- Diet & Weight Loss
Losing Weight With Atkins
You've probably heard of the Atkins Diet but do you know the facts? Does it work? Is it healthy? Is it safe? Read on to find out about my experiences on the Atkins Diet. I will tell you about the foods I ate, how I felt, and whether the eating plan works. When people talk about the Atkins Diet they only seem to focus on what they believe to be the negative points - eating only meat and cheese is bad for you, it's a high fat diet. This article will hopefully put a different perspective on those misconceptions...
I am currently in week two of the induction phase. Track my progress here - Losing Weight With Atkins
How Does Atkins Work?
Losing weight with Atkins is easy. It involves a simple process called 'ketosis'. This is when your body begins to burn fat instead of its primary source of energy - 'glucose'. When you eat, your body takes in nutrients, fat, protein and among other things glucose. Glucose is basically sugar and is obtained from carbohydrates. You will see this value within the nutrition panel on food packaging.
An explanation - Your body absorbs sugar from food which triggers your pancreas to secrete 'insulin'. Insulin flows through your blood stream and regulates your blood sugar level. It is important to maintain a normal blood sugar level so as not to suffer 'hyperglycemia' - a common symptom of diabetes where the sugar level becomes dangerously high. Also, if your blood sugar level gets too low you suffer 'hypoglycemia'.
Your body's first source of energy is sugar found in carbohydrates. What the Atkins Diet does is to reduce your carbohydrate intake so your body begins to burn stored fat as its primary source of energy. During the first two weeks of the plan your body uses up what few carbohydrates there are coming in and so has to turn to burning fat instead.
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When your body goes into ketosis (burning fat instead of sugar) you release ketones, a by-product of this process. It is not dangerous and is a natural reaction by your body. A good way to test if you are in ketosis is to use something like 'Ketostix'. This is a branded name but there are alternatives (that may not work as well).
Essentially, you pee on the stick, which has a small tab on the end that changes colour if there are ketones in your urine. Ketones are released by the body either in urine or breath. Often a person in ketosis has breath that smells similar to pear drops.
A colour chart is included with urine testing sticks that tell you the degree of ketosis according to the shade of purple the tab changes to with urine. The darker the better (more ketones).
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The Four Phases Of Atkins
There are four phases of the Atkins Diet. Losing weight with Atkins is very easy if you follow these phases without deviating too much. There will be times when your crave a slice of toast or a piece of chocolate but who doesn't?! Theses days there are even Atkins products to help you through - even chocolate bars!
Phase One - Induction
This is where you restrict your food type to low carb items for two weeks, such as fresh meat, certain types of vegetable, eggs, cheese. By eating these foods you will use up any carbohydrates quickly and your body will look for fat to burn instead. Your daily intake of carbs will be 20g.
Phase Two - Ongoing Weight Loss (OWL)
Directly after induction, OWL continues the low carb food list but adds some more options for you. You stay in ketosis but begin slowly adding carbs a little each week. Maybe a couple of boiled potatoes with a meal a few times a week. There are a number of fruits you can have as well. Its really not as bad as it sounds at first.
Phase Three - Pre-Maintenance
This follows OWL and is the stage where you have almost achieved your weight loss goal. The food list is added to and you are at the point where you know how to eat effectively on Atkins and you introduce more carbs to your diet. Eventually you will get to a daily level of carb intake where your body burns sugar again first instead of fat. At that point you know roughly how many carbs your body can digest before it begins reversing teh process again, storing fat and burning sugar.
Phase Four - Maintenance
You have achived your goal, you are looking great and feel even greater. Keep going, keep following the plan and if you fall off the Atkins wagon and get tempted don't worry too much, just get back on again. You will know how Atkins works for you and how to maintain what you have achieved.
What Can You Eat On Atkins?
When losing weight with Atkins you are initially restricted to certain types of food. The great thing about Atkins, though, is that you can eat as much as you like of the foods you are allowed. During the first two weeks of induction you should only eat things like meat, fish, eggs cheese, vegetables, salad. The link above takes you to the induction phase on the Atkins website. Here you will limit your daily carbohydrate intake to 20 grams.
After the first two weeks of eating fresh meat and vegetables (see, its not all that bad!) you can slowly start to re-introduce carbohydrate foods back into your daily diet. IN the ongoing weight loss phase you can broaden your acceptable food list. For example, cottage cheese, nuts, seeds, fruits. It may sound a bit boring but it really isn't so bad. There are hundreds of recipes available for low carb diets. I make a low carb deep dish quiche pizza that is great for lunch boxes, or even an evening meal.
