that if you try to follow both, you won't be using the fats that are recommended here. I so enjoy eating the mayo!

My issue that I would like input on is that I have followed Induction for two weeks now and have lost 6-7 Lbs. I feel great but would like to lose another 10 Lbs. This is my second time around, never completed OWL correctly before. So, I really have missed my glass of wine that use to have each day. I included one last night as I begin OWL, and the scale went up 1 Lb. Am I too hung up on my scale? Can I try adding the glass of wine if stay in my carb count? I had white wine and really prefer red, would changing to red make a difference? Should I just scrap the wine and try berries instead? Any suggestions. I have been staying in the 20-25 carbs a day range. thanks everyone!
April 19, 2013 10:02 AM EST
3ve said:
Hi Nana,
I miss my wine too. As for induction - it is not included. On OWL we can occasionally have a glass of wine while keeping in mind that alcohol interferes with fat burning. So alcohol would be burned first for body fuel before fat burning can continue.
White wine has approx 4 gr and red approx 6 gr carbs per 5oz glass. 4 oz glass of Champagne has 1.2 grams of carbohydrate. But it really depends on wine - dry vs desert wine (those would have much higher garb count).

I did have sparkling wine as a 'reward' at the end of 2 weeks induction. My weight was OK but really I did not feel that great in the morning - I had a little 'buzz' - my mind was not so clear as without alcohol.

And I did count the carbs into my daily carb intake. Not sure if you should or not but I wanted it on the record when I look back to troubleshoot ;)
April 27, 2013 10:00 AM EST
ceglynn said:
I am having trouble understanding the 0 net carb foods. If an item has 0 net carbs, I still have to watch how much I eat of it? For example, if I have a 1/4 of a head of iceburg lettuce, can I have unlimite 0 net carb dressing? I can make it with all 0 net carbs, or use Marie's blue cheese dressing with has 0 carbs. Just not sure.
April 29, 2013 08:56 PM EST
mindi12 said:
HELP please!
today I am at Day 10 on Atkins- been doing well enough lost some pounds, however, the last few days I have been feeling SO tired and weak! I eat my veggies which I was told to do more of if I was feeling sluggish but it seems to be getting worse, hardly have ANY energy... I am also taking a multi-vitamin..

any suggestions on how I can do this and still have energy because I wan to work out as well..

thanks,
Mindi
May 24, 2013 11:42 AM EST
cskis13 said:
I am new to Atkins and I was wondering if I could use the Atkins meals, bars and shakes for the induction phase. The labeling says good for all phases. I just want to make sure I am doing it the right way.

Thanks,
carole
June 25, 2013 07:47 PM EST
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