If you have ever had a gallstone, you know how painful the entire experience can be. Research also shows that the likelihood of getting gallstones is typically linked to obesity, yo-yo dieting and rapid weight loss. A group of researchers recently published a systemic review in the journal of Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology of the best non-surgical strategies to prevent gallstones in adults while they lose weight.
The final analysis of 1,837 obese participants compared taking a daily supplement—ursodeoxycholic acid (UDCA)—with a high-fat diet. The results? Although UDCA reduced the risk of gallstones compared with a control group, the effect was significantly larger in the higher-fat diet trials. In addition, the high-fat diet (12.2 grams-30 grams of fat/daily) beat a low-fat diet (2 grams-3 grams of fat/daily) in the reduction of gallstone formation.
What does this mean to you? We have hard data that consuming as much as 60% of your calories as healthy fats on a low-carb diet like Atkins does not have a negative impact on your health—in fact, it has a positive influence on your levels of good (HDL) and bad (LDL) cholesterol levels, plus it leads to a drop in triglycerides. In addition, people with insulin resistance (a precursor to Type-2 diabetes) who eat a low-carb diet rich in fat lose weight while reducing their insulin resistance (and their risk for Type-2 diabetes). Plus, consuming a higher percentage of fat tends you to make you feel less hungry and more satisfied than other diets. And now, this most recent analysis shows that a higher fat intake may be the best way to prevent gallstone formation while you are losing weight.
Although there are no studies that show that Atkins causes kidney or liver problems in healthy individuals, there are still ill informed health professionals who equate Atkins with excessively high protein intake and the potential for kidney function decline. Those of us here in the community know that Atkins is not a very high protein diet; we recommend a protein intake that is no more than 25 to 30% of total calories, which is optimal. There are already research trials that examined liver and kidney and heart function on participants who followed ketogenic diets (Atkins approach) in which no negative effects were observed up to two years after. Also, follow-up on patients at Dr. Atkins' medical practice (Dr. Atkins used his diet in private practice for 30 years) found no adverse effect on their kidney and liver functions.
Now there is more good news! A new study conducted by the American Diabetes Association supports the safety and efficacy of a low-carb diet like Atkins. This latest study compared a low-carb diet with Mediterranean or low-fat diets and their impact on preserving and/or improving renal (kidney) function of 318 moderately obese folks with or without type-2 diabetes. These participants were followed over the course of two years during a randomized and controlled trial, and a low-carb diet like Atkins was found to be just at effective and safe at preserving or improving kidney function as a Mediterranean diet or a low-fat diet.
The researchers believe that any improvement in kidney function was most likely due to the positive effects of weight loss from these diets, including improvements in insulin sensitivity and blood pressure. This type of research is always encouraging because it continues to show that if you are doing Atkins, not only will it help you lose weight (and keep it off), but that the protein intake does not have a negative impact on your kidneys, and, in fact, there is the potential that the weight loss may lead to improved kidney function in some folks.
If you’ve read anything about diets lately, you have most likely heard of the Paleo Diet, which is based on eating whole foods from food groups our hunter-gatherer ancestors would have eaten during the Paleolithic Era, the time period from about 2.6 million years ago to the beginning of the agricultural revolution, about 10,000 years ago. These foods include fresh meats, fish, seafood, fresh fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts and healthy oils. You eliminate dairy products, cereal grains, legumes, refined sugars and processed foods on the Paleo Diet.
As you can see, there are some similarities to the Atkins Diet, in that whole foods, healthy fats, protein, veggies and fruit dominate the two eating plans. If you were wondering why someone would choose Paleo over Atkins or vice versa, here is a quick comparison:
• Fresh meats (preferably grass-produced or free-ranging beef, pork, lamb, poultry and game meat)
• Fish and seafood
• Fresh fruits (preferably locally sourced)
• Fresh vegetables (preferably locally sourced)
• Healthful oils (olive, coconut, avocado, macadamia, walnut and flaxseed)
Foods that are not allowed:
• Dairy products
• Cereal grains
• Legumes (beans, peas, soybeans, lentils and peanuts, to name a few)
• Refined sugars
• Processed foods
• Refined oils (soy, cottonseed, corn, sunflower, safflower and sesame)
• Grass-fed or free-ranging meats and locally sourced fish, seafood, vegetables and fruits are healthier.
• Grass-fed or free-ranging meats and locally sourced fish, seafood, vegetables and fruits are also more expensive and harder to find.
• One-size-fits all approach and does not allow an individual to discover their personal carbohydrate tolerance and uncover potential food sensitivities.
• Fresh meats (beef, pork, lamb, poultry and game meat)
• Fish and seafood
• Fresh vegetables
• Healthy fats (butter, canola oil, coconut oil, flaxseed oil, grapeseed oil, mayonnaise, olive oil, high-oleic safflower oil, sesame oil)
• Most cheeses
• Nuts and seeds
• Whole milk, cheese, Greek yogurt, ricotta or cottage cheese
• Approved Atkins low-carb bars, shakes and frozen meals
• Berries in early phases and other types of fresh fruits( in later Phases)
• Starchy vegetables (in later Phases)
• Whole grains (in later Phases)
Foods that are not allowed:
• Processed foods with refined sugar and/or partially hydrogenated oils (cookies, crackers, chips, etc.)
• Breaded Fried foods
• Easier entry point into a low-carb lifestyle, while still emphasizing whole foods; healthy fats, optimal protein intake, vegetables, and fruit
• More convenient—Atkins bars, shakes and frozen meals are allowed
• Less expensive than Paleo
• As you learn your personal carb tolerance, you can incorporate certain carbs back into your eating plan while still maintaining your weight loss.
• By introducing foods one at a time (in 5 net carbohydrate increments) you are given the opportunity to discover food intolerances as well as your own personal carbohydrate balance.
• Unlike Paleo, you aren’t asked to totally eliminate cereal grains, legumes, potatoes and dairy.
Ultimately, both diets have numerous benefits, and the choice is yours, although Atkins may be easier to start with since you don’t have to eliminate as many foods, and it’s more convenient and less expensive.
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.
Bringing your new baby home could very well be one of the most joyous and memorable occasions in your life. As you get into the routine of diaper changing, feeding and sleeping (hopefully!), it’s natural for you to start thinking about losing weight. But it’s important to remember that your body has just been through a lot; giving birth is no small feat, and your body needs time to rest, recover and replenish before you put undue pressure on yourself to get back into your favorite pair of pre-pregnancy jeans. First and foremost, you need to listen to your doctor and his or her recommendations for when you can start exercising and any other important guidelines. Here are some other important tips for how to lose baby weight, with the help of Atkins:
Set realistic weight loss goals:
You typically lose up to10 pounds during childbirth, and you will lose additional weight in coming weeks as you shed additional retained fluids. While the fat you stored during pregnancy won’t disappear on its own right away, it’s also important to lose it in the right way. Focus on losing 1 to 2 pounds a week until you hit your target weight, but keep in mind that depending on how much weight you have to lose, it may take six months or even longer to return to your pregnancy weight, whether you’re breast-feeding or not.
