Have you ever started a diet, only to quit in frustration because you were ravenous, lethargic, irritable and craving every possible type of food imaginable?
Or, as you started to lose a lot of weight, all of the sudden you hit a plateau, and it felt like your body was stubbornly holding onto every possible pound (and ounce)? In response, you tried to cut calories and food intake even more, to no avail.
In these situations, you may feel like you are starving (and not losing weight), but, in fact, this “starvation mode” is your body’s natural response to long-term calorie restriction—your brain thinks you are starving, so your body starts to conserve energy by reducing the amount of calories you are burning.
In the far past, when you didn’t always know where your next meal would come from, this natural physiological response was necessary to ensure your survival. Your body became super-efficient at holding onto every calorie it could. Even when you were active (as in hunting to kill your dinner), you burned fewer calories. In this supersized day and age, where you can get an artery-clogging, trans-fat-laden fast food meal for less than $5 at any time of the day or night, the threat of starvation is non-existent, but your body is still trying to selfishly hold on to those calories.
Your body burns calories in four ways:
- Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR): The amount of calories your body uses to maintain vital functions, such as breathing, heart rate and brain function.
- Thermic Effect of Food (TEF): The amount of calories you burn while digesting a meal (this is usually about 10% of caloric intake).
- Thermic Effect of Exercise (TEE): The amount of calories your body burns during physical activity, such as exercise.
- Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT): The amount of calories you burn while fidgeting, changing positions while sitting, etc. This is usually subconscious.
As you can see, there are several way your body burns calories, and all of these go down when you restrict calories for an extended period of time, i.e. your body’s perceived “starvation mode”. In addition, when you lose weight, you may lose muscle. Muscle is metabolically active, which means it burns calories, all the time, even when you’re at rest. The more muscles you have, the more calories you burn.
Fortunately, there is a light at the end of the tunnel—even while you are cutting calories and revamping your eating habits. Here are two ways you can continue to lose weight slowly and steadily, without feeling like you’re “starving”:
- Lift weights: Research has shown that when you do resistance exercise (lifting weights or body weight exercises) while on a diet, you may maintain your metabolic weight, muscle mass and strength levels. Just doing cardio (or no exercise at all) while dieting tends to result in lost muscle mass and a reduction in metabolic rate.
- Eat protein: Pumping up your protein intake can help reduce your appetite, boost your metabolism, preserve muscle, cut cravings and late-night snacking, while consuming fewer calories (and not feeling like you’re starving yourself). This is one of the reasons Atkins is so successful—you are asked to consume adequate protein (and healthy fats), which helps keep you full and satisfied, even if you are consuming fewer calories than you were when your diet consisted of simple carbohydrates. In addition, when your protein intake is adequate, you are also preserving that valuable metabolically active muscle mass.
So, while your body’s “starvation mode” is real, now that you understand how (and why) it works, you can see that there are some options that will help control it.
Following these 16 tips will help you stay on track and get started on Atkins:
Following these 16 tips will help you stay on track and get started on Atkins:
1. Understand what you are eating and how Atkins works. Atkins is all about eating right. You’ll learn which foods your body needs to lose or maintain weight, how to easily reduce the amount of added sugar and other empty carbs and in your diet, how to understand what that Nutritional Facts label really says and more.
2. Atkins, customized for you. Depending on how much weight you have to lose, Atkins has a plan that will work for you: Atkins 20, the original plan that has you consuming 20 Net Carbs a day or Atkins 40, where you consume 40 grams of Net Carbs a day and a full range of food options.
3. Count your carbs. Understand what Net Carbs are and how to calculate them, using the handy Carb Counter in combination with the Acceptable Foods lists for your plan.
4. Be sensible, not obsessive, about portions. There’s no need to count calories on Atkins, but you should use common sense. You probably could guess that too many calories will slow down weight loss, but too few will slow down your metabolism—and, therefore, weight loss. You only need worry about calories if, despite following Atkins to the letter, you cannot lose weight. Depending upon your height, age and metabolism, you may need to play with the following calorie ranges to lose weight:
· Women: 1,500–1,800 calories a day
· Men: 1,800–2,200 calories per day
5. Eat regularly. That’s right, no starving! Regardless of which phase you’re in, eat three regular-sized meals plus two snacks every day. Or, if you prefer, have four or five small meals throughout the day. Eating every few hours maintains blood sugar and energy levels and keeps your appetite under control. Eat until you’re satisfied but not stuffed. Atkins has a full range of products, including frozen meals, shakes, bars and treats that make it convenient and easy to stay on track.
