I write a lot about the many health benefits of low-carb diets and how to succeed while you’re doing Atkins. But what you do before you even start Atkins could very well be your best chance at losing weight (and keeping it off).
I’ve seen so many people jump right into their own personal version of what they think the Atkins Diet is—based on their opinion of what a low-carb diet is all about or outdated information about Atkins before it transitioned to its current form, thanks to new and evolving research. So, first of all, read the book. Or books. It won’t take long, but you will learn exactly how and why Atkins works, plus these books feature low-carb recipes and success stories to motivate and inspire you. You can learn about our latest books here: http://www.atkins.com/New-Book/New-Book.aspx
Next, take some time to explore www.atkins.com. You can learn more about the program, check out over 1,000 low-carb recipes and see what people are talking about in the Forums. Feel free to “lurk” as long as you’d like; you’ll learn what people experience in every Phase of Atkins. You can also post your own comments or ask for advice on how to get started. Be sure to check out the Free Tools at http://www.atkins.com/Free-Tools.aspx, where you can download our Mobile App, Carb Counter, Meal Planner and more.
Once you’ve gotten to know more about Atkins, it’s time to set some goals to help keep you stay focused during your weight-loss journey and beyond. Make sure your goals are realistic, yet still challenging enough so that you are actually making progress and seeing changes. For example, if you have 50 or more pounds to lose, it might be easier to break up your overall weight-loss goal into 10-pound increments. Average weight loss is typically 2.5 pounds a week, but depending on a variety of factors, including your age, activity level, sex, medications you are taking and metabolism, you may lose weight at a faster or slower rate.
Once you’ve set your goals, it’s time to decide which Phase to start in. You may choose to use Phase 1, Induction, as a brief weight-loss kick-start. Or you may want to stay in Induction and lose more weight before moving on. If you need to lose more weight or have certain health issues, start in Induction; otherwise you can start in Phase 2, Ongoing Weight Loss, or even Phase 3, Pre-Maintenance. Obviously, the more grams of Net Carbs you’re consuming—and you’ll add progressively more in each Phase—the more slowly you will lose the excess weight. But this also means you will have more variety and food options. Here’s a blog I wrote with more information on what Phase to start in: http://blogs.atkins.com/Blogs/colette_heimowitz/Archive/2014/6/5/264094.aspx
Once you’ve decided what Phase to start in, review the food list for that Phase. Next, clean out your pantry and kitchen of all the food that is not recommended for that Phase. This may not be realistic if you have family members who are not going to be eating low-carb with you, but you can keep their food in a separate spot so you aren’t tempted. And there are plenty of low-carb recipes and foods that your family probably will enjoy!
After you’ve cleaned out your pantry, plan out your first week’s worth of meals and snacks, make a shopping list and hit the store.
Once you’ve done all this, it’s time to start your Atkins journey!
You may have decided to start Atkins because you wanted to lose weight, but did you know that research has shown that a low-carb diet like Atkins has demonstrated to have many more “off label” benefits that just losing weight? Just to name a few, they include: epilepsy and related illnesses, acid reflux (GERD), acne, headaches, heart disease, cancer, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), diabetes/metabolic syndrome/insulin resistance, dementia and narcolepsy.
Here’s what the research says about a low-carb diet’s role in each of these conditions:
Epilepsy and Related Diseases
More than thirty studies from ranging from 2004 to 2014 support the use of a Modified Atkins Diet in helping ease the symptoms of epilepsy and related seizure disorders in adults and children . This was especially encouraging for children diagnosed with childhood epilepsy who are not responding to the seizure control medications. The Modified Atkins Diet is used by Dr Eric Kossoff at John Hopkins . Dr Kossoff has also published a book titled;
Ketogenic Diets treatments for Epilepsy and Other Disorders. Fifth Addition
With info on the Modified Atkins Diet
More info can be found at;
http://www.epilepsy.com/epilepsy/treatment_atkins_diet youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c3tac5Gfd9Q
Preliminary findings based on five case studies show that a low-carb diet may help alleviate acid reflux. Typically foods with caffeine or that are high in fat have been shown to contribute to acid reflux, but this study shows that a low-carb diet may help prevent symptoms usually brought on by those foods. These initial studies suggests more research needs to be done examining the effect of low-carbohydrate diets on GERD.
