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colette_heimowitz's Blog

With all the little goblins and ghouls begging for candy at your door (or, if they are your own goblins and ghouls, bringing bags of it into your home after a successful night of trick or treating), Halloween can become a horror story, especially if you’re trying to stick to a low-carb diet. Here are some of my tips for making it through the night without getting spooked:

Buy candy you don’t like. This way you won’t be tempted to sneak a treat every time you pass the bowl of Halloween goodies.

Hand out an alternative to candy. Options include small oranges and apples or Halloween-themed stickers, pencils or erasers.

Go nuts. When your sweet tooth is tempting you, dig into a portion of nuts instead of the Halloween candy.

Make your snacks and meals count. Start the day with a filling breakfast (such as a couple eggs scrambled with some veggies and cheese), don’t forget lunch (such as a spinach salad, more veggies, grilled chicken or salmon, topped with a balsamic vinaigrette), and include a couple satisfying snacks so that you are not starving to death before darkness falls and the Halloween festivities start.

Take a walk! You can kill two birds with one stone: Volunteer to escort your neighborhood trick-or-treaters, and you’ve squeezed in a little more activity into your evening. Even better: Offer to carry their heavy bags of candy while you walk.

Don’t forget dinner. Serve up a hearty low-carb meal (such as chili, stew or soup) for your little trick-or-treaters to enjoy before they head out (to keep hunger at bay and binging on candy to a minimum) or have a meal simmering and ready when they return. There are plenty of low-carb options (including some delicious new Halloween-themed recipes) that will satisfy your whole family—and any visitors. If you’re hosting a crowd, you can include meat and cheese platters, meatballs, sliced veggies with dip, olives, nuts, pumpkin seeds and deviled eggs. Visit www.atkins.com/recipes, and you can start planning your Halloween party menu.

Plan beyond Halloween. Halloween could be considered the sugary kick-off to the holiday season. Now is the time to decide how you want to approach the most food-focused time of the year. Depending on where you are on your weight-loss journey, I suggest two options:

1) Stick with your personal carb balance, which will allow you to maintain the weight you’ve already lost, even through the holiday season.
2) Stay right below your personal carb balance and continue to lose weight.

As long as you’ve set some goals and have a plan in place, you should be able to enjoy this time of the year without gaining too many excess pounds.

One of the biggest misconceptions among low-carb dieters is that you can eat whatever you want as long as it's low carb. I’ve had countless clients come to me, complaining that Atkins isn’t working. When I ask what they are eating, they list a day's worth of high-protein, high-fat food (which rarely includes vegetables and which typically totals to about 4,000 calories a day).

No wonder it didn't work.

It’s true that Dr. Atkins and many low-carb experts told us not to worry about counting calories in the beginning—but that doesn’t mean that calories don’t count. Because they do. If you eat too much of anything (even food low in carbs), you will not lose weight. And you can also eat too few calories, which will slow down your metabolism, putting the brakes on your weight loss.

The reason for the original advice about not counting calories had to do with the fact that a low-carb approach concentrates on managing blood sugar and insulin. You are encouraged to eat whole foods—protein such as chicken, beef, pork and fish, healthy fats such as olive oil, avocado, butter, and fiber from vegetables—that naturally satiate your appetite and send hormonal signals to your brain that you're full. That's why it's easier to stay on a lower-carb diet featuring whole foods than a high-carb diet full of processed food, which stimulates hunger and cravings.

And that's why we tell you, in the beginning, don't worry about calories. Just worry about eating the right kinds of foods and your appetite will, hopefully, take care of itself.
But because calories are not the whole picture—the way they have been in many other weight-loss programs—does not mean they're out of the show. They've just been moved from a starring role to that of a supporting—but important—player.

This was never better illustrated than in a study done a while ago at Harvard University by Dr. Penelope Greene. Dr. Green took three groups and divided them into three different diets. Group 1 got 1,500 calories of low-fat food. Group 2 got 1,800 calories of low-carb food. (I'll tell you about Group 3 in a minute). Group 2—the low-carb higher-calorie group—lost more weight. (If it was all about calories, the higher-calorie low-carb group should have gained weight, not won the weight-loss contest.)
But then Dr. Greene threw in a third group. The third group also got low-carb food, but this time they got the same lower calorie amount that the low-fat group got: 1,500 calories.
And this group—the lower-calorie, low-carb group—lost the most amount of weight of all.

The point is: Calories aren't the whole story—but they do matter. If you're stuck at a plateau and have stopped losing weight on your low-carb plan, maybe it's time to do a little digging and see just how much food you're actually consuming. Keep a food diary and make sure your carbs are where they are supposed to be and your calories are around the 1,500- to 1,800-calorie mark for women and 1,800 to 2,200 for men. (The optimal number is highly individual. This is just a sample range for the minimum intake because too few calories can be an issue as well.)