6. Include protein in every meal. Make sure you are having 4 to 6 ounces of protein at breakfast, lunch and dinner. Tall men can have up to 8 ounces. You can choose eggs, meat (lean or fatty is fine), poultry; even marbled cuts of beef are fine. When leaner cuts are used, be sure to ensure enough of olive oil or other healthy oils on salads and cooked veggies.
7. Savor foods with natural fats. Fat makes food taste good and is filling so you eat less. In fact, dietary fat is key to the Atkins program, and to overall good health. All fats except manufactured trans fats (hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils) are a healthy part of Atkins.
8. Steer clear of added sugar. Added sugar comes in many forms and is found in most soft drinks and countless other foods. All are high in carbs and calories and empty of other nutrients. Instead, sweeten beverages with non-caloric sweeteners (stevia, sucralose—marketed as Splenda™– saccharin or xylitol.) Count each packet as 1 gram of Net Carbs and don’t exceed three a day.
9. Eat veggies. Be sure to consume at least 12 to 15 grams of carbohydrates in the form of Foundation Vegetables each day. From the start, you’ll meet the USDA’s recommended intake of at least five daily servings of vegetables. You’ll also be getting plenty of fiber, which plays a key role in blood sugar management, and, of course, regularity. Fiber also helps you feel full, and helps with weight control.
10. Enjoy eating—at home, in a restaurant, wherever. Unlike other diets that instill a fear of eating or require the purchase of expensive, pre-packaged meals, Atkins is all about eating delicious whole foods. You’ll learn how to choose the right foods whether you're dining in or out, whether you're at a fast-food place or an ethnic restaurant, on the road for business or on vacation. Soon you’ll know how to make the right choices and stay on track.
11. Drink up. Water and other fluids like tea and coffee (in moderation) encourage your body to let go of water weight—plus water is just plain healthy. Aim for eight 8-ounce glasses each day.
12. Take daily supplements. In combination with a whole-foods diet, supplements are a good protocol on any weight loss program. Take a daily multivitamin with minerals, including potassium, magnesium and calcium, but without iron—unless you are iron deficient. Also omega-3s in the form of fish oil or an alternative is a good therapeutic tool.
13. Get moving. There are countless benefits to physical activity and exercise as a natural partner to a healthy diet. Brisk walking, swimming and other fun activities are an integral component of Atkins. And the more muscle you build, the more calories you’ll burn. You may want to wait a couple of weeks after starting Atkins to begin a new fitness regimen—or ramp up your existing one. And if you have a lot of weight to lose, you may want to start slowly with short walks or water aerobics.
14. Track your successes. We’re talking about both pounds and health indicators. Weigh and measure yourself at the chest, waist and hips once a week. Also, keep a journal of food and fluid intake, as well as challenges and victories. Numerous studies indicate journal keepers are more successful at weight management than others. Get some baseline tests before you start Atkins—and 3 to 6 months later for follow up lipid levels. Prepare to be amazed at how much healthier they’ve become.
15. Get support from friends and family. Let the important people in your life know how they’re doing and feeling. An Atkins buddy can share the ups and downs of their journey. Also, be sure to join the Community Forum at Atkins.com.
16. Plan ahead. Stock your kitchen with the right food and snacks. Decide on your meals before you go grocery shopping so you don’t fall back on your old (high-carb) food choices.
Here’s a quick roundup of the latest research done during the fourth quarter of 2014 supporting Atkins and low-carb diets.
1. “Effects of Step-Wise Increases in Dietary Carbohydrate on Circulating Saturated Fatty Acids and Palmitoleic Acid in Adults with Metabolic Syndrome”
PLOS One, November 21, 2014; http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0113605
Authors: Brittanie M. Volk, Laura J. Kunces, Daniel J. Freidenreich, Brian R. Kupchak,
Catherine Saenz, Juan C. Artistizabal, Maria Luz Fernandez, Richard S. Bruno, Carl M. Maresh, William J. Kraemer, Stephen D. Phinney, Jeff S. Volek
Recent meta-analyses have found no association between heart disease and dietary saturated fat; however, higher proportions of plasma-saturated fatty acids (SFA) predict a greater risk for developing type-2 diabetes and heart disease. These observations suggest a disconnect between dietary saturated fat and plasma SFA, but few controlled feeding studies have specifically examined how varying saturated fat intake across a broad range affects circulating SFA levels.