There has been growing research on the effect nutrition has on skin health. In a 2012 review published in Skin Pharmacology and Physiology, the role of carbohydrates was examined on the development of acne, with the hypothesis that a very low carb diet could have a positive impact on the treatment of acne.
In a 2013 study in Functional Neurology, researchers report on the case of twin sisters who were following a high-fat, low-carb diet in order to lose weight. While they were on the diet, they noticed that their migraines improved as well, leading to the theory that this type of diet could help improve headache symptoms.
Twenty-one studies conducted between 2002 and 2014 examine the role of low-carb diets and how they may help decrease heart disease risk factors, as well as risks for hypertension and stroke. The use of a low-carb diet has been shown to not only help with weight loss, but also improve blood pressure, cholesterol levels and triglycerides, as well as decrease inflammation—all factors associated with heart disease.
Obesity is a factor associated with the increased risk for some cancers, so naturally if a low-carb diet is shown to help people lose weight and maintain their weight loss, the impact on decreasing the risk of some cancers is positive. Examples include findings from a 2012 study in the Journal of National Cancer Institute that show that a higher total carbohydrate intake and higher dietary glycemic load were associated with an increased risk of recurrence and mortality in stage III colon cancer, meaning that a low-carb diet (which is naturally low glycemic) could help in improving the survival rates in colon cancer. Another study in Nutrition and Cancer (2010) showed that a low-carb diet helped overweight women breast cancer survivors lose weight—decreasing their risk for heart disease and other obesity-related diseases, as well as a recurrence of breast cancer.
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is the most common endocrine disorder affecting women of reproductive age and is associated with obesity, hyperinsulinemia, and insulin resistance. Because low carbohydrate diets have been shown to reduce insulin resistance, a pilot study (Nutrition and Metabolism, 2005) investigated the six-month metabolic and endocrine effects of a low-carbohydrate, ketogenic diet (LCKD) on overweight and obese women with PCOS. In this pilot study, a LCKD led to significant improvement in weight, percent free testosterone, LH/FSH ratio, and fasting insulin in women with obesity and PCOS over a 24-week period. Another 2004 pilot study in the Journal of General Internal Medicine showed similar positive results.
Diabetes/Metabolic Syndrome/Insulin Resistance
Twenty-nine studies, dating as far back as 1998, show the positive impact low-carb diets have in decreasing symptoms and risks of diabetes, metabolic syndrome and insulin resistance.
A high-calorie diet is associated with an increased risk of cognitive impairment. In a 2012 study in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, it was shown that the risk of mild cognitive impairment or dementia was elevated in people who consumed a high-carb diet, leading to the conclusion that low-carb diet has a role in lowering the risk.
Last, but not least—In a 2004 study in Neurology, patients with narcolepsy experienced modest improvements in daytime sleepiness while on a low-carb diet.
Once again, there’s great news supporting a low-carb diet’s role in the fight against diabetes. A group of 26 physicians and nutrition researchers, in a review paper submitted to the journal Nutrition, listed 12 reasons, backed by clinical studies, why a low-carb diet is beneficial for managing Type-2 diabetes.
• High blood sugar is the most important feature of diabetes control. Decreasing carbohydrate intake has the greatest effect on blood sugar levels.
• Increase in calorie intake and obesity has been driven by increases in carbohydrate intake.
• Carbohydrate restriction provides benefits regardless of weight loss.
• Carb restriction is the most reliable dietary intervention for weight loss.
• Adherence to low-carb diets in Type-2 diabetes is as strong as other dietary interventions, and is often significantly stronger.
• Generally, replacing carbs with protein is beneficial.
• Increased total fat and saturated fat intake are not associated with increased heart disease risk.
• Carbohydrates—not dietary fats—control triglyceride levels.