Give yourself some time to ease back into weight loss. There’s never a right time to do a crash diet, but now would be the absolute worst time! You want to lose the baby weight slowly and steadily, without putting any undue stress on yourself or your body. Generally, you could start eating around 50 grams of net carbs a day.
As with all phases of Atkins, build your eating program around protein, including meat, poultry and seafood, eggs and healthy natural fats such as olive and flaxseed oil, nuts/seeds and their butters, and avocados.
Eat plenty of vegetables and one serving of fruit such as strawberries, blueberries or grapefruit daily.
Read ingredient labels and AVOID hydrogenated oils.
Cook meat well but don't burn it—heavily charred meats can be unhealthy.
Be sure to drink plenty of water. Shoot for 8 (eight-ounce) glasses of water a day, possibly more if you are breastfeeding.
Eat small, frequent meals with healthy snacks in between to keep your hunger in check and your energy level high. If you are breastfeeding, you may feel extra hungry because your body is working around the clock to make breast milk for your baby; the frequent meals and snacks will help you keep you satisfied.
Focus on your body’s hunger cues vs. eating a specific number of calories, and watch your portion sizes.
Once you have the go-ahead from your doctor to exercise, try to walk 30 minutes a day at a comfortable pace. If you already had an exercise routine prior to pregnancy and/or during pregnancy, now’s the time to slowly ease back into it.
If you’re breastfeeding:
You may need to add up to an extra 500 calories a day (for a total daily calorie intake of 2,000 to 2,200 calories) while breastfeeding, but you can safely drop to 1,800 calories a day once your baby is two months old. Remember that you are using your own calories to feed your baby, and cutting calories too early or drastically may interfere with milk production.
When it comes to Atkins, we advise breastfeeding mothers to avoid Phase 1. You should be able to lose weight gradually while breastfeeding by keeping your daily carb consumption around 50 grams of net carbs or above. Nursing a baby requires a reasonable amount of calories, so you should see a gradual weight loss. The issue is that too rapid a weight loss, combined with the concomitant release of toxins stored in fat cells, might also be transmitted into breast milk. Until you wean your child, losing only 1 to 2 pounds a week should be your goal.
If you start losing more than 1 to 2 pounds per week while breastfeeding, you may need to add an extra snack and/or increase your net carbs to slow weight loss down—the vitamins and minerals from the food you eat will get pumped into your breast milk, and the calories for your breast milk are mostly coming from your body reserves (which includes the weight you gained during pregnancy).
A typical day’s menu would look like this:
Breakfast: 2-egg omelet and 1 ounce cheese
Snack: ½ cup berries and 2 ounces nuts
Lunch: Grilled chicken with 2 tablespoons peanut sauce and a large salad
Snack: Greek yogurt and half a pear
Dinner: Lamb kebabs, half a baked sweet potato and 2 cups mixed salad with 1 ounce blue or feta cheese and Greek vinaigrette dressing.
And have fun! This is a very special time you will never forget.
It seems like red meat is always the culprit that goes hand in hand with clogged arteries, stroke, diabetes and heart disease—in other words, a heart attack on a plate. Not too long ago, a group of scientists at Harvard examined this supposed link between red meat and processed meat consumption and the risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke and diabetes in a systematic review and meta-analysis of multiple studies. And they finally set the record straight. (1)
What they found is that consumption of processed meats is associated with a higher incidence of cardiovascular disease and diabetes, but not red meat. Why is that? Processed meats often contain preservatives like nitrates and nitrites, which are a major source of nitrosamines, which may contribute to insulin resistance and Type 2 diabetes.
Then, of course, there’s the misperception that the saturated fats in red meat increase your levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol, which leads to cardiovascular disease and other ailments. While it’s true that saturated fats may increase LDL cholesterol, when someone’s entire diet is taken into consideration, there is no link between saturated fat and cardiovascular disease. And when you consume saturated fat on an Atkins-type diet, where your body is burning primarily fat for fuel, published research has shown that the level of saturated fat in the blood does not increase. Think of it like this: is the hamburger to blame for your ill health, or the French fries, bun and soda that come with it?
If you are following Atkins, you should be consuming plenty of fresh vegetables (and eventually low-glycemic fruits), with equal opportunity given to poultry, fish, meat and various other protein sources. This emphasis on whole foods (vs. packaged or overly processed foods) is a delicious recipe for good health.
And if you love your deli meats, whenever possible, choose nitrite- and nitrate-free meats or plain, sliced roast beef, turkey, ham and the like.
1) Circulation; Red and Processed Meat Consumption and Risk of Incident Coronary Heart Disease, Stroke, and Diabetes Mellitus.
A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Renata Micha, RD, PhD; Sarah, BA; Dariush Mozaffarian, MD, DrPH
In the world of weight loss, one-size-does not fit-all. Whether or a not a diet works for you or the person next to you depends greatly on your willingness to embrace that way of eating as a lifestyle.
In an editorial in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), Dr. Sherry Pagoto and Dr. Brad Appelhans analyzed numerous meta-analyses of various diets. According to the Dr. Pagoto, the only consistent finding among the studies is that adherence—the degree to which participants continued in the program or met program goals for diet and physical activity—was most strongly associated with weight loss and improvement in disease-related outcomes.
In other words, your success at losing weight and keeping it off is most likely determined by how long you stick with the diet. If you lose weight on a quick-fix diet that you stick with temporarily, only to slip back into your old eating habits, your weight loss will be just that—temporary. Whereas if you make permanent, healthy changes in your eating habits, it’s quite likely you will lose the weight and keep it off. While the editorial in JAMA showed that there is not one single “perfect” diet that is guaranteed to work for everyone, what makes Atkins a diet that so many people can have success with is that it teaches you how to balance your carb intake while you continue to lose weight, and then shows you how to transition to a lifestyle that allows you to keep the weight off.
Even in Phase 1, you are able to eat a delicious variety of proteins, healthy fats, and lots of vegetables, and you continue to add to the list of carbohydrate foods as you progress through the various Phases. Your choices on Atkins are tasty and satisfying, whether you are making a low-carb recipe or ordering at your favorite restaurants. If you decide that a low-carb diet like Atkins is the diet for you, it’s quite possible you will have long-term success with this satisfying way of eating.
The power of the Atkins Diet rests on the fact that carbohydrate, in addition to being an energy source, has a potent effect on fat metabolism. Carbohydrate is the major stimulus for insulin release, and insulin potently inhibits the breakdown and promotes storage of fat. In this way, dietary carbohydrate-blocks access to body fat – exactly the opposite outcome desired if body fat mobilization and weight loss are the desired outcomes. However by reducing carbohydrate intake below a level where the insulin response blockades stored body fat, the Atkins Diet enables a unique metabolic state characterized by increased fat burning. You burn the fat you are eating and the fat you have stored on your body. That is why you lose weight and why eating fat does not pose a health risk on Atkins, because you are burning it for fuel when carbs are low enough.
