Problems Getting Into Ketosis? Slow Weight Loss? Here's a Quick Fix!

Kabobs with Meat, Bell Peppers, and Onions
Having trouble getting into ketosis? Slow weight loss?
You might be eating too many carbs!

[Some of the links in this post may be affiliate links. If you choose to purchase something by using one of those links, I may receive a small financial compensation, at no charge to you.]

Some people define ketosis as the point where you spill ketones into the urine. Since there wasn't blood ketone meters when Dr. Atkins was still living, this is how he defined it, too.

If you're doing Atkins 20, and you're not spilling ketones, you might be wondering what's going on. Maybe, you're having problems getting into ketosis, or your weight loss is slower than you anticipated.

No matter which of these problems you're having, we can help. The following quick fix will get you back on track.

In 2007, I had a lot of trouble losing weight. When I started this blog, it was my fourth attempt at using the Atkins Diet.

I wasn't a newbie.

And as such, I wasn't trying to rush into ketosis. I certainly wasn't looking for a crash diet. I wanted to make low carb my lifestyle, so I was doing everything that the Atkins Nutritionals, Inc. company (the ANA) told me to do.

Since the weight wasn't coming off as easily as it had before, I started lurking on several low-carb forums and egroups, looking for answers.

While I was there, I noticed that many frustrated dieters were sharing the same struggle. It wasn't just me. Many posts talked about how a ketogenic diet plan wasn't working as well as the dieter had hoped.

Does that sound like you, too?

Dr. Atkins made it sound like low-carb weight loss was going to be easy and fairly quick. But for a lot of individuals, that isn't the case. 

Low carb works pretty much the same as any other diet, but the state of ketosis makes it easier to eat less and trains your body to happily burn fatty acids for fuel.

If you're struggling to ditch the fat, and you're having problems either getting into ketosis or losing as quickly as you'd like to, this post has an easy solution to the struggle that just might work for you. It sure worked for me.

Pinterest Image: Variety of Vegetables: Red Peppers, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Asparagus

Are You Following the Atkins 2002 Book? Or the ANA?

After looking into the problem of slow weight loss a bit more, I noticed that the owners of various low-carb sites, as well as the major posters on low carb forums, often chanted the mantra:

"Do it by the book."

That isn't a bad idea.

You need to understand what a low-carb diet will do for you before you can find the strength to make the necessary changes to your current lifestyle. And actually reading one of the many Atkins diet books can help you do that.

But in 2007, do it by the book wasn't what these egroups and low-carb board participants actually meant.

What they meant was this:

"Do it by the book, but include the ANA changes, tweaks, and limitations they added to the 2002 program."

And that's where the real problem came in . . .

The ANA Plan

The ANA's line of thinking is that for those doing Atkins 20, you need 12-15 net carbs of vegetables a day or you won't be healthy.

Net carbs requires you to subtract the amount of fiber from the produce you're eating, which lowers the carb count. With a lower carb count, you'll need to eat MORE vegetables than what the original Atkins diet recommended for Induction, and therefore, more carbs.

These vegetable net carbs are subtracted from your total daily allowance of 20 net carbs that you can eat while following Phase 1. These higher vegetable quantities are required for you to do the Induction phase of the Atkins Diet correctly.

They are not a recommendation.

After you complete the Induction period, you add another 5 net carbs of vegetables per day to your Phase 2 diet plan for a total of 17-20 net carbs from vegetables alone.

These higher vegetable carbs come out of the 25 net carbs allowed at the beginning of Phase 2. This second phase of Atkins is where you lose most of your weight, but with that kind of vegetable content in your diet, if you're insulin resistant rather than insulin sensitive, you're going to lose weight rather slowly.

According to many Atkins forums and egroups:

If you aren't doing it this way, then that is WHY you are not losing weight.

This is the number one reason I hear in almost all forums and egroups when someone asks about weight-loss plateaus or stalls. Participants want to see your menu, and if you aren't eating lots of vegetables, you haven't stalled because you're eating too much.