• HbA1c—also known as glycated hemoglobin, and an indicator of blood sugar levels—is the greatest predictor of microvascular and macrovascular complications in patients with Type-2 diabetes.
• Lowering carb intake is the most effective method for decreasing triglyceride levels and raising levels of “good” HDL cholesterol.
• Patients with diabetes reduce their dependence on, or doses of, medication when following a low-carb diet.
• Intensive blood glucose reduction though carb restriction has negligible side effects compared with the use of medication for the same effect.
Diabetes is a disease involving the inability to process carbohydrates, therefore reducing carbohydrates would seem to be an obvious treatment, leading to the authors’ conclusion that the current recommendations of using a low-fat diet to control or manage diabetes need to be reevaluated—and more and more research shows that low-fat diets are failing to improve obesity, heart disease risk or even general health. Do you see the pattern here? More and more research continues to validate the fact that a low-carb diet is quite effective (and sustainable) when it comes to managing diabetes and a variety of other disease risk factors.
Stand in almost any aisle in the supermarket, and you’ll find products containing sugar. There are two kinds of sugar: naturally occurring sugars and added sugars. Unlike naturally occurring sugars, which are an intrinsic part of fruit, vegetables, grains and dairy products, these sugars have been added to foods in the manufacturing process. Berries, green beans and cheese all contain natural sugars, but they are also full of vitamins, minerals and other micronutrients. But other than calories, most added sugars offer little or no nutritional benefits.
Soft drinks are the largest source of sugar in the American diet, delivering one-third of all added sugars. Another three-fifths come from baked goods, fruit drinks, dairy desserts, candy and cereals. The remainder is found in unexpected places like barbecue sauce and other condiments, baby foods and deli specials like potato salad or coleslaw.
“Any form of sugar, whether integral or added, natural or manufactured, becomes a problem when you eat too much of it,” says Dr. Eric Westman, a co-author of The New Atkins for a New You and an associate professor of medicine at the Duke University Health System and director of the Duke Lifestyle Medicine Clinic. “Although sugar is quickly metabolized, creating energy to power your body, excess sugar is converted to body fat,” he adds. According to the USDA, each person consumes an average of 154 pounds of added sugar a year, up from an average of 123 pounds in the early 1970s. This translates to an average of nearly 750 calories a day. We each consume an average of 53 gallons of sugar-laden soft drinks each year and get 16 percent of our daily caloric intake from added sugars. For kids aged 6 to 11, it’s 18 percent, and for teenagers, it’s 20 percent. For every daily soft drink, a child’s chance of becoming obese increases by 50 percent. “The twin epidemics of obesity and type-2 diabetes have occurred concurrently with the enormous increase in sugar consumption over the last several decades,” Dr. Westman says.
How to Say “See Ya” to Sugar
According to Dr. Westman, the best way to decrease your sugar intake is to cut back on most packaged foods and eat a whole foods diet. Vegetables, berries and other fruits, nuts/ seeds, Greek yogurt, as well as a variety of protein sources and olive oil and other healthy, natural fats keep you satisfied and in control of your appetite. And because the sugar intake is low, you will be more likely to burn body fat for energy. It’s even been reported that when people replace packaged foods and added sugars with whole foods, they often discover that their cravings for added sugar go away.
Here are additional tips for cutting back on your sugar intake:
Pump up the protein. When you add protein to your meals and snacks, it helps stabilize your blood sugar levels, keeping those sugar cravings at bay. Plus, consuming protein helps you burn more calories; in a nutshell, digesting and metabolizing protein burns twice the calories than when you eat carbohydrates. You can grill chicken, fish, steak or more and pile it on top of a salad packed with fresh vegetables. Enjoy quick snacks of chilled chicken, egg or shrimp salad wrapped in a romaine lettuce leave or boil up a batch of hard-boiled eggs for a quick protein-packed snack.
Revamp your drinks. Swap beverages laced with sugar and high-fructose corn syrup for those sweetened with non-caloric sweeteners, or better yet, sparkling water.
