A large part of my job with Atkins involves traveling around the country, promoting Atkins and teaching people how to successfully lose weight while living a low-carb lifestyle. Since I have been doing Atkins for so long, I have had to learn how to stick with my low-carb eating plan no matter where I am—planes, trains, automobiles, you name it! As you hit the road over the holidays (or any time during the year), print out this handy cheat sheet of tips that have worked well for me (and many other Atkins devotees):
• Pack snacks in small containers or zip-top bags so you can track your intake of Net Carbs. Use a cooler with an ice pack, if needed, and include veggies with salad dressing; ham or turkey rollups; Greek yogurt with berries; nuts; olives; smoked salmon rolls; cheese; hard-boiled eggs and Atkins bars and shakes.
• Check if you will have access to refrigerator during your stay and stock up on the snacks listed above.
• If you know the restaurants where you’ll be dining, check out the menu in advance to pre-select your low-carb options. Having a plan before you go out to eat makes it easier resist any high-carb temptations.
• Try and stick with eating schedule. For example, if you eat five small meals per day at specific times, follow the same schedule even when you’re on the road.
• Don’t be afraid to ask what’s in a dish—either at a restaurant or someone’s house.
• Eat a snack or small meal before you go out to reduce your appetite.
• Eat only until satisfied, but not stuffed.
• Drink alcohol in moderation if you are beyond the early phase of Atkins, and watch out for drinks containing sugar or fruit juice.
• If your host pressures you to try something like cake or pie, say you’re full. Or politely take one bite, and say you’re full.
• If attending an event at someone’s house, offer to bring a low-carb option.
• If you are staying with family or friends for the holidays, talk to them in advance about their plans for meals, and offer to make some of your favorite low-carb recipes to contribute to the festivities.
• Stay hydrated. Keep a water bottle with you and refill it frequently.
• Stay active. Walk instead of taking a cab. Check out your hotel gym or pull on your running shoes and go for a jog or walk outside. You can pack portable elastic bands in your suitcase for a quick do-anywhere resistance workout, or bring along a workout DVD. Staying with family or friends? Offer to walk their dog if they have one, enlist everyone to go on a walk after dinner or look into guest passes at local gyms.
Thanksgiving is here this week , which means food, food and more food. Since I’ve been living the Atkins lifestyle for more than 25 years, I’ve learned some strategies that help me enjoy this holiday to its fullest without overdoing it on forbidden treats or even feeling deprived. Here’s what works for me on turkey day and well into the holiday season:
Follow the 3-2 plan. I strongly recommend eating three meals and two snacks a day. That will keep you full and satisfied and less likely to grab something to eat that’s not on your plan.
Eat before you eat or cook. If you’re hosting Thanksgiving at your house, keep plenty of Atkins-friendly snacks on hand during all your cooking and preparations for the big meal. By hosting your own party, you have total control over the menu and activities. If you’re not hosting, fortify yourself with a filling Atkins-friendly snack before you go. My favorite snacks are Greek yogurt with slivered almonds and blueberries, or Cheddar cheese with strips of red pepper, or an Atkins Advantage bar or a shake. Or you could a have a small low-carb meal, such as a chef salad topped with grilled chicken. The combination of a small amount of carbs with fat and protein will stabilize your blood sugar. That way, you’ll have the physical backup to your mental fortitude so you can pass up holiday foods that are not on your low-carb meal plan.
Enjoy your options. Thanksgiving features plenty of low-carb options, with the star being the turkey, of course. We have some delicious recipes in our recipes database for turkey, ham, mashed cauliflower (instead of potatoes), green bean casserole, low carb stuffing ideas and more. There are even some decadent low-carb desserts that everyone will enjoy.
Work it off. No matter how “good” you are when it comes to Thanksgiving temptations; the reality is that you’ll probably take in a few extra carbs. And there’s nothing like a little exercise to make you feel good about yourself and renew your commitment and motivation. Squeeze in an exercise video, take the dog on a walk or do something active with the family after the big meal.
Give yourself a break. The holidays are a time to enjoy family and friends, and yes, some favorite foods. If there isn’t an Atkins-friendly alternative, enjoy a little bit of the real thing, and don’t throw all reason to the wind, just make sure your next meal or snack is low-carb. Don’t beat yourself up if you’re not continuing to lose weight during this time. A true sign of success is maintaining what you’ve already lost while still enjoying food, friends and family.