You're not losing weight because you aren't eating enough vegetables.

Sound counter intuitive?

Platter of Asparagus, Tomatoes, Celery, and Hard Boiled Eggs
If lots of vegetables are required to lose weight on Atkins,
then how did I lose 40 pounds in six weeks in 1975?

It does to me too, so I can't help but ask:

How did all of the thousands of individuals who followed previous editions of the Atkins Diet (including me) lose weight easily and effortlessly -- if eating 12 to 15 net carbs of vegetables for the first two weeks and another 5 net carbs of vegetables on Phase 2 was such a hard-and-binding rule?

Were previous weight-loss successes just a fluke? Or was there something else going on?

Problem With the Vegetable Rule

The problem that I see with the current attitude (that the vegetable intake of 12 to 15 net carbs is a rule and not a suggestion) is that it doesn't take into consideration the variations of metabolic resistance to weight loss that you might experience.

It doesn't look at vegetable sensitivity or allow an exception for those who actually break down fiber during the digestion process.

Nor does it address your:
  • digestive disturbances
  • intestinal issues, like IBS or inflammatory bowel disease
  • celiac disease
  • activity restrictions (voluntary or involuntary)
  • food likes and dislikes
  • yo-yo dieting issues
  • food sensitivities
  • severe insulin resistance, such as PCOS
There were lots of additional variables that Dr. Atkins was tuned into, such as vitamins, minerals, thyroid problems, and other factors.

Dr. Atkins definitely believed in consuming vegetables.

I am not advocating for a zero-carb diet here. In fact, in a 2002 interview that Dr. Atkins gave right after that edition of the book was published, he said the weight-loss phase was meant to be, basically, a meat-and-vegetable diet. But what does that mean in terms of carbs?

Dr. Atkins 2002 Vegetable Recommendations

Lettuce Salad Made Mostly of Salad Greens with One Tomato Wedge and 2 Slices of Cucumber
On Atkins 2002, salad and vegetables were very limited.

In the 2002 edition of the Atkins plan, each day, you were allowed:
  • 2 cups of salad or raw salad vegetables; and
  • 1 cup of cooked veggies from a higher-carb veggie list
And, that's it.

The caution Atkins gave was that because of the other low-carb foods you could have, such as:
  • heavy whipping cream
  • sugar substitutes
  • hard cheeses
  • eggs
  • miscellaneous low-carb foods
you needed to make sure that you didn't go over 20 net carbs for the whole day.

The problem the ANA had with this?

It is very, very difficult for dieters to get in enough vegetable carbs to meet the ANA requirement of 12 to 15 net carbs when using this type of cup method that Dr. Atkins suggested.

So they just changed the rules.

You are now advised to count the carbs, not the cups, and eat as many veggies as it takes to make a minimum of 12 net carbs. The number of cups stated in the book you're following no longer matters. This is in the ANA's opinion, and not mine.

Why was the Vegetable Rules Changed?

In 2007, the ANA looked into a few recent scientific studies and discovered that many people following the Atkins Diet were complaining about:
  • constipation (lack of fiber)
  • feeling tired (not fat adapted yet)
  • and had bad breath (one side-effect of ketosis)
The rule about cups of salad and cups of vegetables was changed to counting net carbs instead, so people would stop complaining. Because Dr. Atkins was no longer with us in 2007 and, by then, and Atkins Nutritionals, Inc. owned the Atkins name, what they told you to do was Atkins, despite what any of the books said.

When a friend of mine asked Colette Heimowitz in the forum back then about the latest change being a rule, instead of recommendation, this is what Colette said:

Vegetable studies showed that vegetables were good for you in terms of nutrient density. 

In Colette's mind, the research on vegetables justified the change, regardless of what Dr. Atkins original purpose was in keeping your vegetables limited on Induction. What mattered to the ANA was increasing the nutrient density of their Induction Diet, so it would be more acceptable to the medical community, rather than getting you into ketosis fast.