A low carbohydrate diet like Atkins is the perfect diet for me because I have carbohydrate intolerance. When I eat the right amount of carbs for my body, I just feel better, I am not hungry all the time, and my craving are in check. When I go beyond my carbohydrate tolerance I get bloated, retain water, feel sluggish, get sleepy two hours after eating, and I crave sweets all the time. I simply will not let too many carbs bully me ever again.
How about you?
The truth behind five low-carb diet myths.
Whether you are new to Atkins or have been following it for some time, no doubt you may have dealt with your share of diet naysayers who are determined to undermine your hard-earned results with multiple reasons why low-carb diets are unhealthy or unrealistic to follow for the long term. It’s time to arm yourself with the facts! Read on for my responses to five of these popular low-carb myths.
1) Myth: The Atkins Diet contains too much saturated fats, and saturated fats are to blame for a host of health problems, including heart disease.
Fact: Saturated fats, which are typically solid at room temperature and are found in meat, poultry, dairy products and palm and coconut oils, may be beneficial when consumed as part of a balanced intake of natural fats. When you restrict your carbs, your body makes less saturated fat while burning more of it. Research also shows that during weight loss phases of Atkins, if you eat saturated fats, the fewer carbs you eat and the more you reduce saturated fat levels in your blood. When it comes to Atkins, the only dietary fat you should truly avoid are trans fats. An increased intake of trans fats is associated with an increased heart attack risk, and most recently has been show to increase the body’s level of inflammation. Trans fats are typically found in foods you should be avoiding already, including fried foods, baked goods, cookies, crackers, candies, snack foods, icings and vegetable shortenings. As long as a product contains less than 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving, a manufacturer can claim its product is free of trans fats. To be sure there are no trans fats in a product, check the list of ingredients, where trans fats are listed as “shortening” or “hydrogenated vegetable oil” or a “partially hydrogenated vegetable oil.” If you see any of these words in the ingredients list, just say no. You should also avoid deep-fried foods in fast-food and other restaurants.
2) Myth: Atkins is a high-protein diet, and too much protein causes kidney problems.
Fact: While you’ll be eating plenty of protein, Atkins’ typical intake of 12 to 18 ounces of protein a day is not considered a high-protein diet. And most concerns about eating too much protein are unfounded in that they are based on limited or flawed research. For example, the myth that a high protein intake can damage kidneys probably arose from the fact that people who already have advanced kidney disease can’t clear away the waste from even moderate protein intake. There’s absolutely no evidence that any healthy person has experienced kidney damage from eating the amount of protein consumed on Atkins. And, researchers have shown, that, in fact, eating more protein results in increased weight loss and fat loss compared to diets lower in protein. This is most likely the result of increased calorie burn and satiety (fullness) after eating protein compared to eating carbs. Based on most heights and gender, it’s recommended that you consume 4 to 6 ounces of protein at each of your meals each day. If you are a tall male, you might want to go with 8 ounces of protein, but the 4- to 6-ounce range should work for the majority of folks. The ideal amount of protein should make you full after your meal (not uncomfortably stuffed, though), but hungry in time for your next scheduled meal.
3) Myth: You don’t eat any vegetables on Atkins.
Fact: Atkins followers actually eat more servings of vegetables at every phase of the program than do most other Americans. In addition to protein and healthy natural fats, certain vegetables are the foundation of the Atkins way of eating. Vegetables do contain carbohydrates but, in most cases, these are exactly the kinds of carbs you should be consuming. But the key word is "most."
Rather than promoting the standard dietary fiction that all vegetables are equally healthful and should be consumed in unlimited servings, the Atkins way draws distinctions: A serving of spinach is better than a serving of peas; broccoli is more health-protective than potatoes.
Because controlling carbs will stabilize blood sugar, most people doing Atkins limit the amount of vegetables they eat. Eating too many veggies, especially starchy ones such as corn and potatoes, can undermine your weight-loss and weight-maintenance efforts. To spend your carbohydrate grams wisely, choose vegetables that provide the most antioxidant protection in combination with the fewest grams of carbs.
During Phase 1, you'll eat 12 to 15 net carbs coming in the form of vegetables. Depending on which vegetables you choose, that can translate into 5 to 8 servings of certain vegetables each day, primarily salad greens and other raw salad ingredients. Here's where you'll find kale; Swiss chard; cancer-fighting cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli and Brussels sprouts; beta-carotene-rich peppers and pumpkin; and lycopene-dense tomatoes, which help protect against prostate cancer.
Vegetables are an important and tasty part of Atkins. As you gradually increase the amount of allowable carbs and discover your personal carb balance during the next three phases, your veggie intake can continue to increase. In fact, you will even be able to start incorporating nuts, berries and certain fruits and grains in later phases as well. So go ahead and enjoy the rich diversity of vegetables. And tell all of those naysayers that this is one eating program that doesn't make you choose between a healthy body and a shapely physique. With Atkins, you can have both!
4) Myth: Low-fat diets are better than low-carb diets like Atkins.
Fact: Not so fast. Research continues to show that a low-carb diet like Atkins is more effective for long-term weight loss (after the one- and two-year mark) than a conventional low-fat diet. In addition, it showed that a low-carb diet is beneficial and safe for people who are highly insulin resistant and have a higher intolerance to carbs. This is great news, because these are the people who need to keep carb consumption low for the long term to control the insulin resistance and carb intolerance. In addition, 13 randomized controlled trials showed significantly improved good “HDL” cholesterol, triglycerides and diastolic blood pressure over the low-fat diet. This meta-analysis supports previous findings showing low-carb diets are more effective than low-fat diets, but what’s even more important is that this meta-analysis showcases the efficacy of a diet like Atkins over time.
I am always pleased when new research comes out that supports the efficacy, safety and long-term sustainability of Atkins. So many of you have already experienced these positive benefits; when science continues to show that Atkins is a viable solution for reversing obesity and the risk factors associated with heart disease, hopefully health professionals will see this as a serious option to offer their obese patients as well.
5) Myth: The weight you lose on Atkins is all water weight, not fat.
Fact: Typically on any weight loss plan, including Phase 1 of Atkins, the weight you lose is primarily water (diuresis) during the first few days or even the first week. However, on a controlled carbohydrate plan with adequate dietary fat, after diuresis, your body switches from burning carbohydrates to primarily burning stored body fat—along with dietary fat—for energy, which results in weight loss. Moreover, the weight lost is mainly fat, not lean body mass. It’s worth repeating that studies have shown that despite the fact that more calories were consumed on a controlled carbohydrate program than on a low-fat program, the carb-controlled subjects lost more weight than did those on a low-fat program.