Sixteen adults with metabolic syndrome followed six 3-week diets that progressively increased carbohydrates while decreasing total and saturated fat.
Despite a distinct increase in saturated fat intake from baseline to the low-carbohydrate diet (46 to 84 grams a day), and then a gradual decrease in saturated fat to 32 grams a day at the highest carbohydrate phase, there were no significant changes in the proportion of total SFA in any plasma lipid fractions. Whereas plasma saturated fat remained relatively stable, the proportion of palmitoleic acid in plasma triglyceride and cholesteryl ester was significantly and uniformly reduced as carbohydrate intake decreased, and then gradually increased as dietary carbohydrate was re-introduced.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN TO YOU?
The results show that dietary and plasma saturated fat are not related, and that increasing carbs across a range of intakes promotes incremental increases in plasma palmitoleic acid, a biomarker consistently associated with adverse health outcomes.
2. “Dietary Treatment in Adults with Refractory Epilepsy: A Review.”
Neurology, November 18, 2014; http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25355830
Authors: P. Klein, I. Tyrlikova, GC Matthews
Ketogenic diets (KD) and Modified Atkins Diets (MAD) have been shown to be an effective treatment for refractory epilepsy in adults and children.
Only a few studies have been published, all open-label. Because of the disparate, uncontrolled nature of the studies, authors analyzed all studies individually, without a meta-analysis.
Across all studies, 32% of KD-treated and 29% of MAD-treated patients achieved ≥50% seizure reduction, including 9% and 5%, respectively, of patients with >90% seizure frequency reduction. The effect persists long term, but, unlike in children, may not outlast treatment. The ratio of fat/carbs/fat on both KD and MAD are similarly effective. The anticonvulsant effect occurs quickly with both diets, within days to weeks.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN TO YOU:
KD and MAD treatment are shown to work modestly, although in some patients the effect is remarkable. The diets are well-tolerated, but often discontinued because of their restrictiveness. In patients who are willing to try dietary treatment, the effect is seen quickly, giving patients the option whether to continue the treatment.
What if there was something you could do that would dramatically improve your health, help you maintain a healthy weight, reduce stress and possibly help prevent cancer? Well, there is. And it’s so easy; you can do it in bed!
With all the talk this time of year about developing new health habits, one that gets consistently overlooked is proper sleep. We often forget that proper sleep is one of the most health-producing, life-enhancing habits you can possibly develop. Yet in our overworked, over-committed, overstressed society, we rarely do it. And the health consequences are enormous.
In a list of the 15 things most likely to extend life, you will find no less than one third of them has to do with either sleep or stress management. It’s not surprising when you consider what takes place when you sleep deeply and restfully for an uninterrupted seven or eight hours. For one thing, feel-good neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine are replenished. For another, important hormones like human growth hormone and melatonin are secreted.
Why should we care? Consider this. In a study that followed more than 68,000 US women for 16 years, researchers found that those who caught more zzz’s each night tended to put on less weight during middle age. Women who clocked only five hours of sleep were more likely to have a substantial weight gain—33 pounds, in fact—than those who got a full seven hours a night. And sleep-deprived women were more likely to become obese as they grow older.
It’s not just appetite control and metabolism that are affected by sleep, however. Under sleeping is a strong stressor for the human body, resulting in the overproduction of the stress hormone cortisol. High levels of cortisol have been shown to age important areas of the brain like the region responsible for memory. High levels of cortisol are also associated with fat deposits, particularly around the waist.
Then there’s cancer. While you’re sleeping, your body produces a wonderful hormone called melatonin, which has been shown to inhibit the growth of cancer cells. In one fascinating study published in Cancer Research, experimenters drew blood from three groups of people who had different levels of melatonin in their blood. They then exposed these various blood specimens to both human breast cancers and rat liver cancers. Exposure to melatonin-rich blood suppressed the rate at which the cancer cells multiplied!
During deep restful sleep, you also produce an important hormone called HGH (human growth hormone). This hormone makes it easier to put on muscle and to lose fat, and is also believed to have a positive effect on our energy and our libido, as well as the youthfulness of our skin. Imagine—sleep as the ultimate anti-aging drug! And it’s free!
So why not start the year by making a resolution to get more sleep? The health dividends will be enormous. And your body will love you for it. Here are a few quick tips to help you improve your sleep this year:
1) Try to get seven to nine hours of sleep a night.
2) Create a bedtime ritual. Relaxing activities like listening to music or reading a book will help promote drowsiness.