Your office can be a danger zone full of processed carbs and sugary treats. Whether you’re encountering doughnuts in the break room or it’s the boss’s birthday and everyone’s going out to celebrate at lunch, there are temptations at every turn. Maybe it’s lunchtime, and fast food is your only quick option. Or you’re too busy to leave your desk, so you’re going to have to brown bag it. Or you’re working overtime, and everyone decides to order out for pizza. How can you possibly stick to your low-carb way of eating and still survive at work? Answer: It’s easy—all it takes is some will power and advance planning. Here’s how to avoid the high-carb and sugary traps that lurk in most offices and other work environments:

Conquering Coffee Breaks and Surviving Snacks
Your office vending machine is full of sugary soft drinks, cookies, candy and other high-carb snacks. The break room adds a minefield of doughnuts, muffins and pastries. Don’t even consider them! Also, remember that too much caffeine intake is not good either. If you have already had your morning coffee, decaffeinated coffee or tea or herbal tea are better bets. Keep a water bottle filled and by your side at all times so you stay hydrated; sometimes thirst can be mistaken for hunger.

Eat a satisfying, low-carb breakfast before you go to work so you aren’t tempted at break time. If mornings are too rushed to prepare a nutritious meal, have an Atkins Advantage Bar or shake, or an Atkins frozen meal, which heats up in minutes. You can even throw any of these options in your briefcase or purse and eat them at work. The key is to start the day off right. A breakfast with sufficient protein and fat not only sets you up for a positive and productive day, it keeps you from experiencing an energy dip and being ravenous by mid-morning.

Low-carb snacks are important for keeping your hunger in check and making sure you are less likely to succumb to the temptations in your office. Make sure you have some easy low-carb snacks on hand when hunger hits at mid-morning or mid-afternoon. Good, convenient choices include wrapped individual cheese portions or homemade snacks as hard-boiled eggs or celery sticks filled with cream cheese or ham or turkey rolled up in romaine lettuce leaves with a little mayo and cheese. Once you're beyond the Induction phase, your can have low-carb snacks such as nuts and seeds and some fruits, like berries. And when it’s your turn to bring in the doughnuts, instead provide a healthy low-carb alternative, such as a crustless quiche, that everyone can enjoy. You can even find delicious low-carb recipes for doughnuts at www.atkins.com/recipes.aspx. Your co-workers may never know the difference!

Lunching In
You should be able to get a suitable lunch at the company cafeteria. Skip the fried foods, sandwiches and desserts. Instead, scrutinize the hot entrées, the salad bar and the grill section for good low-carb lunch choices. Ask to substitute extra veggies for high-carb sides. Or exercise a host of options by bringing your own meals. If a refrigerator is not available, pack your homemade lunch in an insulated bag or small cooler. Transport tuna fish, chicken or egg salads in plastic containers; green salads can travel in a zip-strip plastic bag with dressing on the side. Baked chicken legs, slices of roast beef or turkey and steamed shrimp are also highly portable. (These foods work equally well if your job involves frequent car travel.) And don’t forget your leftovers. Make extra portions of your low-carb dinner recipes and pack them up for lunch.

Lunching Out
When dining out with co-workers or a client, you should be able to find plenty of alternatives to carb-heavy foods on the menu of just about any restaurant. Instead of something breaded or fried, order a baked or broiled dish. Ask to substitute extra veggies or a salad for starchy side dishes such as rice or potatoes. Pass on pastries and other sweet desserts; instead, choose berries with a dollop of unsweetened whipped cream. Business lunches used to routinely include alcohol, but in today's work environment it's perfectly acceptable—even preferable—to skip the booze. While alcohol is not that high in carbs, mixers often are. Moreover, your body burns alcohol for fuel before fat, so that drink will slow down your fat-burning process.
Sometimes fast food is all that's available or all you have time for, but it's not impossible to get a good low-carb lunch at many of these places. Your best option at a hamburger restaurant is to order a couple of cheeseburgers (banish the buns) along with a side salad, or to try one of the larger lunch salads with some grilled chicken. Make sure you watch the grams of Net Carbs in the salad dressings that accompany these salads. Pass on the French fries. No matter how pressed you are for time; don't skip lunch—you'll only be more tempted to eat carbohydrates later in the day when your energy level nosedives.

 Working Late
Overtime carbs may be the hardest of all to avoid, especially if you weren't able to plan ahead by packing dinner or an extra snacks. As your workday stretches out even longer, your level of stress rises—as does your desire for something sweet or crunchy. Create an emergency stash of low-carb snacks and bars so before you get to this dangerous point you can dip into it instead. When your coworkers are sending out for dinnertime food, go ahead and join in, making the best choice you can from the available menu. If your office has a freezer, make sure to stash a supply of Atkins frozen meals, so that you always have a low-carb meal at your fingertips.