Go cold turkey. Initially, it sounds crazy to completely eliminate or cut back on sugar—especially if you crave it a lot. You would think you would end up craving it even more. But a 2011 study in the journal Obesity shows that the fewer carbs (i.e. packaged foods containing sugar) you consume (especially when you are consuming fat and protein in their place), the less you will eventually crave those carbs and the more you will be able to control your hunger.
Eat small, frequent meals. If you follow the standard breakfast-lunch-dinner schedule, try eating a smaller 200-calorie mini-meal every two to three hours, with the goal of taking in a minimum of 1,500 calories by the end of the day. This will keep your metabolism steadily burning calories from each meal, while preventing sudden drops in blood sugar—and cravings for that cookie or candy bar.
Drink up. Thirst can often be mistaken for hunger. Try to drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day. It will keep you cool, flush out toxins and prevent dehydration. You can jazz up your water with slices of lemon, lime or cucumber.
Plan ahead. Is it hard to resist the donuts at the office every Friday or that slice of cake or plate of cookies at social events? Make sure you have a protein-packed snack before you go, and drink plenty of water. If you can’t avoid your Great-Aunt’s homemade apple pie (made from the recipe that’s been handed down for generations) without appearing impolite, take a small bite or ask for a small slice and share it with someone. And make your next snack or meal is one that focuses on fresh vegetables, natural fats and protein.
Watch your stress. Very often sugar cravings kick into high gear when you’re stressed out or anxious. This is also a sign it’s time to take care of yourself. Instead of soothing your stress with a pint of ice cream, come up with a list of alternative activities you can turn to. Go for a walk or a hike with a friend, go to the gym, watch a funny video, hit the golf course or get a facial or a massage.
It’s summertime—school’s out and the kids are home. That’s great, but if you’re doing Atkins and following a low-carb lifestyle, sometimes it can seem like a challenge to accommodate your needs and those of your family without feeling like a short-order cook.
First of all, talk to your family about your goals and ask for their support. Explain what Atkins is about, and show them all the different foods you can eat and discuss what foods you are trying to avoid. The whole family can benefit from purging the pantry of packaged foods full of sugar, especially when you show them how much healthier fresh vegetables and fruits are compared to packaged foods filled with sugar. With all this being said, don’t force your diet on your family or restrict them of all their favorite foods. Make it fun, and get them involved—they will be more likely to support you and enjoy the food and the healthy benefits of your new lifestyle. Here are some other tips:
Make a menu. Select some delicious and family-friendly low-carb recipes, and let your family create a weekly menu so that they feel involved in the process. Especially during the summer, grilled meats and fresh veggies can make a very satisfying meal for everyone involved, without anyone feeling like they are deprived.
Have it on the side. Round out your low-carb recipes with a few side dishes that may contain more carbs (and that you can resist) but that will satisfy your family. This could be a fresh corn and black bean salad, pasta side dishes, baked sweet potatoes, corn on the cob, and more.
Skip the bun. Summer isn’t summer without hamburgers and hot dogs. You can enjoy a hearty hamburger as well; just wrap it in lettuce instead of a bun. Your family can enjoy their burgers or hot dogs with buns, and you won’t feel like you’re missing a thing. Having fajitas? Enjoy yours “naked” or on a bed of lettuce.
Make snacking easy. If your pantry and refrigerator are filled with low-carb snacks, it will be much easier for you (and your family) to resist the high carb-and sugar filled packaged snacks. Stock your pantry with almonds, macadamia nuts, pecans and berries. Make sure you have turkey, ham, and cheese on hand for quick and tasty roll-ups. Use leftover grilled meat to make a quick lettuce wrap. Make an avocado dip and have cut up veggies available for dipping. And don’t forget eggs. Hard-boiled eggs and egg salads are also easy and taste great. Plus, frozen grapes and berries are sweet and delicious snacks on hot summer days.
Keep it fresh. Wash and cut up your fresh veggies and fruits and keep them in clear plastic containers in the refrigerator so there’s always a crunchy and refreshing bite at everyone’s fingertips, especially when the kids are whining that there’s “nothing to eat.” Serve your veggies with low-carb dips like hummus, salsa or guac or low-sugar salad dressings.