You’ll find many opportunities to customize the Atkins Diet to your needs, but the first decision you need to make—after deciding that Atkins is for you, of course—is which Phase you would like to start in. For many people, Phase 1, Induction, is a brief kick start Phase to get you off on the right foot before moving on. Others may remain there longer to lose more weight before transitioning to the next Phase. If you have more pounds to lose or certain health issues, start in Induction; otherwise you can start in Phase 2, Ongoing Weight Loss, or even Phase 3, Pre-Maintenance, if you prefer. Obviously, the more grams of carbs you’re consuming—and you’ll add progressively more in each Phase—the more slowly you will lose the excess weight. But some folks don’t mind a slower steadier weight loss pattern if it means having more variety and food options.
The following considerations should guide you in your decision about where to begin:
Amount of Weight to Lose
• If you have less than 40 pounds to lose, or your waist measurements are less than 35 inches for women or 40 inches for men, you can start in Phase 2, Ongoing Weight Loss (OWL) at 40 grams of Net Carbs, On the other hand, if you’re older, you might chose to start in Induction, as you will lose weight more slowly in Phase 2 (OWL).
• If you have more than 40 pounds to lose, you’ll probably want to start in Induction, but feel free to start in OWL if you want more variety in food options in exchange for slower weight loss.
• If you don’t have any weight to lose, and you simply want to feel better and have more energy, you can start in Pre-Maintenance at 60 grams of Net Carbs and work up from there until you find your optimal carb intake to maintain a healthy weight.
• If you’re over 50, your metabolism has probably slowed with the passage of years. Start in Induction and move to OWL after two weeks or more if the you’re losing weight easily, and you feel ready to move on.
• If you lead a sedentary lifestyle, you should probably start in Induction unless you have less than 30 pounds to lose; in which case you could start in OWL and lose more slowly.
• If you gained and lost and regained weight for years (yo-yo dieting), you may have become resistant to weight loss. Start in Induction to get off on the right foot.
• If you have type-2 diabetes, we strongly suggest that you start in Induction and remain there or at least in the first few rungs in OWL until you get your blood sugar and insulin levels under control. (adding nuts is a convenient snack for diabetics, and they won’t have a profound impact on blood sugar). You will need to work closely with your doctor if you are on blood-sugar-lowering meds because your need for meds changes or diminishes dramatically while on Atkins.
• If your doctor has diagnosed you with Metabolic Syndrome—or if your waist measures more than 40 inches (if you’re a guy) or is it larger than your hips (if you’re a gal), and if you have high blood pressure, high triglycerides and low HDL (“good”) cholesterol, chances are that you have this condition, also known as pre-diabetes. Have your doctor check your blood sugar, blood pressure and insulin levels. Start in Induction, and remain there until you get your blood sugar and insulin levels under control.
• If you have high triglycerides, starting in Induction will help you improve your triglyceride level more quickly.
• If you’re a vegetarian, we strongly suggest that you begin in OWL at 30 grams of Net Carbs so that you can consume nuts and seeds from the start.
• If you’re a vegan, start in OWL at about 50 grams of Net Carbs to ensure adequate protein intake by including legumes.
Even if you decide to start in a later phase, be sure to read the information on earlier Phases to understand what foods you can eat and what to expect in your first few weeks on Atkins. And no matter where you decide to start, if your results don’t meet your expectations, you can always go back and begin at an earlier Phase.