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.
Sweden has given us the Volvo and Ikea, now it may be on the forefront in the fight against obesity. A report called Dietary Treatment for Obesity, from the Swedish Council on Health Technology Assessment (SBU), has shown that the typically recommended low-fat diet is failing to stop or reverse obesity trends that have reached epidemic proportions across the globe. The SBU will now recommend a lower-carbohydrate, higher-fat approach similar to the Atkins Diet. “A low-carbohydrate diet, even in the stricter form, will lead to a greater weight loss in the short term than the low-fat diet, and studies have indicated no adverse effects on blood lipids, provided that the weight stays low,” the SBU concludes.
“One possible consequence of this report will therefore be an increased use of a strict low-carbohydrate diet for short-term weight reduction.” As you know, during the maintenance phase of Atkins, you typically consume 20 to 40 percent of your calories from carbs, exactly the percentage range recommended by the SBU, and the range that helps you maintain your goal weight. In addition, the higher fat intake on an Atkins-like diet means your are more satisfied and stay full for longer, which makes this way of eating much more sustainable.
In addition, as you know, health markers improve on a low-carb diet. According to the report, following a low-carb diet resulted in “… a greater increase in HDL cholesterol (“the good cholesterol”) without having any adverse effects on LDL cholesterol (“the bad cholesterol”). This applies to both the moderate low-carbohydrate intake of less than 40 percent of the total energy intake, as well as the stricter low-carbohydrate diet, where carbohydrate intake is less than 20 percent of the total energy intake. In addition, the stricter low-carbohydrate diet will lead to improved glucose levels for individuals with obesity and diabetes, and to marginally decreased levels of triglycerides.”
This new research is in tune with the study released in the June issue of the British Journal of Nutrition, which I covered in one of my previous blogs: http://blogs.atkins.com/Blogs/colette_heimowitz/Archive/2013/6/13/195568.aspx. It also showed that a carbohydrate managed approach like Atkins is more effective for long-term weight loss than a conventional low-fat diet.
As always, it’s encouraging to see more and more studies that support the efficacy of a low-carb approach like Atkins. Although the SBU excluded all studies that examined both obese and overweight people in this latest analysis, if the studies on overweight people were included, it would show that a low-carb diet has the clear advantage, even after a year. This once again shows that Atkins is not just effective for short-term weight loss, but truly effective over the long term as well.
Have you ever been the victim of a bully? How about when the triple-threat of Halloween candy, Thanksgiving pies and Christmas cookies attempt to bully their way into your low-carb meal plan?
Perhaps when you were a kid an older youngster pushed you around or prevented you from using the swings in the playground or grabbed your sandwich at lunch. If you’re lucky, that childhood experience or two has inflicted no lasting damage on your psyche. But this other bully—the metabolic bully right within your own body—can damage you on a daily basis by interfering with your ability (and resolve) to achieve a healthy weight. In the simplest terms, this metabolic bully rears its ugly head when you exceed your tolerance for carbohydrates. But when you begin to tap into your body’s fat stores (burning fat for energy instead of carbs), you foil the metabolic bully that normally blocks access to your fat stores.
This metabolic adaptation, known as the Atkins Edge, provides a steady source of energy, helping control your appetite and eliminating or reducing carb cravings. It helps you lose fat pounds without experiencing undue hunger, cravings, energy depletions or any sense of deprivation. When you burn fat for energy all day (and all night), your blood sugar remains on an even keel. So how do you win the battle against this metabolic bully when the most food-focused time of the year is right around the corner? You can start planning now just by choosing from the following 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.
And not to worry; I understand that no one is perfect, especially if you’re face to face with a plateful of Grandma’s famous cookies or a pile of mashed potatoes dripping with butter and gravy. As long as you have taken the time to set a few goals for yourself well in advance, and you have outlined a general plan, even if you stray a little, you will still be set up to get back on track once the holidays are over. If you maintain your weight during the holidays, consider it a win. If you gain a few pounds, just hop back to Phase 1 for a couple of weeks to lose the few pounds you might have gained.