Raising Carbohydrates for Induction Won't Help Insulin Resistance

For those with insulin resistance and some yo-yo dieters whose body is strongly fighting to protect its fat stores, the current Atkins Induction diet contains too many carbohydrates to make it as effective in switching metabolic pathways as it used to be.

A low-carb diet was originally created to help you get into the state of ketosis as quickly as possible, so hunger would go down and you'd be satisfied with less food. The faster you get into ketosis, the less temptation you have to cheat, and the faster you'll become fat adapted.

Ketosis occurs when your body begins to make ketones at an accelerated rate. Some people define it as when the body stops predominantly oxidizing glucose and proteins for fuel and switches to using ketones and fatty acids instead.

Either way, as long as you eat at a calorie deficit, your body lives off your body fat. But it's the switch in metabolic pathways that is the purpose for even being in ketosis. You want to train your body to use fat for fuel instead of glucose.

Eating too many carbs during the Induction period, and beyond, can delay the process of getting into ketosis for some people, and dramatically slow down weight loss for many others, especially if you have a super-low tolerance for carbohydrates. And the more you go on and off of a low-carb diet, the more resistance you're going to experience when you come back.

In addition, if you have a lot of weight to lose, the slower fat loss seen on Atkins 20 Phase 2 can negatively affect your decision to adopt a low-carb diet as a permanent lifestyle.

Most folks don't want to wait around clinging to promises of eventual weight loss if all they are currently losing is one to two pounds per month. For the average dieter, this is totally unrealistic, even though better health can be achieved by eating more vegetables and 1/2 pound of fat per week is all some people can mobilize.

How Atkins 72 Can Help You

Fortunately, the current Atkins plan as proposed by the ANA isn't your only option.

If you have tried Atkins 20 or Atkins 2002, have given it a good chance to work, but it is not working for you, I would suggest that rather than giving up and going back to the high-carb way of life, you:

Try a different version of the Atkins Diet first.

See for yourself if any of those past versions created by Dr. Atkins himself work better for you.

Don't just swallow the ANA logic. 

Put it to the test. 

The Atkins diet has evolved over the years, with each version allowing more and more vegetable carbs during Induction, so the difficulties of losing weight have increased along with that.

Originally, Induction was NOT 20 net carbs.

Atkins 72 was 10 full carbs, or less, and Atkins 92 was about 15, IF you ate the extra 2/3 cup of vegetables allowed. There was no rule that said you had to eat those extra vegetables, or any carbs at all, for that matter.

Spareribs with a Few Cucumber Slices
Old-School Atkins never required you to eat carbs.
The choice was up to you.

The increase from Atkins 72 to 92 wasn't due to science or added nutrient density. Dr. Atkins changed the diet in 1992 because he discovered that many of his patients were cheating on Induction by adding a side dish of vegetables in addition to their 2 cups of salad.

However, the addition that Atkins made in 1992 was not mandatory and no where near the amount of carbs that the ANA demands dieters eat today.

In fact, in A New Atkins for a New You, Dr. Phinney and the other authors revealed that 12 to 15 net carbs of vegetables comes to about 6 cups of vegetables per day.

That whopping six cups of vegetables on Induction is double what the 2002 book actually allows.


In the 1972 version (the very first Atkins diet ever) Atkins allowed very little carbohydrate. Atkins 72 was essentially a zero-carb diet, what Dr. Atkins called eating at biologically zero.

Only two cups of salad was allowed for the entire day, and that salad was split between lunch and dinner. One cup each is all you got.

Those tiny salads were restrictive in other ways, too.

What you could use in that salad was meager compared to the six cups of salad vegetables that the Atkins 20 plan contains. In addition, salad dressing could only be an oil-and-vinegar mixture, and the salad itself consisted of assorted lettuces and other greens along with a small amount of celery, cucumbers, and radishes.