As part of our educational outreach at Atkins, we try to attend as many conferences as possible to share all the research supporting low-carb diets and spread the word on how a low-carb diet like Atkins can help you lose weight and improve health. We recently attended a conference sponsored by the American Association of Diabetes Educators (AADE), where we were able to reach out to hundreds of people and talk about how Atkins works. A big topic of discussion at the conference was how powerful nutrition can be at managing a disease like diabetes vs. just relying on drugs that artificially manage the disease.This topic was covered in the AADE conference edition of Today’s Dietitian in the article “Low-Carb Diets—Research Shows They May Be More Beneficial Than Other Dietary Patterns.”
Current recommendations from the American Diabetes Association (ADA) for people with diabetes have changed to reflect the increased use of insulin-sensitizing drugs, leading to guidelines that are relatively high in carbs (45 to 60 grams of carbs per meal!). The ADA approves the use of low-carb diets in obese and overweight people with type-2 diabetes as a way to promote weight loss, although cautions that this approach should be limited to one year.
But research continues to show that low-carb diets can be safe and effective over the long term. The meta-analysis (combining and analyzing the results of different studies) released in the June issue of the British Journal of Nutrition shows that a low-carb diet like Atkins is more effective for long-term weight loss (after the one- and two-year mark) than a conventional low-fat diet. In addition, it showed that a low-carb diet is beneficial and safe for people who are highly insulin resistant and have a higher intolerance to carbs. Another study from Sweden, published in the journal Nutrition & Metabolism, reported that it can help control weight, blood sugar, and blood pressure for more than 2 years in motivated patients.
This is great news, because these are the people who need to keep carb consumption low for the long term to control insulin resistance and carb intolerance. This meta-analysis and the Swedish study supports previous findings showing low-carb diets are more effective than low-fat diets, but what’s even more important is that these studies showcase the efficacy of a diet like Atkins over time, and shows that recommending a low-carb diet like Atkins to people with type-2 diabetes over a long term is a safe and effective way to manage the disease.
I have written about plenty of studies that show that low-carb diets are beneficial for weight loss (there’s a news flash), especially when it comes to people who have type-2 diabetes. This latest article in Today’s Dietitian addresses many of the studies we have covered that support the long-term efficacy and safety of low-carb diets, their positive effect on cardiovascular risk profiles, and the ongoing proof showing that low-carb diets can help people with diabetes manage their disease, while enjoying the benefits of lasting weight loss. According to the author of this article, “Dietitians now can offer low-carb diets as an option for their clients with type-2 diabetes, helping them focus on nutrient-rich foods to ensure nutritional adequacy. Working in concert with physicians also is important to allow timely adjustments of medications, especially insulin, oral hypoglycemic agents, and hypertensive medications, and the regular monitoring of their health risk profile.”
It is encouraging to me when low-carb diets like Atkins continue to be recognized as an approved tactic for managing health conditions like diabetes. Managing your health through better nutrition instead of better drugs should really be the way to go.
Doctors miss the whole story on latest dietary rage:
The Mediterranean diet is all the rage these days. Doctors advocate it, magazines publish articles about it, and TV shows offer recipes for it. Medically correct, politically correct, culinarily correct, and scientifically incomplete.
The diet , as it is portrayed in the media, is fiction, a fabrication of certain consensus by medical readers who observe, correctly, that people in Mediterranean countries don’t follow the revered low fat diet. But still have far few cases of heart disease than do Americans. Noting that the big dietary difference was the use of olive oil, these doctors and science writers concocted a diet in which monounsaturated replaced 15-20% of the carbohydrates in the standard low fat diet. In several big studies, the olive oil diet has shown a major improvement of risk factors of people who had heart disease or diabetes.
I’m not surprised. However, I’m not going to attribute the health benefits entirely to olive oil. Even though I’m a big advocate of mono-unsaturated fat, it plays a secondary role here. The olive oil diet that was tested is now masquerading as a Mediterranean diet. Is it actually what Greeks and Italians eat?
If you’ve ever gone to the Mediterranean countries, you will not see anything that resembles it. The test diet in the media only allows meat once a week, the Greeks and Italians eat meat several times a week or just about every day if you count meat sauces, almost more that the roast-loving British.
The Carbohydrate Culprit:
The successful component of the pseudo Mediterranean diet, albeit to a lesser extent, but the main thing is the cut back is carbohydrates. For a majority of people susceptible to heart disease and diabetes, I am certain tighter carbohydrate restriction would further improve health. But not a single medically correct study ever has pursued this blatantly obvious supposition. The currently recommended, high-carbohydrate diet with 50-60% of total calories from carbohydrates and fewer than 30% from fat tends to increase the body’s levels of dangerous blood fat, namely triglycerides and LDL lipoprotein(a). It also elevates the amount of insulin circulating in the blood, which is a harborer of heart disease and adult onset diabetes, and lowers the beneficial HDL cholesterol. In other words, it causes the insulin resistance syndrome. On the other hand, the imposter diet is high in mono unsaturated fats, with 45% of total calories from the healthy oils, and 40% from carbohydrates. Even a 10%-15% cut in carbohydrates, leads to far fewer health consequences.
In light of the medically correct evidence on healthy fats, the ADA in 1994 revised its dietary recommendations by lumping monounsaturated fats in with complex carbohydrates. Not distinguishing between the two, or portions. The association recommended carbs and fats together make up 60-70% of total calories.
As I’m sure you know, a starchy meal can easily raise a diabetes blood sugar by 200 points. A half cup of olive oil won’t raise that same person’s blood sugar at all. I know the ADA must be squirming in their seat, because the level of type 2 diabetes has increased under its tutelage. That’s no excuse for not distinguishing fats from the carbohydrates.
The logical conclusion:
The real question that begs from the myriad of studies is this: is mono unsaturated so good or carbohydrates so bad? I think the latter.
Would further carbohydrate restriction work better for those with type 2 diabetes and heart disease? Of course it would. And why stop here? At any rate, carry this home with you. Today’s medically correct diet, higher in monounsaturated olive oil and still loaded with carbohydrates (while slightly lower), is second best to concentrating on controlling carbohydrates to your own individual tolerance and emphasizing healthy fats.
Thank You Dr. Atkins
Imagine devouring a plate of white pasta or a pile of sugary cookies. First your blood sugar soars (and the guilt sets in if you’re following Atkins!). Then, suddenly, your blood sugar drops to new lows. Four hours later, you’re hungry again (more hungry than if you had eaten a meal consisting of protein, fiber and fewer carbs), and you’re craving more cookies or pasta. I am sure you have encountered this vicious cycle (I like to call it carb rollercoaster). And now a new study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition and conducted by researchers from Harvard Medical school and Boston Children’s Hospital, supports the theory that these refined carbs not only mess with your waistline, but they mess with your brain.
When the obese and overweight subjects in the study were fed a high-glycemic meal, they experienced a subsequent drop in blood sugar and increase in hunger and cravings compared to when the subjects were fed a lower glycemic meal. The study authors hypothesized that the sharp drop in blood sugar caused by those refined carbs in the high-glycemic meal not only stimulates hunger but also makes the idea of eating more of this stuff seem more rewarding and pleasurable to your brain. On the other hand, whole grains and carbs found in vegetables take a longer time to break down, which means you stay full for longer, and your blood sugar rises more slowly, also making you less likely to succumb to cravings.
