The Induction phase is the most difficult period of a low-carb diet. It severely cuts your daily carbohydrate level to 20 net carbs, or less, forces the body to use it's glycogen stores for fuel, and eliminates most of the foods you're used to eating. That can be a shock to both your body and your mind. While the euphoria, lack of appetite, stable blood sugar, and dramatic weight loss can provide plenty of motivation to get you through those first carb-free days, if the mind decides to fight against you, the Atkins Induction Diet can quickly turn into a nightmare.
If you've been struggling to stay on Induction, here are 5 fail-proof methods to help you stay on track.
1. Face Your Excuses
People who habitually say, "I need to finish up this loaf of bread first," "I can't afford to throw away that half of cantaloupe; I'll start tomorrow," or "I'll give Induction a try right after I have one last carb fest," are more likely to continue using excuses throughout the first two weeks as well. That can make it difficult, if not impossible, to make it all the way through the first phase of Atkins without caving into that piece of cornbread, juicy orange, or chocolate-chip cookie.
Most of our eating habits are habitual. We reach for that handful of potato chips while we're watching television or sample what we're cooking for the family without realizing it. Excuses come wrapped in the same type of mindless package. But they manifest as thoughts and urges. Thoughts and urges can be observed, so as you go through the week, watch yourself carefully. Try to catch yourself making an excuse. When you do, write it down.
Once the excuse is written down, you can look at it closely and determine if that excuse is valid, or not. For example, if you catch yourself thinking, "I had a hard day. I deserve to have that cookie," write that thought down. Then think about WHY you believe you have the right to eat that cookie. Who or what gave you that right? What will that cookie do for you? Most of the time, deprivation is actually about an experience of taste you think you're missing out on, or a sign that you need a little comfort.
Whatever it is you need, find something that fits within your new low-carb lifestyle that will take care of that need.
2. Stop Thinking About What You Can't Have
The Induction phase of Atkins asks you to make dramatic changes in your diet. The purpose for that is to get you into the state of dietary ketosis as fast as possible. Deprivation ignites and grows stronger when you place your attention on what you cannot eat. So, stop making illegal foods important. Look at the list of acceptable foods for Induction and find foods that you really enjoy eating. Make out a menu for the week and fill that menu with foods that are super tasty and comforting.
Don't just eat a plain, grilled chicken breast. Top it with sauteed green onion, mushrooms, and cheese. Instead of a plain, frozen hamburger patty, top it with a slice of boiled ham, a fried egg, and some grated Parmesan cheese. Use sour cream and sliced olives to garnish your Taco salad, put cream cheese and some bacon in your chicken salad, or top that boneless pork chop with a homemade Alfredo sauce. Choose foods that make you feel pampered, and you won't have to think about what you're missing.
3. Make Sure You're Eating Enough Food
Although the first two weeks can result in a drastic weight loss, losing weight isn't the goal. The purpose of the Atkins Induction Diet is to coax the body into using a different metabolic pathway. For that reason, hunger often increases as the body prepares itself to switch from predominantly burning glucose to predominantly burning fats. The mind will also begin to crave sugar and other high-calorie foods during this time. Since the hunger and cravings are a sign that glucose is getting low, if you don't understand what is happening, the body will set you up to go back to your old way of eating.
Instead of allowing your body and urges to control you, stick to your low-carb commitment. Feed your body's hunger, but do it with high-fat foods instead of sugary treats. Don't worry about calories or portion sizes during Induction. Just keep your tummy full. There will be plenty of time later on to adjust calories, portions, or dietary fat. Induction is not the time to do that.
4. Don't Worry About Tomorrow
A low-carb diet frightens a lot of people. Many medical authorities do not understand the science behind the diet and believe it's dangerous. It's lifestyle commitment and permanency is different from many other diets. That can make the future look pretty dark if you have to go without ever being able to eat a baked potato when you go out to dinner, or enjoy a piece of birthday cake. For that reason, it's easy to fall into the trap of worrying about a particular food that you think you will never be able to eat again.
Those fears may or may not be true. There is no way of knowing what you can or cannot return to your diet until you get there. Some low carbers are able to eat fruit, potatoes, whole grains, and even a piece of cake on their birthday. Others that are extremely insulin resistant cannot. Some people continue to eat the way they ate during their ongoing weight-loss phase with very little change. By the time they reach maintenance, the diet has become such a part of them that they enjoy the way it makes them feel and don't want to sacrifice that feeling.
If you're struggling with thoughts of what the future might bring, the best way to handle the problem is to commit to doing just a two-week Induction, and nothing more. That eliminates future thoughts and concerns and gives you the opportunity to focus on what you are doing right now. Today. Atkins Induction is for just 14 days, so that's what you commit to. Accept the challenge and give a low-carb diet a fair chance to change your life.
At the end of those two weeks, that's the time to evaluate how you feel. Not before. In fact, it's probably a good idea not to even step on the scale during that time because the number on the scale could send you packing if you don't have a firm grip on how water balance affects your scale weight. Take your measurements before you start Induction instead. That will give you a more accurate measurement of your fat-loss progress. If you feel good, are happy with your current success, and want to go on, then commit to another 14 days. Just take it one step at a time until your mind and emotions adjust to the change.
5. When All Else Fails - Move Into a Low-Carb Diet Slowly
There's no rule that says you have to start with the Atkins Induction Diet. It's a pretty radical method for turning yourself into a fat-burning machine. It's similar to the diet that Dr. Atkins used himself back in the '60s, but that doesn't mean it's the best method for you. If you've been on a number of diets over the years, your body might not appreciate you robbing it's fat stores -- yet again. In that case, the best method might be to take a much slower approach.
When Dr. Atkins was creating his famous dieting approach, there were a number of low-carb diets that used 60 grams of total carbohydrates a day. If your insulin resistance is minor, or if you don't have insulin resistance at all, this approach might work very well for you. You don't have to start at 20 net carbs. You can start at a higher carbohydrate content, such as 60 or 80 or even 100 carbohydrates per day, and then readjust the carbs downward by 5 or 10 per week, only if you aren't losing weight.
Another slower approach is to drop major food groups from your diet one at a time. For example, you could start by eliminating all forms sugar and leaving the rest of your diet exactly where it is right now. Switch to using sugar substitutes in your coffee and cooking, a Splenda or Stevia-sweetened diet soda or Kool-aid type product, and read labels to avoid all products made with added sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, and honey.
After you adjust to doing that, or your weight loss from that change stops, you can move onto eliminating something else. Maybe side starches or fruit. You can also check out one of the many paleo or primal diets for ideas.
Find What Works For You
The key is to create a dietary plan that works for you. The methods you use may or may not be what other low-carb dieters are doing. That doesn't matter. Don't ever let anyone tell you that you have to implement a low-carb diet in a certain way. That is absolutely not true. While some people have been having good success eating a high-fat low-carb diet, others have not. It all depends on how insulin sensitive you are and whether your mindset is on board with what you're currently doing or not. If it's not, then simply give yourself permission to find another way.