It’s OK to occasionally indulge in your cravings, whether to comfort yourself or to celebrate a special occasion. Don't beat yourself up too much, just use it as a learning tool and know that when you do indulge it can be a slippery slope. Digging into a pint of Ben & Jerry’s every time you’re stressed out or had a bad day will eventually catch up to you and have a negative impact on your health. The boost in mood you get from sugar is only fleeting; soon you will experience a crash in blood sugar, and renewed hunger shortly after—and cravings for more carbs, sugar and fat. And, eventually you will gain weight if you continue this cycle.

Fortunately, if you are on Atkins, you have found that the Atkins way of eating—which features optimal protein, high fiber and healthy fats—has helped diminish or even completely eliminate your cravings for starchy carbs and sugar while keeping you full and satisfied. Here are some tips you can follow that will help you control your emotional eating and nip those cravings in the bud:

Write it down. We always recommend that you keep a food journal so that you can track your grams of Net Carbs and your meals and snacks. But you can also use this as a place to record your emotions and cravings. Once you have an idea of when and why those weak moments hit, you can make sure you have a plan in place.

Remove temptation. Eliminate the trigger foods from your pantry, refrigerator and freezer. Out of sight, out of mind.
 
Distract yourself. Once you begin to understand what triggers your cravings, create some distractions. Go for a walk or hit the gym (exercise is a great stress-reliever), call a friend or do something that is not related to food.

Find an alternative. Find low-carb substitutes for your high-carb cravings. Make sure you have Atkins bars or treats on hand to satisfy your sugar cravings. There are also plenty of delicious recipes at www.atkins.com/recipes.aspx that are perfectly acceptable on any Phase of Atkins. In the mood for salt? Oven-baked cheddar cheese crisps can satisfy your urge for chips. Craving comfort food? Cauliflower mashed with rich butter and cream taste just as good as mashed potatoes. And there’s always room for dessert—there are recipes for low-carb ice cream, cake, cookies and more.

Finally, it’s important to realize that no one is perfect. Sometimes you just need to give yourself a break. After all, Atkins will hopefully become a way of eating you can live with and continue to return to, not a quick-fix diet. Put your overindulgence behind you, make your next meal a satisfying low-carb one, increase your activity level and dial back your total grams of Net Carbs if you need to get back on track.

Here are the latest developments in clinical research on controlled-carbohydrate nutritional practices and the Atkins Diet’s reduced carbohydrate way of eating. I’ve summarized some excellent recent research studies, how they relate to Atkins and what it means to you.

Dietary Carbohydrate Restriction as the First Approach in Diabetes Management. Critical Review and Evidence Base
Authors: Richard David Feinman, PhD, Wendy Knapp Pogozelski, PhD, Arne Astrup, MD, Richard K. Bernstein, MD, Eugene J. Fine, MD, Eric C. Westman, MD, MHS, Anthony Accurso, MD, Lynda Frasetto, MD, Samy McFarlane, MD, Jörgen Vesti Nielsen, MD, Thure Krarup, MD, Barbara A. Gower, PhD, Laura Saslow, PhD, Karl S. Roth, MD, Mary C. Vernon, MD, Jeff S. Volek, RD, PhD, Gilbert B. Wilshire, MD, Annika Dahlqvist, MD, Ralf Sundberg, MD, Ann Childers, MD, Katharine Morrison, MD, Anssi H. Manninen, MHS, Hussein Dashti, MD, Richard J. Wood, PhD, Jay Wortman, MD, Nicolai Worm, PhD

Nutrition, July 15, 2014; http://www.nutritionjrnl.com/article/S0899-9007(14)00332-3/abstract

BACKGROUND:

Current low-fat dietary recommendations have been shown to be ineffective in controlling the diabetes epidemic. Commonly prescribed diabetic medications have significant side effects. Additionally, there has been more science demonstrating the success of low-carbohydrate diets in the treatment of diabetes and metabolic syndrome. For these reasons, there is an urgent need to review and revise dietary guidelines.

METHODS:

The authors present 12 points of evidence supporting the use of low-carb diets as the first approach to treating Type-2 diabetes and Type-1 diabetes (in conjunction with medications). They represent the best-documented, least controversial results.

CONCLUSIONS:

The 12 points of evidence are based on published clinical and experimental studies and the experience of the authors. The points are supported by established principles in biochemistry and physiology and emphasize that the benefits of treating diabetes and metabolic syndrome with a low-carb diet are immediate and documented.