According to the authors, this study suggests that limiting these refined carbs could help overweight people stop overeating. In other words, avoiding refined carbs (white flour, sugar, corn syrup, etc.) and focusing on protein, healthy fats, fiber and fewer carbs—for example, eating the way that’s recommended on Atkins—might be a good weight loss strategy. To this, I say a resounding “Duh!”
What’s the most important meal of the day when it comes to weight loss and overall health? Researchers have repeatedly shown that people who eat breakfast have a better chance of losing weight—and keeping it off. The National Weight Control Registry shows that among those who’ve lost 30 or more pounds and have kept it off more than a year, 90 percent report eating breakfast most days of the week. And now, a new study in the journal Diabetes Care shows that eating breakfast every day is strongly associated with a reduced risk of a spectrum of metabolic conditions, including obesity, metabolic syndrome, hypertension and Type 2 diabetes.
If this isn’t enough to convince you, here are some other excellent reasons why you should eat breakfast:
1) Breakfast burns calories. Ever think of what "breakfast" means? Your body responds to not eating for hours and hours by "slowing down," diminishing its metabolic rate and burning fewer calories to conserve energy. By eating breakfast, you wake up your metabolism and get your engine humming, so you can burn those calories you need to use up to lose weight.
2) Breakfast is good for your brain. Are you interested in doing better at work or school? Don’t be a bed head—breakfast helps wake you up. Studies show that people who eat breakfast are more alert and do better on tests than people who skip breakfast. The USDA's Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion Symposium titled Breakfast and Learning in Children cites a "myriad" of studies that show eating breakfast helps "improve memory and positively affects the tasks that require the retention of new information”.
3) Breakfast boosts your mood. Skipping breakfast makes you grouchy. Studies show that people who eat breakfast tend to be in better moods (when I’m hungry, watch out!). Breakfast gets you started on the right track for the day. If you start out with a healthy breakfast, then you set the mood for lunch. You're more likely to choose something reasonable for lunch if you’ve paid some attention to your breakfast choices.
Now, this doesn’t mean you can eat just any breakfast! Forget the Danish or sugared doughnut fantasy first thing in the morning: they cause your blood sugar to skyrocket up and then crash to the ground a couple of hours later. You’ll be desperate for something to perk you up and are more likely to grab another high-sugar refined carb food for a quick sugar rush. And, if it says "nutritious," it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s healthy. Cereal manufacturers are experts in marketing, using words that send a healthy-sounding message, but kids’ cereals often have more sugar than candy does. Protect your kids from getting hooked on these empty foods. They’ll get used to all the sugar and will want only the presweetened kind of cereal. Fortunately there are plenty of low-carb breakfast options that you (and your family) can start the day with, including almost any type of egg, a wide assortment of fresh produce, smoothies, meats and more. Be sure to check out our Recipes section for many delicious low-carb breakfast options.
If you’re short on time, you can always substitute an Atkins Advantage™ or Day Break™ bar or shake or an Atkins Frozen Meal. And good news for coffee lovers! Moderate caffeine or tea intake is actually associated with improved long-term health benefits and assists in regulation of body weight. Coffee and tea contain several antioxidants and a little caffeine has the added benefit of mildly enhancing fat burning (caffeine, not coffee per se, increases fat burning).
Although there are plenty of tempting dishes that have the potential to send your daily net carb intake sky high, there are many delicious low-carb options that everyone will enjoy (even for your friends and family who aren’t doing Atkins).
If you’re entertaining at Home:
Hosting the party at your house is the easiest option, of course, and gives you control of the menu. Here are some tips:
Hit the deli;
• Cheese and meat platters
• Veggie trays (make your own low-carb dip)
• Antipasto trays (olives, peppers, marinated artichoke hearts and mushrooms, fresh mozzarella and tomatoes are a low-carb dieter’s dream)
• Relish trays
Make your own:
There are plenty of delicious low-carb recipes in The New Atkins for a New You Cookbook: 200 Simple and Delicious Low-Carb Recipes in 30 Minutes or Less. Start with (just to name a few):
• Sun-Dried Tomato Dip
• Speedy Spinach Dip
• Spicy Black Bean Dip
• Chili-Cheese Crisps
• Classic Chili con Carne
• Lemon-and-Basil Chicken-Veggie Kebabs
• Peppery-Spicy Baby Back Ribs
• Shrimp Diablo
You can also search our Recipes section on this site for many other delicious low-carb appetizer, dip and side dish options that will turn any party into a guilt-free feast.
If you’re Away from Home:
Try the following tips:
- Have a plan. If there is one food you simply can’t resist, allow yourself one very small serving, and leave it at that. If you know even that one small serving will open the floodgates to a carb free-for-all, resolve to stick with low-carb options.
- Eat before you go. Have a filling low-carb snack or meal before you head to the party. You can try an Atkins bar or shake, or one of our new Atkins frozen meals. This way you won’t be starving, and makes it easier to resist temptation.
- Bring your own. Offer to bring a veggie tray or meat and cheese tray, and/or prepare one or two of the tasty low-carb -friendly recipes listed previously. Knowing you will have a few low-carb choices that you love makes it much easier to enjoy the party (and the game) without guilt or hunger.
- Don’t beat yourself up. So you had a slip-up? Instead of using this as an excuse to call yourself a failure and forgo all the great progress you have made so far on Atkins, make your next meal a low-carb one. Your next step? Plan your next weeks of meals and snacks, which should help you get right back on track. Add in a little exercise to give yourself an extra boost.
With a little planning ahead, you can win at making the weekend Atkins-friendly. Most likely, you won’t feel like you’re missing a thing. Have a great weekend!
It was all over the internet and news this week so you probably heard about a new study, published on June 17 in JAMA Internal Medicine, that claimed there is a link between red meat consumption and Type 2 diabetes. It indicated that increased consumption of red meat over time was linked to an increased risk of Type 2 diabetes, although the authors had said that increased red meat consumption was also associated with weight gain (another factor known to increase the risk of Type 2 diabetes). But when adjusted for weight gain, the risk of Type 2 diabetes was still slightly heightened.
Before you cut all red meat out of your diet, keep in mind that this was an association in an epidemiology study which does not necessarily imply causation or mean that red meat is causing Type 2 diabetes. If you asked me, I would say the real villain in the Diabetes epidemic is added sugar, not red meat. (see highlighted recent review of scientific literature below).
However there have been slight trends in risk for consumption of cured and blackened meat, as well as processed meats. So you may want to consider limiting exposure to processed meats when possible. The study subjects who cut back on red meat (and therefore were perceived to lower their risk of Type 2 diabetes) could have also lost weight in the process simply be eliminating or cutting back on cured, blackened and processed meats. Maybe they increased their exercise level as part of this lifestyle change? Or maybe they decreased their intake of processed and packaged foods (consuming fewer processed foods could lead to weight loss and a decreased risk of Type 2 diabetes).