That's it.

Despite the restrictiveness of the original Atkins Diet, it is the choice a lot of folks make today because it works better for them, as I discussed in a previous blog post.

The 1972 version of Atkins works like an elimination diet.

Phase 2 enables you to add five to eight full carbs per day (not net) from whatever low-carb foods you are missing the most. There was no Carbohydrate Ladder to tell you what to do, but you also only added one food back at a time.

You didn't add back an entire food group. There was no such thing on the original Atkins Diet.

Level 2 of the original diet, and beyond, allowed you the freedom to watch how particular foods affected how you felt and how quickly you lost the weight. It gave you the freedom to dial in your carbs and food choices, making it easier to find your carbohydrate tolerance and food sensitivities that way.

It also gave you the ability to easily tailor the diet to fit your likes and dislikes, health conditions, and even your lifestyle quirks because after you were in ketosis, there was no one to tell you want or when to eat.

The whole idea was to make the Atkins Diet your own.

What if You Don't WANT to Do Atkins 72?

We have full instructions for carrying out an Atkins 72 Induction here on the blog, without having to purchase a book, but you don't have to switch to Atkins 72 to get into ketosis or speed up your weight loss.

Even if Atkins 20 isn't working for you, if your problems are caused by eating too many vegetables, you can simply eat fewer vegetables.

It's as simple as that.

Two Young Girls
The ANA's target market today is young, health-minded adults who are insulin sensitive or only mildly insulin resistant, which is why they emphasize low-glycemic living over lower carbs.

They are trying to disconnect from Old-School Atkins in hopes of reaching a broader market base, but that doesn't mean what they're selling is the only way to do Atkins.

The concepts that Dr. Atkins introduced to the world are as valid today as they were in 1972, 1992, and even as late as 2002.

The average low-carb dieter can handle two cups of salad and one cup of cooked vegetables a day. But not everyone can. Problems will surface if your personal carbohydrate tolerance is less than 20 net carbs a day.

The number of individuals who fall into this group is growing larger as the years go by. I can see that from the amount of email I get from those who can't eat by ANA standards.

As written, the 2002 plan contains about 20 FULL carbs a day, rather than net, which is what the ANA finds so upsetting. They need you to do 20 net carbs, or more, which is about 40 total carbs, or their products won't be useful to you.

This doesn't mean you have to keep counting net carbs.

It's easy enough to make the switch from net to total, if your body is happier eating at lower carb levels. Just do it. You don't need a new book to tell you to eat fewer carbs. Take personal responsibility for your weight-loss journey and make the switch yourself.

Switch to counting full carbs and see if your weight-loss speed picks up. If so, then you know what the problem was.

How to Find Additional Versions of the Atkins Diet

A lot of the information you need is already on this blog. Just check out our Atkins Page in the top navigation bar for a list of articles that cover all of the basics, plus more. There, you'll even find a plan for doing a Vegetarian Atkins if you don't eat meat or want to cut back on that.

For a hard copy of one of the prior Old-School Atkins plans, here's how you can go about getting one:
  1. Do a little research. There are tons of Atkins books that I still don't have and are not aware of.
  2. Shop around at a few used-book internet sites.
  3. Pick yourself up a couple of the older versions from the public library and take extensive notes.
  4. Check out the Atkins 72 thread over at Low Carb Friends.
  5. Drop by Amazon and see what they have in the way of older Atkins books.
Above all, live up to your previous commitment to make low carb a way of life. Give your low-carb diet ample time to work. Low carb is a great way to trim off the pounds and balance your blood sugar, but sometimes, you just have to tweak it a bit to fit your own individual metabolism, calorie requirements, and health issues. 

Don't be afraid to take charge of your health. No one else can empower you, but yourself.

Do it and then go out and live the life you were always meant to live. Happiness is found in living today. Not in struggling to get to tomorrow.


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