3) Cut back on the electronics. Say goodnight to Facebook and turn off the TV and shut down your laptop. Some research shows that too much screen time before bed interferes with sleep.
4) Get some exercise. Physical activity can help you sleep deeper and longer. Just make sure you don’t exercise too close to bedtime.
5) Watch what you eat and drink before bedtime. Don’t go to bed too hungry or too stuffed. Nicotine, caffeine and alcohol can also disrupt your sleep.
Happy 2015! Make it a great year!
What I’ve always found that is so great about Atkins is that it truly adaptable to people with all levels of carb intolerance. Now, with the introduction of Atkins 40, you can start the Atkins program with 40 grams of Net Carbs, which adds even more flexibility. And so far, the feedback from all of you has been quite positive.
I wanted to explore this new, flexible aspect of Atkins a little further with you, as I’m sure you have questions.
Some people have wondered if you can eat other foods on Atkins 40 that you don’t on the traditional Atkins 20. No. On Atkins 40, you can eat from all food groups on the acceptable foods list from all four phases from day one on the program, and still enjoy weight loss on a fat-burning metabolism.
On Atkins 40 you will eat:
o More vegetables than the USDA recommends
o Proteins including meats, fish, poultry and plant-based proteins
o Healthy fats including olive oil, avocado and nuts
o Dairy including whole Greek yogurt, as well as hard and soft cheeses
o Variety of fruits and whole grains in controlled portions if your carbohydrate tolerance allows.
• With Atkins 40 you will learn:
o The difference between high density carbs and lower carb choices
o How to eliminate added sugars
o How to incorporate healthy fats
o How easy it is to adapt to a low carb lifestyle
o How to lose weight, feel great, while enjoying healthy delicious foods with a wide range of food choices.
You are still asked to avoid added sugar and refined carbs such as white flour. In addition, you should avoid foods that act as “triggers” for you—any food that causes unhealthy cravings and temptations.
Why Atkins 40 Works
As you may know, carbs and fat are your body’s two sources of fuel. A low-fat diet is high in carbs, so when you eat more carbs than your body needs, it stores them as fat. Atkins is an effective diet that transforms your metabolism from one that stores fat into one that burns fat. High-carbohydrate diets raise blood sugar, which in turn signals the body to secrete more insulin—you wind up with more fat on your body and a “sugar burning” metabolism. The Atkins diet restricts foods that are known to raise blood sugar and insulin. Limiting carbohydrates forces your body to use fat for energy rather than sugar. And on Atkins 40, you will still lose weight at a healthy pace. It’s been scientifically validated that 40 grams of Net Carbs is an acceptable level for your body to begin burning fat as fuel.
Who Should Do Atkins 40?
There are some things to consider before you jump to Atkins 40.
Reasons to continue following Atkins 20:
• You have more than 40 pounds to lose
• You are pre-diabetic or diabetic
• Your waist circumference is higher than 40 inches for men, 35 inches for women
• You are content with food choices being re-introduced gradually, in pre-defined order
• You are seeing positive results with Atkins 20 (“If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it!”)
Reasons to consider moving to Atkins 40:
• You have less than 40 pounds to lose
• You are not pre-diabetic or diabetic
• Your waist circumference is less than 40 inches for men, 35 inches for women
• You are pregnant or nursing
• You are currently on Atkins 20, and looking for more variety in food choices
If you decide to do Atkins 40, and you’re not losing weight, what should you do? First, before you assume there is a problem, ask yourself some questions: Are you feeling better? Are your clothes fitting better? (You may be losing inches, not pounds, because muscle weighs more than fat.) Are you still losing, but at a slower rate?
You may just need to continue a bit longer, making slight modifications. These include:
• Decreasing the number of grams of carbohydrate you are consuming by 5 or 10 grams.
• Increasing the amount of fat and decrease protein if you are consuming more than 4 to 6 ounces per serving.
• Finding and eliminating "hidden" carbs in the form of processed foods that may contain sugar.
• Increasing your activity level.
• Drinking at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water daily.
• Look at which higher-carb foods you’ve consumed recently, and eliminate for a week. Perhaps you have a food sensitivity.
Even with the added flexibility that Atkins 40 gives you, it’s still possible you may have a slip-up here or there, which is perfectly natural. Don’t beat yourself up, but don’t use it as an excuse to forgo your diet entirely. Make sure your next meal is a low-carb one, and put a little extra effort into planning out some other meals and snacks, enjoying all the options you have from being able to choose from a delicious and satisfying variety of acceptable foods.