Another recent review of scientific literature (Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care, July 2013) highlights that sugar and obesity are the true villains in heightening your risk factors for diabetes (as well as increasing your risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia). Fortunately, many of the basic tenets of Atkins and a generally healthy lifestyle may help prevent the onslaught of these diseases. This is includes eating less, exercising more, restricting fried food and eating more fruits and vegetables.
If you are following Atkins, as it is laid out in The New Atkins for a New You, you are consuming plenty of fresh vegetables (and eventually low-glycemic fruits), with equal opportunity given to poultry, fish, meat and various other protein sources. This emphasis on whole foods (vs. packaged or overly processed foods) is a solid prescription for good health. When you eat meat, try the following tips to ensure you are making the healthiest choices:
Cold cuts and hot dogs: Less expensive brands may be full of added sugars and other hidden carbohydrates. Processed meats such as hot dogs, bologna, salami, olive loaf and the like usually contain nitrates and nitrites. These preservatives are major sources of nitrosamines, which may contribute to insulin resistance and Type 2 diabetes. They have also been linked to stomach and colon cancer. Whenever possible, choose nitrite- and nitrate-free deli meats or plain sliced roast beef, turkey and the like.
Bacon and such: Most sausages, bacon and aged hams also contain nitrates and nitrites. It is a common misconception that doing Atkins means eating large amounts of bacon and sausage. Both should be eaten occasionally and in moderation. Seek out preservative-free brands sold primarily in natural foods stores.
How you cook your meat also makes a difference. High-temperature frying, broiling, charring and grilling can create substances that may increase your risk of cancer. In general, the more well-done or charred your meat is, the more of these substances it will contain. To minimize your exposure when cooking at home, we offer the following tips for grilling:
--Lightly grill meats and fish; do not let them get black.
--Parboil or bake chicken before grilling so that you minimize time on the grill.
--Bake spareribs or pork before finishing off on the grill
--Brush barbecue sauce on meal after you remove from the grill, instead of before.
--Use marinades with little or no oil. Oil can drip into the fire, causing flare-ups that burn food.
--For the same reason, remove excess fat from meat before grilling.
A new meta-analysis (combining and analyzing the results of different studies) released in the June issue of the British Journal of Nutrition shows that a low-carb diet like Atkins is more effective for long-term weight loss (after the one- and two-year mark) than a conventional low-fat diet. In addition, it showed that a low-carb diet is beneficial and safe for people who are highly insulin resistant and have a higher intolerance to carbs. This is great news, because these are the people who need to keep carb consumption low for the long term to control the insulin resistance and carb intolerance.
In addition, 13 randomized controlled trials showed significantly improved good “HDL” cholesterol, triglycerides and diastolic blood pressure over the low-fat diet. This meta-analysis supports previous findings showing low-carb diets are more effective than low-fat diets, but what’s even more important is that this meta-analysis showcases the efficacy of a diet like Atkins over time.
I am always pleased when new research comes out that supports the efficacy, safety and long-term sustainability of Atkins. So many of you have already experienced these positive benefits; when science continues to show that Atkins is a viable solution for reversing obesity and the risk factors associated with heart disease, hopefully health professionals will see this as a serious option to offer their obese patients as well.
Suddenly the days are warmer, and whatever extra pounds you have accumulated over the winter months can no longer be hidden under sweaters and jeans. It is also likely that with the warmer weather, your appetite has also changed. You may want to eat less, and you may be craving different foods. But now is not the time to sabotage your weight loss efforts just because a day at the beach or pool (and the swimsuit that comes with that) is in your near future. Keep in mind that if you start cutting back too much, your weight loss could come to a screeching halt. When you’re on Atkins, it’s important to eat the full amount of recommended net carbs and optimal amount of calories for the Phase you are in. Eating less will make your body want to hold on to every last pound and slow down your metabolism. You want to keep your metabolism humming, while feeding your body a constant stream of nutrients (meats, dairy, fats, fiber-rich vegetables, and more, depending on the Phase you’re in). This will ensure that you remain satisfied and control your hunger while still dropping the pounds. Here’s how you can do this, even when the heat is on:
--Small, frequent meals: If the thought of the standard breakfast-lunch-dinner schedule you’ve been following in the winter months just seems too “heavy”, 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.
--Water: When the heat is on, it’s easy to become dehydrated. And, ironically, when you are dehydrated, your body tries to hold on to whatever water is in your body, leading to water retention, which, of course, may affect how your clothes fit. This may naturally lead you to think you need to eat less or even drink less. Not so fast. Make sure you’re drinking eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day. The water will keep you cool, flush out toxins and prevent dehydration.
--Food choices: More vegetables than ever are coming in season, and now that the weather is better, you can also grill outside. Enjoy grilled chicken, fish, steak and more. Slice it and pile it on top of a salad with the freshest vegetables. Enjoy quick snacks of chilled chicken, egg or shrimp salad wrapped in a romaine lettuce leave. Boil up a batch of hard-boiled eggs for a quick protein-packed snack, and keep plenty of cut-up veggies on hand to dip in salad dressing.
Say you’re 5 or 10 pounds from your goal weight; the end is in sight, and you’re closer than ever to achieving what you’ve worked so hard for. Then the pounds start creeping back on; before you know it, that magic number that was so close is a distant memory. Has this every happened to you? Why do we sabotage our success sometimes when we are so close to our goal weight? There are a number of reasons why that we intentionally or unintentionally let our success get the best of us.
Are you too focused on scale?
Your weight can easily fluctuate by 5 pounds or more over the course of a day depending on hormonal changes, how much water you are drinking, as well as your sodium intake and any prescribed medications you’re taking. Don’t just rely on the scale; take your measurements and see how your clothes are fitting.
Are you too focused on the right “number”?
As I just said, there’s a lot more to weight loss than just the number on the scale. Perhaps you had set a goal of losing 20 pounds in 12 weeks, and you are five pounds away from that magic number at 11 weeks. Instead of beating yourself up over not achieving the right number, take a look at all that you have accomplished. It’s very likely you have lost dress and pant sizes, and even gained muscle—maybe you lost 20 pounds of fat, but gained five pounds of muscle. Take your measurements, and also look at all the other positive changes you accomplished: Do you have more energy? More confidence? Have you improved your fitness level and changed the way you eat? These are all signs of success and they should be considered when you look at how well you achieved your goals. You might even need an extra couple weeks to hit your goal, which is totally fine. As you get down to those last few pounds, your body can be pretty stubborn in giving them up, but it will happen.
Do you let a slip-up derail everything?
Just because you had a slice of pizza or a cookie does not mean you’re a failure. It means you’re human. The key to achieving your weight loss goals, and making this way of eating a way of life, is knowing that even if you slip up occasionally, the important thing is to then get right back on the wagon. Make sure your next meal or snack is low-carb; add a little bit more exercise to your day, and ramp up your motivation by finding a new and delicious low-carb recipe to add to your menu. It’s also important to look at this as a learning experience. What caused your slip-up? Were you stressed? Had you skipped a meal or a snack so you were too hungry to resist the treat? Did you not want to hurt your host/hostess’s feelings at a party or family gathering? Were you just plain bored and hungry? Knowing what factors led to your slip-up can help you avoid it in the future.