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN TO YOU?

Low-carb diets may be effective in treating diabetes and metabolic syndrome and dietary guidelines should be re-evaluated to reflect this.


A Very Low-Carbohydrate, Low-Saturated Fat Diet for Type-2 Diabetes Management: A Randomized Trial

Authors:  Jeannie Tay, Natalie D. Luscombe-Marsh, Campbell H. Thompson, Manny Noakes, Jon D. Buckley, Gary A. Wittert, William S. Yancy Jr., and Grant D. Brinkworth

Diabetes Care, July 28, 2014; http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25071075

BACKGROUND:

There has been much debate over whether a low-carbohydrate diet or low-fat diet is more effective dietary at managing Type-2 diabetes. 

METHODS:

In this randomized control trial, 155 obese, Type-2 diabetic adults were randomly selected to follow either a low-carb/low-saturated fat or a high-carb/low-fat diet. 

CONCLUSIONS:

Both diets achieved substantial improvements for several clinical glycemic control and cardiovascular disease risk markers, but were greater with the low-carb diet.  Also, the need for blood-sugar-lowering medications was less with the low-carb diet.

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN TO YOU?

This suggests that a low-carb diet with low saturated fat may be an effective at managing for Type-2 diabetes.


Effects of Low-Carbohydrate and Low-Fat Diets
Authors:  Lydia A. Bazzano; Tian Hu; Kristi Reynolds; Lu Yao; Calynn Bunol; Yanxi Liu; Chung-Shiuan Chen; Michael J. Klag; Paul K. Whelton; and Jiang He

Annals of Internal Medicine, September 3, 2014; http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25178568
BACKGROUND:

Low-carbohydrate diets are popular for weight loss, but their cardiovascular effects have not been well studied, particularly in diverse populations.

METHODS:

In this randomized, control trial, 148 men and women without cardiovascular disease and diabetes were randomly selected to follow either a low-carbohydrate diet or a low-fat diet. Both groups received dietary counseling at regular intervals throughout the trial.

CONCLUSION:

The low-carb diet was more effective for weight loss and cardiovascular risk factor reduction than the low-fat diet.

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN TO YOU?

Once again, this is another study that shows that decreasing your carbohydrate intake may help you lose weight and lower your risk of heart disease.


Comparison of Weight Loss Among Named Diet Programs in Overweight and Obese Adults

Authors:  Bradley C. Johnston, PhD; Steve Kanters, MSc; Kristofer Bandayrel, MPH; PingWu, MBBS, MSc; Faysal Naji, BHSc; Reed A. Siemieniuk, MD; Geoff D. C. Ball, RD, PhD; JasonW. Busse, DC, PhD; Kristian Thorlund, PhD; Gordon Guyatt, MD, MSc; Jeroen P. Jansen, PhD; Edward J. Mills, PhD, MSc

JAMA, September 3, 2014; http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25182101

BACKGROUND:

Many claims have been made regarding the superiority of one diet or another for inducing weight loss. Which diet is the best remains unclear.

METHODS:

In this meta-analysis, researchers reviewed six electronic databases: AMED, CDSR, CENTRAL, CINAHL, EMBASE, and MEDLINE from inception of each database to April 2014. Overweight or obese adults (body mass index ≥25) were randomly selected to follow a popular self-administered named diet and they reported weight or body mass index data at after three months or longer.

CONCLUSION:

Significant weight loss was observed with any low-carb or low-fat diet. Weight loss differences between individual named diets were small.

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN TO YOU?

The diet that works best for weight loss is the diet that you are able to stick to so that you can maintain your weight loss and permanently change your eating habits.

Insulin, Carbohydrate Restriction, Metabolic Syndrome and Cancer

Authors:   Eugene J. Fine and Richard David Feinman

Expert Rev. Endocrinol. Metab.

BACKGROUND:

The authors propose that dietary carbohydrate restriction, particularly ketogenic diets, may provide benefit as a therapeutic or preventive strategy in cancer, alone or in combination with medication.

METHODS:

Authors review the literature, and developed their argument from several points of evidence:

• There is a close association between cancer and both diabetes and obesity.
• Extensive evidence shows that low-carb diets are the most effective dietary treatment of Type-2 diabetes and dietary adjunct in Type 1.
• Such diets also target all the markers of metabolic syndrome.
• Finally, de facto reduction in carb intake likely contributes to total dietary restriction, which is effective in the prevention and treatment of cancer.

CONCLUSION:

The authors suggest more research is needed to explore the connection between carbohydrate restriction for treating and preventing cancer, in combination with medication.

WHAT THIS MEANS TO YOU?

Doctors should consider low-carb diets, in conjunction with traditional treatments, as a possible treatment of cancer.

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