When you get near to your goal the foods you can eat during the pre-maintenance phase are even more varied.
When I first tried losing weight with Atkins it was 2002. I ordered a book from Amazon - 'Dr Atkins The New Diet Revolution'. It explained everything so simply and made it easy to follow the eating plan. It has since been revised but with the same title Dr. Atkins' New Diet Revolution, Revised Edition. The theory is the same but it has been brought into the 21st century and is just as good as ever.
There is a full explanation of the Atkins Approach and stacks of ideas for recipes and meals suited to all of the four phases. You'd be surprised at how creative you can be, even in the induction phase.
You will find other useful books, such as 'The Atkins Shopping Guide: Indispensable Tips and Guidelines for Successfully Stocking Your Low-carb Kitchen'. How many times have I gone to the supermarket and forgotten what I am supposed to get and end up with the same low carb things only to later remember what I could have had. This book is a bit like an Atkins Bible for low carb shopping.
Although there are certain foods you can and cannot have on each phase, there is always room for a little artistic licence. This book tells you what to look out for and what you could have to suit your target carb intake.
This book 'The Atkins Essentials : A Two-Week Program to Jump-start Your Low-Carb Lifestyle', will help you get started. Packed with useful tips and menu plans for the first few weeks, it could be just the thing you need to get going.
If all else fails there is always the website Atkins.com. Not quite the same as having your own book to hand whenever or where ever you want but it is full of advice, menus and motivation.
How Atkins Makes You Feel
With any sudden change of lifestyle you should always consult your doctor or health care professional. I am not a medical expert and can only go by what I have experienced. Don't forget, this will be different for one person compared to another.
The first thing you may notice is that after a day of cutting back your carbs you will start craving them again. Even a piece of toast will be like heaven to your carb starved body. Your brain is telling you that you need sugar, you are hungry, eat now! That is natural and actually it is a good example of the endless cycle that overweight people experience. They eat food and their blood sugar goes up. Their body and mind are happy until the sugar levels drop again. That is where the brain starts to panic again and tell you that you need more sugar inside you, i.e. you are hungry again.
With Atkins and your lower blood sugar levels you will feel hungry less and so only eat when you feel hungry. Easy! Other successful diets, such as the GI Diet work on this principal. If you eat the right kinds of food with slow releasing carbs your body and mind will be happier for longer. Therefore you will not feel the sensation of being hungry and start eating again. GI stands for Glycemic Index. It is based on how quickly different types of food release sugars into your blood stream.
Back to losing weight with Atkins. Another side effect you may experience is constipation. Some people get it and some people don't. A change in diet and how food is used has an effect on your usual bowel movements. Help is at hand with useful products such as Fybogel. It is a husk powder that you dissolve in water and drink. It tastes nice too. It is basically a type of laxative.
Something that I and many others find on Atkins is that you have more energy throughout the day. You should not feel bloated and sluggish after a meal, no matter how big. You feel more alert and energised throughout the day too.
Its Not As Bad As You Think
Losing weight with Atkins is not all that bad and it's negative press is often unjustified. Meat, eggs and cheese doesn't have mean a fried breakfast every day (you can if you want to though!) and it doesn't mean burgers and bacon all the time. It does mean chicken and avocado salad, scrambled eggs, ham omelette, fresh vegetables. It also means no processed food with added sugars and rubbish thrown in. It can also be better for your teeth (less sugar).
Another thing worth considering is diets in other countries and how these relate to the population's life expectancy and overall health. Mediterranean nations are a good example of fine health and longevity. They eat fresh locally produced meat, fish and vegetables a lot of the time and it does them good.
If you read the Atkins book and look through the Atkins website you will learn that while your cholesterol may increase initially it will actually come back down and stabilise after a relitively short period of time. I have to admit that I didn't check mine before or after following the plan in the past but if I was concerned I would have. It would also be interesting to have it checked this time just to prove or disprove this part of the process.
When I was losing weight with Atkins in 2002 I lost just over 20 lbs in a little over a month and felt great. I was fitting into my wife's jeans, had a 34" waist and looked the best I had in quite a while. I did let it slide though and the pounds began to creep back on after time.
I have since started Atkins again. I am in week two of induction and I have already lost about 8 lbs. I don't have loads of weight to lose but I like to wear nice clothes, be healthy and feel good about myself. Atkins is a life-long eating plan but I have found it to be successful as and when I need it. Remember, though, that so called 'yo-yo' dieting can be bad for you.
If you are trying Atkins for the first time the '' book is a good idea. I cannot recommend it highly enough. Dr Atkins New Diet Revolution
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