Do you throw caution (and carbs) to the wind?
It may be tempting to start adding extra carbs into your meals now that you’re so close to success. As long as this works within your personal carb balance—meaning you are able to incorporate these extra carbs while still losing or maintaining your weight—that’s great. But be careful that the pounds don’t start slowly piling back on when you are so close to your goal.
Are you afraid of success?
Your goal is in sight, but are you wondering what to do once you have achieved it? That could also be daunting, daunting enough to relax your resolve and pile on a few pounds. Be proud of what you have accomplished instead. Celebrate your success, and start setting new goals so you have something new to work toward.
Is your weight your security blanket?
There may be various reasons that led you to gain weight in the first place. Sometimes it’s a product of low self-esteem or other past negative experiences. It is almost comforting to hide behind the weight; it becomes a source of security. As you shed the pounds on Atkins, that weight is no longer something you can hide behind. Your weight loss may attract attention, and if you were always used to hiding behind your weight, this could seem like unwanted attention. But this weight security blanket can also cost you your health and your quality of life. If you find you continue to sabotage your weight loss efforts because you are used to hiding behind those extra pounds, counseling may be a helpful choice to help you discover what factors in your life have caused this.
Share your experience. How have you sabotaged your weight loss efforts?
Did you know that brain imaging studies have shown that pictures of delicious food can stimulate the urge to eat? I’m sure you’ve been there. Think of a menu at a chain restaurant; how can you resist the smothered potato skins or sizzling burger and fries, not to mention the double-decker sundae, when the Technicolor pictures beckon to you so enticingly? While one part of your brain is urging you to eat, typically this response is countered by simultaneous signals coming from other parts of your brain that say “Don’t eat!” Or, at least “Don’t eat that! Try a salad with some grilled chicken instead!” The challenge? In obese people, the ability to suppress those initial signals to eat is often impaired. Why?
Our brains were wired for a time when food was scarce and starvation was common. That initial response to eat was truly a survival instinct, because you never knew when (or where) you would find your next meal. We face a much different problem than our ancestors. We live in a nation where food is abundant, often cheap and high in calories. We live in a time where the reward for cleaning your plate is dessert. Add to it that many obese people deal with excessive insulin output and insulin resistance, making it even more challenging to understand when you are hungry or not hungry. The more you teach your brain to override those “Don’t eat!” signals, the less you hear them. In fact, studies show that certain types of sugar affect these responses. Blood flow and activity in brain areas controlling appetite, emotion and reward decreased after consuming a drink with glucose, and participants reported greater feelings of fullness. After drinking fructose, those brain appetite and reward areas continued to stay active, and participants did not report feeling full. Glucose and fructose are typically found together in food and beverages, and more research needs to be done to understand how they affect the brain and body weight over time. But what this shows is that our brains do influence what we eat, and this could be a key to controlling the obesity problem.
The good news? Atkins trains your body to burn its own fat for energy. Once you start burning primarily fat, this leads to natural appetite control, which should make your cravings for the sugary, starchy foods decrease—and it should make it easier for you to override your brain’s signals, or at least help you make healthier choices when it is time to eat.
If you’re reading this, it’s quite likely you have lost weight on all sorts of diets. Only to regain those stubborn pounds as soon as you resume your previous eating habits.
What will make Atkins the diet that allows you to actually lose the weight, and keep it off… for good? It’s simple. Stop thinking of Atkins as a “diet” and start thinking of it as a new way of eating.
At this point, I would typically delve into the fascinating science behind Atkins—there are over 80 studies that highlight the positive weight loss results and other health benefits associated with following Atkins. And I have written plenty of previous blogs that cover this topic. Today I want to get down to the basic bare-bone facts:
1) Too many carbs; particularly sugar, refined grains like white flour and other processed foods; keep your body from burning fat for energy.
2) Don’t feed your body this way and you’ll find it easier to moderate your appetite and therefore lose weight.
Why? This new way of eating forces your body to burn its own fat for energy. And it doesn’t stop there. Once you’re burning primarily fat, other wonderful things happen, including natural appetite control. As you discover your tolerance for carbs—your personal carb balance--most people find that their cravings for sugary, starchy foods vanish—or at least moderate.
Ready to turn your body into a fat-burning machine? Here are some simple tips to get started:
--Start by consuming 20 grams of net carbs a day (net carbs are total carbs minus fiber).
--Make sure 12 to 15 grams of these net carbs come from Foundation Vegetables.
--Don’t worry about the percentage of fat, protein or carbs or number of calories you are eating.
--Read food labels—watch for hidden carbs.
--Write down everything you eat.
--Track your progress—Not just your weight, but your measurements, energy level and mood.
--Join the Atkins Community—It’s your free, built-in support system!
--Take this journey day by day and pound by pound. You are in this for the long haul, not just for the few weeks before swimsuit season or that class reunion.
--Expect fluctuations and plateaus (I’ve written plenty on these topics to help you make it through these situations).
--You may lose a lot at first; the key is to stick with the program. When you have reached your goal weight (and achieved your personal carb balance)—here’s the big key—continue to follow the Atkins lifestyle.
Of course, there are so many other details I could write about that show you how Atkins works (you can start by reading any of my past blogs), but today I wanted to show you how simple Atkins really is, and how easy it is to get started. It’s a helpful reminder, even for those of you who may have been following Atkins for some time.
When you think of dieting, what words come to mind? “Hunger” and “deprivation”? Maybe even “frustration”? In the past, did your experience with dieting include eliminating foods; drastically cutting calories and choking down the same bland meals; day in and day out? The good news? You probably lost some weight. The bad news? As soon as your willpower waned as you tried to stick to an unrealistic diet, the pounds came creeping back.
What if dieting meant you got to eat until you were pleasantly satisfied and full? That you weren’t plagued by hunger every day and that you were able to enjoy rich and flavorful foods? That you didn’t have to count calories on a daily basis, but still experienced steady weight loss, even if you had failed on other diets.
This, my friend, is the Atkins Promise. With Atkins, you learn a way of eating that will help keep any lost weight from coming back. The plan takes you through four Phases, which allow you to find your personal carb balance—the number of net carbs your body can tolerate without gaining back the weight you have already lost. By the time you achieve this personal carb balance, most likely you have eliminated addictive food patterns, you have increased self-confidence and improved health problems that accompanied your excess weight, and you’ve also minimized risk factors for certain diseases.
In a nutshell, this is what Atkins can do for you:
• The power of the Atkins Diet rests on the fact that it promotes more efficient fat burning. Stored body fat actually is our body's backup fuel system for energy. The most efficient weight loss and weight maintenance program would have to be one that converts body fat from backup to primary fuel. This switch occurs when carbohydrates are low enough to force the body to access this alternative fuel source. On Atkins you will burn the fat on your body as well as the fat you consume for energy. That is why fat will not pose a health risk on Atkins. Because you are burning fat for energy.
But contrary to past popular belief, the Atkins Diet is not about living solely on butter and bacon. Instead, you learn to incorporate a multitude of healthy fats, protein, vegetables, and eventually nuts and fruits and other wholesome carbs into your lifestyle while losing weight, gaining energy and feeling better than ever.
• Finding the point that your body burns fat is a unique process, and the Atkins Diet provides individualized guidance through its four Phases to help you achieve this.
• The Atkins Diet has evolved based on findings from a multitude of new studies that have validated previous work and made new discoveries, all to help enhance your experience with Atkins and help you succeed with your weight loss goals.
• And, finally, Atkins provides a long-term, well-balanced diet plan that teaches you how to achieve your perfect carb balance.
If you believe in the Atkins Promise, you can succeed! And if you have friends and family asking you how you’ve lost weight so far, show this to them, too, so they can understand how the Atkins Diet works and start believing in the Atkins Promise.
The wonderful thing about Atkins is that you have options; the program is truly customized to you and what works best for your body. One example of doing Atkins your way is the decision of losing most of your weight in Induction or losing most of your weight in OWL. Read on and let me know what works (or worked) best for you.
Different Phases, Different Objectives
Think of Atkins as a marathon, rather than a sprint and you’ll understand why I think it is probably best to lose the bulk of your weight in OWL (On Going Weight Loss).
Induction trains your body to burn fat, which will kick-start weight loss. OWL is where you’ll get into the steady rhythm that will carry you until you’re almost at the finish line: 15 pounds from your goal. By then, you’ll have honed your understanding of how your body reacts to certain foods and to gradual increases in carb intake. Learning a way to eat that you can live with for the rest of your life is the real objective of Atkins.
Phase 1 Is Just the Launching Pad
I used to be of the mindset that you could stay in Induction as long as you wanted as long as you didn’t get bored with the food choices. After all, there’s no health risk associated with staying in Induction indefinitely. However, after more than 20 years of helping people lose weight on Atkins—and keep it off—I’ve come to the conclusion that Phase 2 is the best place to lose the bulk of your weight. No wonder Dr. Atkins dubbed it Ongoing Weight Loss (OWL). You may stay at a relatively low level, perhaps 25 to 35 grams of Net Carbs a day, which is not all that different from Induction, but it does allow you a bit more flexibility to eat such delicious, nutritious food as nuts and seeds, berries, melon, cherries, Greek yogurt, and or cottage cheese. Or you may find you can go considerably higher, say 50 or 60 grams of Net Carbs or even more which will allow you to include a starchy vegetable, or legumes and whole grains. I’ve also come to believe that moving up the Carb Ladder every couple of weeks or even longer is also a better approach for some than doing so each week.
You can certainly hang out in Induction longer than two weeks if you have a lot of weight to lose, but don’t get stuck there. Of course, weight loss typically slows after the initial dramatic weight loss that occurs when you first switch from burning primarily glucose (from carbohydrates) to burning fat for energy. But that’s actually a good thing, as we’ll discuss below. In addition to reducing the possibility of boredom, there’s another reason why I believe you should bid adieu to Induction and move on to OWL.
Staying in Induction
If you are someone who is more motivated by quick weight loss and thrives on structure and fewer choices, despite my obvious preference to encourage you to move to OWL, you may choose to stay in Induction past the initial two weeks, and up to the point that you are just 15 pounds from your goal weight. But there are a few things you can do to make this process a bit easier, as well as set the stage for you to move on to OWL when the time is right. While in Induction, you’ll remain at 20 grams of Net Carbs a day, but try adding nuts and seeds to your list of acceptable foods. A couple of tablespoons of walnuts, almonds, pecans, pumpkin seeds or other seeds or nuts make a great snack. Or sprinkle them on a salad or cooked vegetables, or use in a recipe. As you get closer to your goal weight, you can start slowly introducing different foods on the carb ladder so that you can find out which carbs allow you to keep losing and which ones don’t.
The only danger of staying in Induction too long is that you have no place to go if and when—and it’s almost inevitable—you experience a weight-loss plateau. This isn’t a health risk, of course, but it can be extremely frustrating and de-motivating. Just to be clear, a plateau is defined as an inexplicable pause in weight loss that’s not the result of dietary misdemeanors or lifestyle changes. It can happen at any time after you shed the first “easy” pounds but is more likely as you get closer to your goal weight. Fortunately, plateaus usually yield to certain strategies, including temporarily reducing your daily carb intake. However, if you’re still at the Induction level of 20 daily grams of Net Carbs, where are you going to go to break a plateau? It’s not healthful to sacrifice vegetables to go under 20 grams of Net Carbs, which some people are tempted to do when they are not losing in Induction. Moreover, restricting choices in Induction can make the program too difficult for the long haul.
On the other hand, if you’re at, say, 35 grams of Net Carbs a day and hit a plateau, you can cut back by 10 grams and likely the excess pounds will begin to budge again. Or perhaps you’ll need to go down another 5 grams to 20 grams, which will almost certainly reboot weight loss. Once you’re losing again, you can gradually start to increase the carbs.
Be sure to track not just your weight but also your measurements. Why? Assuming that you’re exercising, you may be gaining lean body mass and losing fat. Because muscle is denser than fat, the scale can be deceiving. How your clothes fit is another useful measuring tool. Even if your weight remains stable for a week or so, if your jeans zip up more easily, you’re losing fat.
Pros: Faster rate of weight loss, more structure, fewer choices (and less temptation)
Cons: Boredom, fewer options for moving past a plateau without reducing Net Carbs below the recommended level
Moving Through the Phases
If you are comfortable with a slower and steadier rate of weight loss, stick with Induction for two weeks or one month, and then move on Phase 2, Ongoing Weight Loss (OWL). The gradual increase in Net Carb intake and equally slow reintroduction of new foods allows you to move up the carb ladder and find your overall intake tolerance for carbs. You’ll also gradually come to understand if there are any carbohydrate foods that trigger cravings for more of the same. This process is not always easy, but it’s essential to understand your unique metabolism. Whether its 30 grams of Net Carbs or 60 or more, you need to find what works for you. In effect, understanding your tolerance level is the bridge from a weight-loss diet to a diet for life. After all, wouldn’t you rather lose a little more slowly and keep the weight off for good than lose fast for a month or two by staying in Induction the whole time, reach your goal weight and then regain those lost pounds before you know it because you never learned how to eat for the long run?
Pros: More variety, more options for moving past a plateau, you can always return to Induction
Cons: Slightly Slower rate of weight loss, having more food choices may be too tempting or confusing
Which Works best for You?
Both these strategies will allow you to lose weight in the way that works best for you. It’s your choice, and in the long run, the option you choose should be one that will allow you to lose the weight (and keep it off) while enjoying a new and satisfying way of eating for the long haul.